SUNNY IF IT WERE SUNNIER

The Centre for Confidence (Glasgow) doesn’t have much in front of its online door, except for an amusing and often thought evoking line-up of articles. What is really amusing are the articles about the psychological consequences of the Scots aesthetic; (proudly disbelieving, depressive in the Kleinian sense; expecting the worst). If you’re interested, check ’em out. The work I’d like to highlight is linked to off the site, a fine paper by Ed Diener and Marvin Seligman, (2004). Beyond money: Toward an economy of well-being.. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 5, 1-31.

At the individual level, the economic model allows people to structure their time in the pursuit of concrete goals, and to readily track progress toward specific goals. It is possible that people derive considerable well-being from goal pursuits related to earning income, and from the activities of consumption, and therefore even a well-being economy will include these activities. Thus, although laments about how economic activity can interfere with family and religion are often heard, it is likely that the economic model will remain dominant for many decades to come. We do not contest this fact of life. Well-being is not a panacea that will in itself solve all of the world’s problems. Even if well-being one day becomes the dominant paradigm, it must be supplemented by other values of societies, and people must be socialized for humane values for the well-being economy to be a desirable concept.

One challenge for a society based on well-being is that individuals do not have ready and concrete models of how to pursue the goal of greater well-being, other than following the economic model. When people are asked what would improve the quality of their lives, the most frequent response is higher income (Campbell, 1981). It is not clear to people how they would achieve greater positive emotions and life satisfaction. Until there are concrete and proven steps toward these noneconomic aims, people are unlikely to abandon the dominant economic paradigm. Thus, psychologists need to demonstrate compellingly the malleable factors that can increase well-being before the well-being paradigm can replace the economic one. In addition, it should not be forgotten that the theoretical models on which the economic model is based are in many cases more sophisticated than current scientific models of well-being. (2004: Diener/Seligman)

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