Journal of Happiness Studies

, Volume 3, Issue 4, pp 331–354 | Cite as

Happiness in the Perspective of Evolutionary Psychology

  • B. GrindeEmail author


The human capacity for positive and negative feelings is shaped by the forces of evolution, thus the evolutionary perspective should be relevant to the study of happiness. This paper attempts to identify the more pertinent innate qualities of the human brain, and discusses how the evolutionary perspective can be used to relate these qualities to the study of happiness. Two aspects of our evolutionary legacy appear to be particularly relevant: One, the consequences of discords between the present way of living and the environment of evolutionary adaptation; and two, the presence of feelings designed to influence behaviour. The purpose of the present paper is to both expand on these two aspects and thereby arrive at an evolutionary based description of happiness; and to discuss the relationship between this biological account and some current approached to the study of happiness.

evolutionary psychology happiness mismatches discords brain rewards environment of evolutionary adaptation biological perspective 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Barkow, J.H.: 1997, ‘Happiness in evolutionary perspective’, in N.L. Segal, G.E. Weisfeld and C.C. Weisfeld (eds.), Uniting Psychology and Biology (American Psychological Association, Washington), pp. 397–418.Google Scholar
  2. Buss, D.M.: 1998, Evolutionary Psychology: The New Science of the Mind (Allyn & Bacon, Boston).Google Scholar
  3. Buss, D.M.: 2000, ‘The evolution of happiness’, The American Psychologist 55, pp. 15–23.Google Scholar
  4. Cabanac, M.: 1999, ‘Emotion and phylogeny’, Japanese Journal of Physiology 49, pp. 1–10.Google Scholar
  5. Carroll, D.: 1992, Health Psychology: Stress, Behaviour and Disease (Falmer Press, London).Google Scholar
  6. Crawford, C. and D. Krebs: 1997, Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology: Ideas, Issues and Applications (Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, NJ).Google Scholar
  7. Cronk, L., N. Chagnon and W. Irons: 2000, Adaptation and Human Behavior: An Anthropological Perspective (DeGruyter, Berlin).Google Scholar
  8. Csikszentmihalyi, M.: 1991, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience (Harper Collins, New York).Google Scholar
  9. Curtin, B.J.: 1988, The Myopias (Harper & Row, Philadelphia).Google Scholar
  10. Danner, D.D., D.A. Snowdon and W.V. Friesen: 2001, ‘Positive emotions in early life and longevity: Findings from the nun study’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 80, pp. 804–813.Google Scholar
  11. Diener, E. and R.E. Lucas: 1999, ‘Personality and subjective well-being’, in D. Kahneman, E. Diener and N. Schwarz (eds.), Well-Being:The Foundations of Hedonistic Psychology (Russell Sage Foundation, New York).Google Scholar
  12. Diener, E. and E.M. Suh: 1999, ‘National differences in subjective well-being’, in D. Kahneman, E. Diener and N. Schwarz (eds.), Well-Being: The Foundations of Hedonistic Psychology (Russell Sage Foundation, New York).Google Scholar
  13. Eaton, S.B, M. Konner and M. Shostak: 1988, ‘Stone agers in the fast lane: Chronic degenerative diseases in evolutionary perspective’, American Journal of Medicine 84, pp. 739–749.Google Scholar
  14. Frederick, S. and G. Loewenstein: 1999, ‘Hedonic adaptation’, in D. Kahneman, E. Diener and N. Schwarz (eds.), Well-Being: The Foundations of Hedonistic Psychology (Russell Sage Foundation, New York).Google Scholar
  15. Friedman, H.S., J.S. Tucker, C. Tomlinson-Keasey, J.E. Schwartz, D.L. Wingard and M.H. Criqui: 1993, ‘Does childhood personality predict longevity?’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 65, pp. 176–185.Google Scholar
  16. Gallup, G.G.: 1997, ‘On the rise and fall of self-conception in primates’, Annals of New York Academy of Science 818, pp. 72–82.Google Scholar
  17. Grinde, B.: 1996, ‘Darwinian happiness: Biological advice on the quality of life’, Journal of Social and Evolutionary Systems 19, pp. 249–260.Google Scholar
  18. Grinde, B.: 2000, ‘Social behaviour: Making the best of the human condition’, Mankind Quarterly 41, pp. 193–210.Google Scholar
  19. Gullone, E.: 2000, ‘The biophilia hypothesis and life in the 21st century: Increasing mental health or increasing pathology?’, Journal of Happiness Studies 1, pp. 293–322.Google Scholar
  20. Hallowell, E.M.: 1998, Worry: Hope and Help for a Common Condition (Ballantine, New York).Google Scholar
  21. Kaessmann, H., V. Wiebe, G. Weiss and S. Paabo: 2001, ‘Great ape DNA sequences reveal a reduced diversity and an expansion in humans’, Nature Genetics 27, pp. 156–157.Google Scholar
  22. Kahneman, D., E. Diener and N. Schwarz (eds.): 1999, Well-Being: The Foundations of Hedonistic Psychology (Russell Sage Foundation, New York).Google Scholar
