Can Passion be Polyamorous? The Impact of Having Multiple Passions on Subjective Well-Being and Momentary Emotions

Abstract

Having a harmonious passion (HP) can contribute to overall subjective well-being (Philippe et al. in Appl Psychol Health Well Being 1:3–22, 2009). We examined if people who had two passions in life reported even higher levels of well-being, and tested if these relationships depended on the extent to which the passions were harmonious or obsessive (OP). Undergraduates (N = 1,218) completed measures of HP and OP for their favorite and second favorite activities, along with assessments of well-being. In a follow-up study, a subsample of students (N = 62) who reported having an HP for one activity but an OP for another participated in an experiment in which we measured momentary emotions after priming either their HP, OP or a control activity. We found that students with at least one HP reported higher levels of well-being compared to those without an HP, and those with two HPs reported higher levels of well-being compared to those with only one HP, independent of the total time spent in passionate activities. In the follow-up study, participants’ levels of momentary positive and negative affect depended on whether their HP or OP was primed. These results suggest that, rather than introducing conflict or dividing a fixed sum of activity-related potential, having two HPs creates novel opportunities for subjective well-being.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The assumption of homogeneity of variances was violated in the analysis of positive affect [Levene’s F (5, 1,212) = 2.86, p = .014]. However, robust tests yielded a significant omnibus effect [Welch’s F (5, 546.89) = 22.90, p < .001]. Given this assumption violation and the unequal group sizes, and to be consistent across all comparisons, we analyzed all pairwise comparisons and computed effect sizes (i.e., Cohen’s d) assuming unequal group variances.

  2. 2.

    We tested if the effect of the passion groups on levels of well-being interacted with the participants’ reported sex, age, or ethnicity. Given that most participants identified as having a White/European ethnic background (58.90 %), ethnicity was treated as a dichotomous variable in our analyses in which participants were coded as identifying as being White/European or not White/European. Age was also coded as a dichotomous variable whereby participants were categorised as being 18 years of age or younger (57.70 %) or over 18 years of age (42.30 %). We found that passion groups did not interact with age or ethnicity when predicting any of the well-being measures. There was, however, an interaction between passion groups and sex when predicting subjective vitality, F (5, 1,211) = 2.782, p = .017, η 2p  = .012. Although this effect was small, we further examined this interaction by conducting interaction contrasts to test if the pattern of pairwise differences between passion groups, along with the complex contrast (i.e., at least one HP versus no HP), differed between males and females. Results of these interaction contrasts, while controlling family-wise error rate using Hochberg’s step-up Bonferroni procedure, did not yield any significant effects. We therefore failed to find evidence that the comparisons displayed in Table 2 differed between male and female participants.

  3. 3.

    In analyses examining time, 250 participants either did not report how many hours per week they spent engaging in their passions, or did not provide an answer that was quantifiable (e.g., “a few”). These participants were not included in analyses involving time (total n = 968).

  4. 4.

    For this analysis, only those who qualified as being passionate for both activities were included (n = 654).

  5. 5.

    These results remained unchanged when demographic variables (i.e., sex, age, and ethnicity) were added as predictors in the regression analysis.

  6. 6.

    Participants who reported in the main study that either their favorite or second favorite activity was “hanging out with friends” or a very similar activity (e.g., “going to parties with my friends”) were not recruited for this study.

  7. 7.

    These effects did not interact with the participants’ reported sex, age, or ethnicity.

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Acknowledgments

This research was funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. We thank Kelly Carpick for her help running the experimental sessions for the follow-up study.

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Correspondence to Benjamin J. I. Schellenberg.

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Schellenberg, B.J.I., Bailis, D.S. Can Passion be Polyamorous? The Impact of Having Multiple Passions on Subjective Well-Being and Momentary Emotions. J Happiness Stud 16, 1365–1381 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-014-9564-x

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Keywords

  • Harmonious passion
  • Obsessive passion
  • Psychological well-being
  • Dualistic model of passion
  • Happiness