29 Nov Ed Diener on happiness
And we’re very happy to share with you a great interview, from the Pursuit of Happiness website, with one of the world’s leading experts on happiness, Ed Diener…
A little background
Ed Diener has been one of the leading pioneers in scientific research on happiness for the past twenty-five years. Indeed, he has been nicknamed _ã–Dr. Happiness_ã based on the sheer volume and depth of his body of work. Many of the research protocols currently used by positive psychologists, such as the Satisfaction with Life Scale, were developed by Diener. He is chiefly responsible for coining and conceptualizing the aspect of happiness which can be empirically measured_ã”_ã–Subjective Well Being_ã (SWB).
Diener was born in 1946 in Glendale California on a farm_ã”by most accounts a very happy place to grow up. He received his B.A. in Psychology from California State University and his Ph.D from the University of Washington. For the past thirty years he has been teaching at University of Illinois until his retirement in 2008. He has received numerous awards, including the distinguished scientist award from the International Society of the Quality of Life
People are generally pretty happy
One of Diener_ã_s major contributions is his research on whether people are in fact happy or not (Diener & Diener, 1996). Diener found that in America, 1/3 of people respond they are _ã–very happy_ã and only 1 in 10 claim they are _ã–not too happy._ã The majority rate themselves as _ã–pretty happy._ã These results were replicated in other countries, showing that there is a positive level of Subjective Well Being throughout the world (with the possible exception of very poor countries). Further, he found that even the majority of disadvantaged individuals, such as people with disabilities and even quadriplegics reported greater than average levels of happiness. These findings are somewhat surprising given philosophers and poets_ã_ typical depiction of the misery of human existence. But Diener hypothesizes that there is a genetic basis for _ã–positive affect_ã in human beings: basically we are programmed to be happy and even horrific events like being paralyzed often upset happiness only temporarily. Due to the principle of hedonic adaptation, we are able to quickly revert back to our _ã–set level_ã of happiness.
More recently Diener has observed that we have to be careful when we cite such studies since they are after all generalizations…
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