Happiness Maximization Is a WEIRD Way of Living

Kuba KRYS*, Olga KOSTOULA*, Wijnand A.P. VAN TILBURG*, Oriana MOSCA, J. Hannah LEE, Fridanna MARICCHIOLO, Aleksandra KOSIARCZYK, Agata KOCIMSKA-BORTNOWSKA, Claudio TORRES, Hidefumi HITOKOTO, Kongmeng LIEW, Michael H. BOND, Vivian Miu-Chi LUN, Vivian L. VIGNOLES, John M. ZEKENSKI, Brian W. HAAS, Joonha PARK, Christin-Melanie VAUCLAIR, Anna KWIATKOWSKA, Marta ROCZNIEWSKANina WITOSZEK, I.Dil IŞIK, Natasza KOSAKOWSKA-BEREZECKA, Alejandra DOMÍNGUEZ-ESPINOSA, June Chun YEUNG, Maciej GÓRSKI, Mladen ADAMOVIC, Isabelle ALBERT, Vassilis PAVLOPOULOS, Márta FÜLÖP, David SIRLOPU, Ayu OKVITAWANLI, Diana BOER, Julien TEYSSIER, Arina MALYONOVA, Alin GAVRELIUC, Ursula SERDAREVICH, Charity S. AKOTIA, Lily APPOH, D. M. Arévalo MIRA, Arno BALTIN, Patrick DENOUX, Carla Sofia ESTEVES, Vladimer GAMSAKHURDIA, Ragna B. GARÐARSDÓTTIR, David O. IGBOKWE, Eric R. IGOU, Natalia KASCAKOVA, Lucie KLŮZOVÁ KARCˇMÁROVÁ, Nicole KRONBERGER, Pablo Eduardo BARRIENTOS, Tamara MOHORICĆ, Elke MURDOCK, Nur Fariza MUSTAFFA, Martin NADER, Azar NADI, Yvette VAN OSCH, Zoran PAVLOVIĆ, Iva POLÁCˇKOVÁ ŠOLCOVÁ, Muhammad RIZWAN, Vladyslav ROMASHOV, Espen RØYSAMB, Ruta SARGAUTYTE, Beate SCHWARZ, Lenka SELECKÁ, Heyla A. SELIM, Maria STOGIANNI, Chien-Ru SUN, Agnieszka WOJTCZUK-TUREK, Cai XING, Yukiko UCHIDA

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

Abstract

Psychological science tends to treat subjective well-being and happiness synonymously. We start from the assumption that subjective well-being is more than being happy to ask the fundamental question: What is the ideal level of happiness? From a cross-cultural perspective, we propose that the idealization of attaining maximum levels of happiness may be especially characteristic of Western, educated, industrial, rich, and democratic (WEIRD) societies but less so for others. Searching for an explanation for why “happiness maximization” might have emerged in these societies, we turn to studies linking cultures to their eco-environmental habitat. We discuss the premise that WEIRD cultures emerged in an exceptionally benign ecological habitat (i.e., faced relatively light existential pressures compared with other regions). We review the influence of the Gulf Stream on the Northwestern European climate as a source of these comparatively benign geographical conditions. We propose that the ecological conditions in which WEIRD societies emerged afforded them a basis to endorse happiness as a value and to idealize attaining its maximum level. To provide a nomological network for happiness maximization, we also studied some of its potential side effects, namely alcohol and drug consumption and abuse and the prevalence of mania. To evaluate our hypothesis, we reanalyze data from two large-scale studies on ideal levels of personal life satisfaction—the most common operationalization of happiness in psychology—involving respondents from 61 countries. We conclude that societies whose members seek to maximize happiness tend to be characterized as WEIRD, and generalizing this across societies can prove problematic if adopted at the ideological and policy level.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPerspectives on Psychological Science
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 13 Feb 2024

Keywords

  • culture
  • society
  • subjective well-being
  • happiness
  • life satisfaction

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