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Foundations of Hedonic Psychology

Daniel Kahneman, Edward Diener, Norbert Schwarz

Publication Year: 1999

The nature of well-being is one of the most enduring and elusive subjects of human inquiry. Well-Being draws upon the latest scientific research to transform our understanding of this ancient question. With contributions from leading authorities in psychology, social psychology, and neuroscience, this volume presents the definitive account of current scientific efforts to understand human pleasure and pain, contentment and despair. The distinguished contributors to this volume combine a rigorous analysis of human sensations, emotions, and moods with a broad assessment of the many factors, from heredity to nationality, that bear on our well-being. Using the tools of experimental science, the contributors confront the puzzles of human likes and dislikes. Why do we grow accustomed and desensitized to changes in our lives, both good and bad? Does our happiness reflect the circumstances of our lives or is it determined by our temperament and personality? Why do humans acquire tastes for sensations that are initially painful or unpleasant? By examining the roots of our everyday likes and dislikes, the book also sheds light on some of the more extreme examples of attraction and aversion, such as addiction and depression. Among its wide ranging inquiries, Well-Being examines systematic differences in moods and behaviors between genders, explaining why women suffer higher rates of depression and anxiety than men, but are also more inclined to express positive emotions. The book also makes international comparisons, finding that some countries' populations report higher levels of happiness than others. The contributors deploy an array of methods, from the surveys and questionnaires of social science to psychological and physiological experiments, to develop a comprehensive new approach to the study of well-being. They show how the sensory pleasures of the body can tells us something about the higher pleasures of the mind and even how the effectiveness of our immune system can depend upon the health of our social relationships.

Published by: Russell Sage Foundation

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Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vii-viii

WE ARE GRATEFUL to the Russell Sage Foundation and to its president, Dr. Eric Wanner, for their exceptionally generous support of this project. The foundation...

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pp. ix-xii

OUR AIM IN editing this book was not at all modest: we hoped to announce the existence of a new field of psychology. Hedonic psychology-that could be its name-is the study of what makes experiences and life pleasant...

Part 1. How Can We Know Who Is Happy? Conceptual and Methodological Issues

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pp. 1-2

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1. Objective Happiness

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pp. 3-25

How HAPpy WAS HELEN IN MARCH? A question is raised in a conversation between two psychologists about a common friend: "How happy was Helen in March?" In the context...

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2. Ecological Momentary Assessment

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pp. 26-39

A VAST AMOUNT OF behavioral science research, especially psychological research, is conducted each year using self-report questionnaire and interview methodologies. Collecting information by having people report on their attitudes...

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3. Measurement Issues in Emotion Research

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pp. 40-60

EXPERlENCES OF psychic pain and pleasure, and the limitless variations on this hedonic theme, define the domain of emotions. The content of a person's emotional life strongly influences...

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4. Reports of Subjective Well-Being: Judgmental Processes and Their Methodological Implications

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pp. 61-84

MUCH OF WHAT we know about individuals' subjective well-being (SWB) is based on self-reports of happiness and life satisfaction. Since the groundbreaking studies...

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5. Wouldn't It Be Nice? Predicting Future Feelings

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pp. 85-106

IN THE BEACH BOYS song "Wouldn't It Be Nice," an adolescent laments parental oppression, which stands in the way of the anticipated bliss of marriage to his sweetheart...

Part 2. Feeling Good or Bad: Pleasures and Pains; Moods and Emotions

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pp. 107-108

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6. Preadaptation and the Puzzles and Properties of Pleasure

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pp. 109-133

THE HUMAN BODY is physically defined by a sheath of skin, penetrated by seven holes. The sheath and holes are a veritable playground...

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7. On the Pleasures of the Mind

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pp. 134-154

IT IS EASIER to point to pleasures of the mind than to define them. Imagine you're ending a magnificent meal with good friends at Troisgros with the celebrated feu de pommes-Granny Smith apple tartlets, topped with caramelized...

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8. Questions Concerning Pain

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pp. 155-168

WHAT Is PAIN? The most obvious question to ask about pain has long been considered one of the hardest to answer. Indeed, many of this century's leading pain specialists either despaired of ever devising a suitable definition or insisted...

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9. The Mood System

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pp. 169-189

AT THEIR EXTREMES, moods produce uniquely complex and powerful states that afford great pleasure or pain. In her recent memoir of manicdepressive illness, Kay Jamison...

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10. Emotions and the Hedonic Experience

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pp. 190-210

EMOTIONS ARE AN essential ingredient in the shaping of subjective well-being and the experienced quality of life. Well-being and experienced quality of life are emotional...

Part 3. Personality and Individual Differences

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pp. 211-212

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11. Personality and Subjective Well-Being

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pp. 213-229

THE CONCEPT OF "the good life" varies considerably among individuals. For some, this ideal state is one of wealth and luxury; for others, it is attained through meaningful relationships...

