Advertisement

Sentimental Hedonism: Pleasure, Purpose, and Public Policy

  • Paul Dolan
  • Laura Kudrna
Chapter
Part of the International Handbooks of Quality-of-Life book series (IHQL)

Abstract

Subjective well-being or ‘happiness’ measures are now being used to monitor national well-being and also to appraise public policies. There is a lack of clarity in the literature, however, about what the various measures of happiness capture. This ambiguity acts as a barrier to our understanding of happiness and to applying happiness research to policy challenges. This article addresses the ambiguity using an inclusive framework that conceptualises and categorises happiness according to its ‘level’ – evaluations or experiences – and ‘type’ – ‘pleasure’ or ‘purpose’. Research has typically considered evaluations and there are very few studies that truly measure experiences of purpose. We therefore present new evidence on experiences of purpose based on time use data and more generally show that the determinants of happiness differ according to which level and type of happiness is being assessed. This then raises the normative question of how happiness should be measured. We present some serious problems with evaluations and so we emphasise experiences, ultimately arguing for the ‘sentimental hedonism’ approach – that happiness should be assessed according to people’s feelings, or sentiments, of pleasure and purpose over time. Our main conclusion, though, is that researchers should be more explicit about the underpinnings of their various measures and properly consider what sort of happiness we ought to aim for.