  23. Kellert, S.R. and E.O. Wilson (eds.): 1993, The Biophilia Hypothesis (Island Press, Washington DC).Google Scholar
  24. Liu D., J. Diorio, B. Tannenbaum, C. Caldji, D. Francis, A. Freedman, S. Sharma, D. Pearson, P.M. Plotsky and M.J. Meaney: 1997, ‘Maternal care, hippocampal glucocorticoid receptors, and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal responses to stress’, Science 277, pp. 1659–1662.Google Scholar
  25. Lord, A.: 2002, ‘No way out’, New Scientist (January 26), pp. 34–38.Google Scholar
  26. Lundberg, O.: 1993, ‘The impact of childhood living conditions on illness and mortality in adulthood’, Social Science & Medicine 36, pp. 1047–1052.Google Scholar
  27. Lykken, D.T.: 2000, Happiness: The Nature and Nurture of Joy and Contentment (St. Martin's Griffin, New York).Google Scholar
  28. McCall, S.: 1975, ‘Quality of life’, Social Indicators Research 2, pp. 249–299.Google Scholar
  29. Moberg, G.P.: 1985, Animal Stress (American Physiological Society, New York).Google Scholar
  30. Myers, D.G. and E. Diener: 1996, ‘The pursuit of happiness’, Scientific American, May, pp. 54–56.Google Scholar
  31. Nesse, R.M. and G.C. Williams: 1996, Why We Get Sick: The New Science of Darwinian Medicine (Vintage Books, New York).Google Scholar
  32. Palmer, J.A. and L.K. Palmer: 2001, Evolutionary Psychology: The Ultimate Origins of Human Behavior (Allyn & Bacon, Boston).Google Scholar
  33. Pani, L.: 2000, ‘Is there an evolutionary mismatch between the normal physiology of the human dopaminergic system and current environmental conditions in industrialized countries?’, Molecular Psychiatry 5, pp. 465–475.Google Scholar
  34. Panksepp, J.: 1998, Affective Neuroscience (Oxford University Press, Oxford).Google Scholar
  35. Parker, S.: 1976, The Sociology of Leisure (Allan & Unwin Ltd, Boston).Google Scholar
  36. Peterson, C., M.E.P. Seligman, K.H Yurko, L.R. Martin and H.S. Friedman: 1998, ‘Catastrophizing and untimely death’, Psychological Science 9, pp. 127–130.Google Scholar
  37. Quinn, G.E., C.H. Shin, M.G. Maguire and R.A. Stone: 1999, ‘Myopia and ambient lighting at night’, Nature 399, pp. 113–114.Google Scholar
  38. Reiss, D. and L. Marino: 2001, ‘Mirror self-recognition in the bottlenose dolphin: A case of cognitive convergence’, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 98, pp. 5937–5942.Google Scholar
  39. Robinson, T.E. and K. C. Berridge: 1993, ‘The neural basis of drug craving: An incentive-sensitization theory of addiction’, Brain Research. Brain Research Reviews 18, pp. 247–291.Google Scholar
  40. Sapolsky, R.M.: 1999, ‘The physiology and pathophysiology of unhappiness’, in D. Kahneman, E. Diener and N. Schwarz (eds.), Well-Being: The Foundations of Hedonistic Psychology (Russell Sage Foundation, New York).Google Scholar
  41. Segerstrale, U.: 2000, Defenders of the Truth: The Battle for Science in the Sociobiology Debate and Beyond (Oxford University Press, Oxford).Google Scholar
  42. Shonkoff, J.P. and D.A. Phillips: 2000, From Neurons to Neighbourhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development (National Academy Press, Washington, DC).Google Scholar
  43. Stefano, G.B., B. Salzet and G.L. Fricchione: 1998, ‘Enkelytin and opioid peptide association in invertebrates and vertebrates: Immune activation and pain’, Immunology Today 19, pp. 265–268.Google Scholar
  44. Sternberg, E.M.: 2000, The Balance Within (WH Freeman, New York).Google Scholar
  45. Spanagel, R. and F. Weiss: 1999, ‘The dopamine hypothesis of reward: Past and current status’, Trends in Neurosciences 22, pp. 521–527.Google Scholar
  46. Suh, E., E. Diener, S. Oishi and H.C. Triands: 1998, ‘The shifting basis of life satisfaction judgements across cultures: Emotions versus norms’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 74, pp. 482–493.Google Scholar
  47. Trevathan, W., J.J. McKenna and E.U. Smith: 1999, Evolutionary Medicine (Oxford University Press, Oxford).Google Scholar
  48. Veenhoven, R.: 1996, ‘Happy life-expectancy’, Social Indicators Research 39, pp. 1–58.Google Scholar
  49. Veenhoven, R.: 1997, ‘Progress dans la comprehension du bonheur’, Revue Quebecoise de Psychologie 18, pp. 29–74. Available in English ‘Advances in the understanding of happiness’ Scholar
  50. Veenhoven, R.: 1999, ‘Quality-of-life in individualistic society’, Social Indicators Research 48, pp. 157–186.Google Scholar
  51. Veenhoven, R.: 2000, ‘The four qualities of life’, Journal of Happiness Studies 1, pp. 1–39. 354 B. GRINDEGoogle Scholar
  52. Veenhoven, R.: 2001, Catalog of Happiness Measures, World Database of Happiness, Scholar
  53. Widdows, K.: 1990, Myopia and the Control of Eye Growth Wiley, New York).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Norwegian Institute of Public HealthOsloNorway

Personalised recommendations