Happiness is the Frequency, Not the Intensity, of Positive Versus Negative Affect

Part of the Social Indicators Research Series book series (SINS, volume 39)

Abstract

In this chapter we suggest that “happiness,” or high subjective wellbeing, is more strongly associated with the frequency and duration of people’s positive feelings, not with the intensity of those feelings. People who rarely or never feel euphoria, for instance, can nonetheless report very high levels of well-being. We hypothesize that there are several reasons that subjective well-being is more strongly associated with the amount of time people feel positive versus negative feelings rather than with the intensity of their positive feelings. Intense positive feelings often have costs, including a tendency to more intense negative feelings in negative situations. Another hypothesis is that it is more difficult to accurately measure the intensity of feelings than their time-course, and this makes the amount of time people feel positive more amenable to study with self-report methods. The intensity of people’s positive emotions should not be ignored, but should be studied in combination with the time-course (frequency and duration) of positive and negative feelings.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Andrews, F. M., & Withey, S. B. (1976). Social indicators of well-being: America’s perception of life quality. New York: P,enum Press.Google Scholar
  2. Bradburn, N. M. (1969). The structure of psychological well-being. Chicago: Aldinc.Google Scholar
  3. Brandstätter, H. (1987). Emotional responses to everyday life situations: An individual difference approach. Paper delivered at the Colloquium on Subjective Well-Being. Bad Homburg, \nobreak Germany.Google Scholar
  4. Brickman, P., Coates, D., & Janoff-Bulman, R. (1978). Lottery winners and accident victims: Is happiness relative? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 36, 917–927.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Colvin, C. R. Pavot, W., & Diener, E. (1988). Emotional regulation: Affective amping and damping carryover. In preparation, University of Illinois.Google Scholar
  6. Davis, P. J., & Schwartz, G. E. (1987). Repression and the inaccessibility of affective memories. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 52, 155–162.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Diener, E. (1984). Subjective well-being. Psychological Bulletin, 95, 542–575.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Diener, E., & Emmons, R. A. (1984). The independence of positive and negative affect. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 47, 1105–1117.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Diener, E., & Iran-Nejad, A. (1986). The relationship in experience between various types of affect. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 50, 1031–1038.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Diener, E., Larsen, R. J., Levine, S., & Emmons, R. A. (1985). Intensity and frequency: Dimensions underlying positive and negative affect. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 48, 1253–1265.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Diener, E., Sandvik, E., & Larsen, R. J. (1985). Age and sex effects for emotional intensity. Developmental Psychology, 21, 542–546.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Diener, E., Sandvik, E., Gallagher, D., & Pavot, W. (1988).The effects of response artifacts on measures of subjective well-being. In preparation, University of Illinois.Google Scholar
  13. Diener, E., Smith, R. H., Allman, A., & Pavot, W. (1988). The costs of intense positive emotions. In preparation, University of Illinois.Google Scholar
  14. Epictetus. The discourses. Chicago: Encyclopaedia Brittanica, 1952.Google Scholar
  15. Flugel, J. C. (1925). A quantitative study of feeling and emotion in everyday life. British Journal of Psychology, 15, 318–355.Google Scholar
  16. Fordyce, M. W. (1977). The happiness measures: A sixty-second index of emotional well-being and mental health. Unpublished manuscript, Edison Community College, St. Meyers, Florida.Google Scholar
  17. Freud, S. (1930). Civilization and its discontents. London: The Hogarth Press.Google Scholar
  18. Gorman, B. S., & Wessman, A. E. (1974). The relationship of cognitive style and moods. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 30, 18–25.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hasher, L., & Zacks, R. T. (1979). Automatic and effortful processes in memory. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 108, 356–388.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hasher, L., & Zacks, R. T. (1984). Automatic processing of fundamental information: The case of frequency of occurrence. American Psychologist, 39, 1372–1388.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Larsen, R. J., & Diener, E. (1987). Emotional response intensity as an individual difference characteristic. Journal of Research in Personality, 21, 1–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Larsen, R. J., Diener, E., & Cropanzano, R. S. (1987). Cognitive operations associated with the characteristic of intense emotional responsiveness. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 53, 767–774.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Larsen, R. J., & Scheffer, S. (1987). The influence of cognitive operations on physiological response to emotion-provoking stimuli. Unpublished study, Purdue University.Google Scholar
  24. Parducci, A. (1968). The relativism of absolute judgments. Scientific American, 219, 84–90.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Parducci, A. (1984). Value judgments: Toward a relational theory of happiness. In J. R. Eiser (Ed.), Attitudinal judgment. New York: Springer-Verlag.Google Scholar
  26. Smith, R. H., Wedell, D., & Diener, E. (1989). Interpersonal and social comparison determinants of happiness. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 56, 317–325.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Solomon, R. L. (1980). The opponent-process theory of acquired motivation: The costs of pleasure and the benefits of pain. American Psychologist, 35, 691–712.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Thomas, D. (1987). Memory bias in the recall of emotions. Unpublished master’s thesis, University of Illinois, 1987.Google Scholar
  29. Thomas, D., & Diener, E. (1988). Memory accuracy in the recall of emotions. Paper submitted for publication.Google Scholar
  30. Watson, D., Clark, L. A., & Tellegen, A. (1984). Cross-cultural convergence in the structure of mood: A Japanese replication and a comparison with US findings. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 47, 127–144.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologySouthwest Minnesota State UniversityMarshallUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologySouthwest Minnesota State UniversityMarshallUSA

Personalised recommendations