Keywords

Subjective well-being Pleasure Purpose Happiness Measurement Policy 

References

  1. Adler, M. D. (2012). Happiness surveys and public policy: What’s the use. Duke LJ, 62, 1509.Google Scholar
  2. Akay, A., Bargain, O., & Jara. H. X. (2015). Large-scale comparison of decision versus experienced utility for income-leisure preferences (Institute for Social and Economic Research, No. 2015-2).Google Scholar
  3. Aknin, L. B., Dunn, E. W., Sandstrom, G. M., & Norton, M. I. (2013). Does social connection turn good deeds into good feelings? On the value of putting the ‘social’ in prosocial spending. International Journal of Happiness and Development, 1(2), 155–171.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Aristotle. (2002). Nicomachean ethics (S. Broadie, & C. Rowe, Eds.). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Baumeister, R. F. (1991). Meanings of life. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  6. Benjamin, D. J., Heffetz, O., Kimball, M. S., & Szembrot, N. (2014). Beyond happiness and satisfaction: Toward well-being indices based on stated preference. The American Economic Review, 104(9), 2698–2735.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bentham, J. (1907). An introduction to the principles of morals and legislation. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Biswas-Diener, R., Kashdan, T. B., & King, L. A. (2009). Two traditions of happiness research, not two distinct types of happiness. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 4(3), 208–211.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Blanchflower, D. G., & Oswald, A. J. (2008). Is well-being U-shaped over the life cycle? Social Science & Medicine, 66(8), 1733–1749.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Brown, N. J., MacDonald, D. A., Samanta, M. P., Friedman, H. L., & Coyne, J. C. (2014). A critical reanalysis of the relationship between genomics and well-being. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(35), 12705–12709.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bruni, L., Comim, F., & Pugno, M. (2008). Capabilities and happiness. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Bryson, A., Forth, J., & Stokes. L. (2014). Does worker wellbeing affect workplace performance? Department for Business Innovation and Skills.Google Scholar
  13. Burton, R. P. D. (1998). Global integrative meaning as a mediating factor in the relationship between social roles and psychological distress. Journal of Health & Social Behavior, 39(3), 201–215.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Busseri, M. A., & Sadava, S. W. (2011). A review of the tripartite structure of subjective well-being: Implications for conceptualization, operationalization, analysis, and synthesis. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 15(3), 290–314.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Campbell, A., Converse, P. E., & Rodgers, W. L. (1976). The quality of American life: Perceptions, evaluations, and satisfactions. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  16. Carstensen, L. L., Turan, B., Scheibe, S., Ram, N., Ersner-Hershfield, H., Samanez-Larkin, G. R., … Nesselroade, J. R. (2011). Emotional experience improves with age: Evidence based on over 10 years of experience sampling. Psychology and Aging, 26(1), 21–33.Google Scholar
  17. Christodoulou, C., Schneider, S., & Stone, A. A. (2012). Validation of a brief yesterday measure of hedonic well-being and daily activities: Comparison with the day reconstruction method. Social Indicators Research, 115, 1–11.Google Scholar
  18. Clarke, P. (2014). Does worker wellbeing affect workplace performance? Retrieved from https://app.croner.co.uk/whats-new/does-worker-wellbeing-affect-workplace-performance?topic=3307&product=8
  19. Crisp, R. (2006). Hedonism reconsidered. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 73(3), 619–645.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Deaton, A. (2011). The financial crisis and the well-being of Americans: 2011 OEP Hicks Lecture. Oxford Economic Papers, 64(1), 1–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Deeming, C. (2013). Addressing the social determinants of subjective wellbeing: The latest challenge for social policy. Journal of Social Policy, 42(3), 541–565.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Del Boca, F. K., & Darkes, J. (2003). The validity of self-reports of alcohol consumption: State of the science and challenges for research. Addiction, 98(s2), 1–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Diener, E. (2000). Subjective well-being: The science of happiness and a proposal for a national index. American Psychologist, 55(1), 34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Diener, E., Lucas, R., Schimmack, U., & Helliwell, J. (2009). Well-being for Public Policy. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  25. Diener, E., Ng, W., Harter, J., & Arora, R. (2010). Wealth and happiness across the world: Material prosperity predicts life evaluation, whereas psychosocial prosperity predicts positive feeling. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 99(1), 52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Dokic, J., & Lemaire, S. (2015). Are emotions evaluative modes? Dialectica, 69(3), 271–292.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Dolan, P. (2014). Happiness by design: Finding pleasure and purpose in everyday life. London: Penguin.Google Scholar
  28. Dolan, P., Layard, R., & Metcalfe, R. (2011). Measuring subjective well-being for public policy. Retrieved from http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/35420/1/measuring-subjective-wellbeing-for-public-policy.pdf
  29. Dolan, P., & Metcalfe, R. (2012). Measuring subjective wellbeing: Recommendations on measures for use by national governments. Journal of Social Policy, 41(2), 409–427.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Dolan, P., & Peasgood, T. (2008). Measuring well-being for public policy: Preferences or experiences? The Journal of Legal Studies, 37(S2), S5–S31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Dolan, P., Peasgood, T., & White, M. (2008). Do we really know what makes us happy? A review of the economic literature on the factors associated with subjective well-being. Journal of Economic Psychology, 29(1), 94–122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Droit-Volet, S., & Meck, W. H. (2007). How emotions colour our perception of time. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 11(12), 504–513.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Duncan, G. (2013). Should happiness-maximization be the goal of government? Journal of Happiness Studies, 11(2), 163–178.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Easterlin, R. A. (2013). Happiness, growth, and public policy. Economic Inquiry, 51(1), 1–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Ellyatt, H. (2013, June 6). Happiness matters, Merkel tells Germany. CNBC.Google Scholar