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12. Life Task Participation and Well-Being: The Importance of Taking Part in Daily Life

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pp. 230-243

WHY IS PARTICIPATING in valued activities and having and working toward personal goals so important for well-being? On a personal level, commitment to particular goals...

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13. Self-Regulation and the Quality of Life: Emotional and Non-Emotional Life Experiences

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pp. 244-266

IT IS NATURAL to define quality of life in terms of the hedonic principle. After all, the principle that people approach pleasure and avoid pain has been, and continues to be, the fundamental motivational principle. It has ancient roots...

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14. Disturbances in Emotion

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pp. 267-287

THE GOAL OF THIS chapter is to describe suffering and well-being from the point of view of researchers who study psychopathology and emotion. Research on psychopathology...

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15. Personal Control and Well-Being

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pp. 288-301

"PERSONAL CONTROL" refers to the individual's belief that he or she can behave in ways that maximize good outcomes and/or minimize bad outcomes. A belief in personal control...

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16. Hedonic Adaptation

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pp. 302-329

MOST OF US are familiar with striking examples of people who seem to be adapting well to circumstances that are extremely adverse. We may have seen footage of malnourished...

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17. Gender Differences in Well-Being

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pp. 330-350

GENDER DIFFERENCES are commonly found in measures of psychological well-being. In this chapter, we review the evidence for gender differences in major psychopathology and everyday moods and behaviors....

Part 4. The Social Context

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pp. 351-352

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18. Causes and Correlates of Happiness

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pp. 353-373

THERE IS AN immense amount of information about the effects of the demographic variables of age, sex, occupation, and the rest, which are normally included as the causes...

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19. Close Relationships and the Quality of Life

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pp. 374-391

Do CLOSE, supportive, intimate human connections enhance quality of life? Western cultures offer mixed messages. On the one hand, we fret over supposedly addictive, dysfunctional relationships...

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20. Well-Being and the Workplace

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pp. 392-412

PAlD EMPLOYMENT is central to the functioning of societies and to the mental health of individuals. The majority of adults spend a large part of their life at work, and they are affected by it in multiple and sometimes conflicting ways...

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21. The Measurement of Welfare and Well-Being: The Leyden Approach

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pp. 413-433

THE UTILITY CONCEPT is a key concept in economics. It is well known that modern economics is a discipline with numerous subfields, but nearly all relevant problems have...

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22. National Differences in Subjective Well-Being

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pp. 434-450

FOR MILLENNIA THINKERS have discussed the quality of human existence-what makes a desirable society and individual life. Philosophers such as Thomas Aquinas concentrated on the individual and defined the quality of human life in terms of virtue, closeness to God...

Part 5. Biological Perspectives

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pp. 451-452

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23. The Physiology and Pathophysiology of Unhappiness

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pp. 253-469

IMAGINE THAT AN earnest young wildebeest, in the early stages of its Ph.D. program in psychobiology, has finally selected a thesis project. The ambitious ungulate plans to study the physiological correlates of social behavior...

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24. The Psychophysiology of Utility Approaches

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pp. 470-488

To SURVIVE, all species must be able to differentiate and respond appropriately to harmful and hospitable stimuli. The human brain and body have therefore been shaped by natural...

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25. Can Neurobilogy Tell Us Anything About Human Feelings?

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pp. 489-499

FEW TOPICS ABOUT the human mind are as interesting and important as the nature of emotions. And few are less understood. Why is this so? The study of emotions has traditionally been focused on questions about emotionally...

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26. On the Neural Computation of Utility: Implications from Studies of Brain Stimulation Reward

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pp. 500-524

A RAT SITS QUIETLY in the start box of a runway, its access to the six-foot alley blocked by an acrylic panel. The rat begins to groom...

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27. Pleasure, Pain, Desire, and Dread: Hidden Core Process of Emotion

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pp. 525-557

A COGENT CASE can be made that the quality of life depends partly on the fulfillment of cultural themes of life meaning, such as personal goals or relation ships (Cantor, Acker, and Cook-Flannagan 1992; Cantor et al. 1991; Ellsworth 1994;...

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28. Neural Systems for Reinforcement and Inhibition of Behavior: Relevance to Eating, Addiction, and Depression

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pp. 558-572

WHAT MAKES PEOPLE work? The question is basic to economics and psychology. One answer is rewards. But if rewards are defined as that for which people work, it is a circular definition...


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pp. 573-574


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pp. 575-593

E-ISBN-13: 9781610443258
Print-ISBN-13: 9780871544247
Print-ISBN-10: 0871544245

Page Count: 608
Publication Year: 1999


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Subject Headings

  • Pleasure.
  • Quality of life.
  • Suffering.
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