Conceptions of well-being are cognitive representations of the nature and experience of well-being. These conceptions can be described generally by the degree to which hedonic and eudaimonic dimensions are emphasized as important aspects of the experience of well-being. In two studies, the prediction that eudaimonic dimensions of individual conceptions of well-being are more robustly associated with self-reported well-being than hedonic dimensions was investigated. Correlational analyses indicated that both hedonic and eudaimonic dimensions were associated with well-being, with more robust associations observed between the eudaimonic dimension and each measure of well-being. In several regression analyses, only the eudaimonic dimension significantly predicted well-being, with the hedonic dimension failing to account for unique variance in well-being beyond that predicted by the eudaimonic dimension. Results thus generally suggest that conceptualizing well-being in eudaimonic terms may be relatively more important for positive psychological functioning.
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The most appropriate way for researchers to conceptualize well-being is a topic that is still under debate (e.g., Kashdan et al. 2008), and consequently a standard operationalization of well-being does not yet exist. We argue that well-being includes both hedonic and eudaimonic components and, accordingly, operationalize well-being using measures of both hedonic (e.g., subjective well-being) and eudaimonic (e.g., meaning in life) aspects of well-being.
One may assume that the current results have implications concerning the validity of eudaimonic and hedonic philosophies in general. Discourse concerning the validity of hedonic and eudaimonic approaches has a long history within moral philosophy and psychology (see Ryan and Deci 2001), and a full discussion of this topic is beyond the scope of this article. However, we emphasize that the validity of any particular philosophy is not necessarily based on the degree to which it is associated with the experience of well-being. Thus, although the findings of the current study indicate that eudaimonic aspects of individual conceptions of well-being are more robustly associated with several self-report indices of well-being than are hedonic aspects, we do not assume that these findings necessarily indicate that a eudaimonic philosophy is more valid than a hedonic philosophy.
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McMahan, E.A., Estes, D. Hedonic Versus Eudaimonic Conceptions of Well-being: Evidence of Differential Associations With Self-reported Well-being. Soc Indic Res 103, 93–108 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11205-010-9698-0
- Lay conceptions