  36. Feldman, F. (2004). Pleasure and the good life: Concerning the nature, varieties, and plausibility of Hedonism. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Fujiwara, D. (2010). The Department for Work and Pensions Social Cost-Benefit Analysis framework (Department for Work and Pensions Working Paper Series, 86). London: Department for Work and Pensions.Google Scholar
  38. Hansen, T. (2012). Parenthood and happiness: A review of folk theories versus empirical evidence. Social Indicators Research, 108(1), 29–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Haybron, D. M. (2008). The pursuit of unhappiness: The elusive psychology of well-being. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  40. Hicks, J. A., Cicero, D. C., Trent, J., Burton, C. M., & King, L. A. (2010). Positive affect, intuition, and feelings of meaning. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 98(6), 967.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Huta, V., & Waterman, A. S. (2013). Eudaimonia and its distinction from hedonia: Developing a classification and terminology for understanding conceptual and operational definitions. Journal of Happiness Studies, 14, 1–32.Google Scholar
  42. Jivraj, S., Nazroo, J., Vanhoutte, B., & Chandola, T. (2014). Aging and subjective well-being in later life. The Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 69(6), 930–941.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Kahneman, D., & Deaton, A. (2010). High income improves evaluation of life but not emotional well-being. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107(38), 16489–16493.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Kahneman, D., & Krueger, A. B. (2006). Developments in the measurement of subjective well-being. The Journal of Economic Perspectives, 20(1), 3–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Kahneman, D., Krueger, A., Schkade, D., & Schwartz, N. (2004). A survey method for characterizing daily life experience: The day reconstruction method. Science, 306(5702), 1776–1780.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Kahneman, D., & Riis, J. (2005). Living, and thinking about it: Two perspectives on life. In A. Hupper, N. Baylis, & B. Keverne (Eds.), The science of well-being (pp. 285–304). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  47. Kavetsos, G., & Koutroumpis, P. (2011). Technological affluence and subjective well-being. Journal of Economic Psychology, 32(5), 742–753.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. King, G., & Wand, J. (2007). Comparing incomparable survey responses: Evaluating and selecting anchoring vignettes. Political Analysis, 15(1), 46–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Knabe, A., Rätzel, S., Schöb, R., & Weimann, J. (2010). Dissatisfied with life but having a good day: Time-use and wellbeing of the unemployed. The Economic Journal, 120(547), 867–889.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Krause, N. (2009). Deriving a sense of meaning in late life: An overlooked forum for the development of interdisciplinary theory. In M. Silverstein, V. L. Bengtson, & N. M. Putney (Eds). Handbook of theories of aging, Second Edition (pp. 101–116). New York: Springer Publishing Company.Google Scholar
  51. Krosnick, J. A. (1999). Survey research. Annual Review of Psychology, 50(1), 537–567.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Luhmann, M., Hawkley, L. C., & Cacioppo, J. T. (2014). Thinking about one’s subjective wellbeing: Average tends and individual differences. Journal of Happiness Studies, 15(4), 757–781.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Luhmann, M., Hofmann, W., Eid, M., & Lucas, R. E. (2012). Subjective well-being and adaptation to life events: A meta-analysis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 102(3), 592.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Mauss, I., Wilhelm, F., & Gross, J. (2004). Is there less to social anxiety than meets the eye? Emotion experience, expression, and bodily responding. Cognition and Emotion, 18(5), 631–642.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Meng, J., Jackson, T., Chen, H., Hu, L., Yang, Z., Su, Y., et al. (2013). Pain perception in the self and observation of others: An ERP investigation. NeuroImage, 72, 164–173.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Miron-Shatz, T., Stone, A., & Kahneman, D. (2009). Memories of yesterday’s emotions: Does the valence of experience affect the memory-experience gap? Emotion, 9(6), 885.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. National Academy of Sciences. (2014). Subjective well-being: Measuring happiness, suffering, and other dimensions of experience. National Academies Press. Retrieved from http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=18548
  58. Nelson, S. K., Kushlev, K., English, T., Dunn, E. W., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2013). In defense of parenthood: Children are associated with more joy than misery. Psychological Science, 24(1), 3–10.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Nozick, R. (1977). Anarchy, State, and Utopia. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  60. Nussbaum, M., & Sen, A. (1993). The quality of life. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Office for National Statistics. (2013, July 30). Personal well-being in the UK, 2012/13. Office for National Statistics. Retrieved from http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/wellbeing/measuring-national-well-being/personal-well-being-in-the-uk--2012-13/sb---personal-well-being-in-the-uk--2012-13.html#tab-Sex--age-and-ethnicity
  62. Office of Management and Budget. (2013). 2013 Draft Report to Congress on the Benefits and Costs of Federal Regulations and Agency Compliance with the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act. Retrieved from http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/inforeg/2013_cb/draft_2013_cost_benefit_report.pdf
  63. Oishi, S., & Diener, E. (2014). Can and should happiness be a policy goal? Policy Insights from the Brain and Behavioural Sciences, 1(1), 195–203.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Oishi, S., Diener, E., & Lucas, R. E. (2007). The optimum level of well-being: Can people be too happy? Perspectives on Psychological Science, 2(4), 346–360.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. (2015). How’s Life? Measuring Wellbeing. Retrieved from http://www.oecd.org/statistics/how-s-life-23089679.htm
  66. Pavot, W., & Diener, E. (1993). The affective and cognitive context of self-reported measures of subjective well-being. Social Indicators Research, 28(1), 1–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Pinquart, M. (2002). Creating and maintaining purpose in life in old age: A meta-analysis. Ageing International, 27(2), 90–114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Pluess, M. (2015). Individual differences in environmental sensitivity. Child Development Perspectives, 9(3), 138–143.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Ralph, K., Palmer, K., & Olney, J. (2011). Subjective wellbeing: A qualitative investigation of subjective wellbeing questions. London: Office for National Statistics.Google Scholar
  70. Reker, G. T., & Wong, P. T. P. (1988). Aging as an individual process: Toward a theory of personal meaning. In J. E. Birren & V. L. Bengston (Eds.), Emergent theories of aging (pp. 214–246). New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  71. Robinson, L. A. (2013). Cost-benefit analysis and well-being analysis. Duke Law Journal, 62(8), 1717–1734.Google Scholar
  72. Robinson, M. D., & Clore, G. L. (2002). Belief and feeling: Evidence for an accessibility model of emotional self-report. Psychological Bulletin, 128(6), 934.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2001). On happiness and human potentials: A review of research on hedonic and eudaimonic well-being. Annual Review of Psychology, 52(1), 141–166.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Ryff, C. D., & Keyes, C. L. M. (1995). The structure of psychological well-being revisited. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69(4), 719–727.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Ryff, C. D., Keyes, C. L., & Hughes, D. L. (2003). Status inequalities, perceived discrimination, and eudaimonic well-being: Do the challenges of minority life hone purpose and growth? Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 44, 275–291.Google Scholar
  76. Ryff, C. D., & Singer, B. H. (2008). Know thyself and become what you are: A eudaimonic approach to psychological well-being. Journal of Happiness Studies, 9(1), 13–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Salomon, J. A., Tandon, A., & Murray, C. J. (2004). Comparability of self rated health: Cross sectional multi-country survey using anchoring vignettes. British Medical Journal, 328(7434), 258.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Schwarz, N., & Strack, F. (1991). Evaluating one’s life: A judgment model of subjective well-being. Subjective Well-Being: An Interdisciplinary Perspective, 21, 27–47.Google Scholar
  79. Schwarz, N., Strack, F., & Mai, H. P. (1991). Assimilation and contrast effects in part-whole question sequences: A conversational logic analysis. The Public Opinion Quarterly, 55(1), 3–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Scollon, C. N., Kim-Prieto, C., & Diener, E. (2003). Experience sampling: Promises and pitfalls, strengths and weaknesses. Journal of Happiness Studies, 4(1), 5–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Shin, J. Y., & Steger, M. F. (2014). Promoting meaning and purpose in life. In S. Schueller (Ed.), The Wiley-Blackwell handbook of positive psychological interventions (pp. 90–111). Malden: Wiley.Google Scholar
  82. Slovic, P., Finucane, M., Peters, E., & MacGregor, D. G. (2002). Rational actors or rational fools: Implications of the affect heuristic for behavioral economics. The Journal of Socio-Economics, 31(4), 329–342.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Slovic, P., Finucane, M. L., Peters, E., & MacGregor, D. G. (2007). The affect heuristic. European Journal of Operational Research, 177(3), 1333–1352.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Smart, J., Quinton, A., & Williams, B. (1974). Utilitarianism; for and against. Philosophical Quarterly, 24(96), 279.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Son, J., & Wilson, J. (2012). Volunteer work and hedonic, eudemonic, and social well-being. Sociological Forum, 27, 658–681.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. Steger, M. F. (2012). Making meaning in life. Psychological Inquiry, 23(4), 381–385.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  87. Steger, M. F., Kashdan, T. B., & Oishi, S. (2008). Being good by doing good: Daily eudaimonic activity and well-being. Journal of Research in Personality, 42(1), 22–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  88. Stiglitz, J. et al. (2009) Report by the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress. Retrieved from: http://www.stiglitz-sen-fitoussi.fr/en/index.htm
  89. Tadić, M., Braam, H., Van Vliet, K., & Veenhoven, R. (2013). Memory-experience gap in early adolescents’ happiness reports. Child Indicators Research, 7, 1–20.Google Scholar
  90. United Nations. (2012). Defining a new economic paradigm: The report of the high-level meeting on wellbeing and happiness. Thimbu: The Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Bhutan to the United Nations.Google Scholar
  91. Van Landeghem, B. (2012). A test for the convexity of human well-being over the life cycle: Longitudinal evidence from a 20-year panel. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 81(2), 571–582.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  92. Vittersø, J., Oelmann, H. I., & Wang, A. L. (2009). Life satisfaction is not a balanced estimator of the good life: Evidence from reaction time measures and self-reported emotions. Journal of Happiness Studies, 10(1), 1–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  93. Waldron, S. (2010). Measuring subjective wellbeing in the UK. London: Office for National Statistics.Google Scholar
  94. Watkins, E. R. (2008). Constructive and unconstructive repetitive thought. Psychological Bulletin, 134(2), 163–206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  95. Watson, D., & Tellegen, A. (1985). Toward a consensual structure of mood. Psychological Bulletin, 98(2), 219.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  96. Weiss, H. M. (2002). Deconstructing job satisfaction: Separating evaluations, beliefs and affective experiences. Human Resource Management Review, 12(2), 173–194.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  97. White, M. P., & Dolan, P. (2009). Accounting for the richness of daily activities. Psychological Science, 20(8), 1000–1008.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  98. Wyer, R. S., Jr., Clore, G. L., & Isbell, L. M. (1999). Affect and information processing. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 31, 1–77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul Dolan
    • 1
  • Laura Kudrna
    • 1
  1. 1.London School of EconomicsLondonUK

Personalised recommendations