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Happiness: Its Meaning, Measurement and Significance


Happiness: Its Meaning, Measurement and Significance Dan Turton Overview L1 (today): Happiness and the meaning of life L2 (Thurs 29 Oct): Measuring happiness L3 ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Happiness: Its Meaning, Measurement and Significance

Happiness Its Meaning, Measurement and
  • Dan Turton

  • L1 (today)
  • Happiness and the meaning of life
  • L2 (Thurs 29 Oct)
  • Measuring happiness
  • L3 (Thurs 5 Nov)
  • Happiness so what?

Happiness Its Meaning, Measurement and
  • L1 Happiness and the Meaning of Life

  • Happiness, well-being and the meaning of life
  • Ancient views of happiness
  • Modern views of happiness
  • Analysing and discussing the accounts
  • Understanding the importance of happiness for
    the good life

The Meaning of Life
  • The BIG question
  • It should inform us on how to live
  • What, if anything, is the purpose
  • for life?
  • Religious/spiritual purposes
  • Survival and reproduction
  • There is no purpose for life
  • How can we find meaning/value in life?
  • Flourishing
  • Making plans and seeing them through
  • Enjoying being in the moment

The Purpose for Life
  • Religious/spiritual Purposes
  • Advises how to live, but its too risky!
  • Survival and reproduction
  • Says nothing meaningful
  • about how to live!
  • We are fermenting globules
  • Neither really satisfy

Finding Meaning/Value in Life
  • Concluding that there is no purpose for life does
    not mean that your life is meaningless
  • Our experiences and actions seem
    meaningful/valuable (or the opposite) to us
  • Without higher guidance, we should probably
    still try to live a meaningful/valuable life

The Good Life
  • We should still try to attain the good life
  • What kind of good life?
  • A good example of a life
  • Aesthetically good
  • Morally good
  • Causally good
  • Subjectively good

  • The subjectively good life the life that is
    good for the one living it Well-Being
  • What makes someone's life go better/best for
  • If your life starts to go better (for you), then
    your well-being has been improved

Theories of Well-Being
  • Explain what ultimately makes a persons life go
    better for them
  • Most theories hold that only one or a few things
    intrinsically/ ultimately make a persons life go
    better or worse
  • Most things have instrumental value
  • Use the why? test

Happiness Well-Being
  • Happiness is a simple and commonplace state of
  • Its also a complex and abstract notion
  • Does happiness well-being?
  • Is all happiness ultimately good for us?
  • Is only happiness ultimately
  • good for us?

Defining Happiness
  • To know if happiness well-being, we need to be
    clear about what happiness is
  • And then ask ourselves if that and only that is
    all there is to a life that is good for the one
    living it
  • Is happiness the ultimate explanation for why
    anything is good for us?

Ancient Accounts of Happiness as Well-Being
Around 700BCE
  • Happiness as a blessed life (by the Gods)
  • Happy people (men) were lucky, enjoyed life,
    beautiful, prosperous, well-regarded, healthy,
    athletic, fathers of fine children etc.
  • You dont know if youre happy until youre dead!
  • Dying young could be good for your happiness!
  • It was foolish to strive for happiness because it
    was totally up to the Gods!

Socrates/Plato 400BCE
  • Happiness is possessing what is good what is
  • Happiness is up to us, not the Gods
  • Learning to control our Eros (desires)
  • At first loving simple beauty
  • E.g. a beautiful person
  • Then, loving the beauty of wisdom truth
  • E.g. being a philosopher!
  • Socrates thought this process would take quite a

Aristotle 300BCE
  • Happiness is flourishing (eudaimonia), which is
    the purpose of man (not women or animals)
  • Eudaimonia the soul expressing virtue
  • But happiness in general is similar to the list
    from before
  • Still up to us, but hard if the Gods give you a
    bad start
  • Virtues are golden means
  • Cowardice courage - rashness
  • Boastfulness self-respect self-deception
  • But Godly contemplation was real happiness

Making Happiness Attainable
  • Socrates/Plato/Aristotle set the
  • bar for happiness too high
  • Zeno Epicurus offered realistic alternatives
  • Both thought their versions of philosophy could
    make life bearable or happy by avoiding the
    vagaries of fortune
  • Both, esp. Epicurus, included women and slaves as

Epicurus - Hedonism
  • Happiness is a life of pleasure
  • not pain
  • Gods dont get involved with our lives
  • Hence a hedonist is a pleasure-seeker
  • Epicurus was no modern-day hedonist
  • Pleasure doesnt mean sensual pleasure
  • Pleasure is freedom from bodily and especially
    mental pain
  • Pleasure can come from sober reasoning
    examination of the world and ourselves

Zeno - Stoicism
  • A great creator gives the universe
  • its underlying logic and reason
  • So, everything is as it should be
  • Humans logical place in the universe
  • Being virtuous which is being happy!
  • None of the other things have any value
  • The man of true virtue will be happy even when
    being tortured!
  • Hence Stoic means unaffected by suffering or

Examining our Desires
  • Both Epicurus and Zeno believed that our desires
    must be examined if we are to be happy
  • Unsatisfied desires cause unhappiness
  • Epicurus train yourself to desire only enough to
    not be hungry, thirsty or cold
  • Zeno train yourself to restrict your emotions
    if something displeases you then change it or
  • expectations

What it is and How to Get it
  • 700BCE Being blessed by the Gods
  • Dont bother trying (its not up to you)
  • Socrates Loving wisdom (philosophising)
  • Ignore our lower Eros (lower desires)
  • Aristotle Lots, especially expressing virtue
  • Be lucky dedicate life to using reason to
    express virtue
  • Epicurus Being free of bodily especially
    mental pain
  • Examine and limit desires to the basics
  • Zeno Being at one with the universe (being
    virtuous for humans)
  • Restrict emotions - dont desire anything you
    dont have

  • Which ancient philosopher
  • had the best account of happiness?
  • Is being virtuous the same as being happy, or is
    it an indirect route to happiness or is it
    totally irrelevant?
  • Some consider it a human right to be able to
    pursue happiness, but is it a bad idea to desire

Modern Accounts of Happiness as Well-Being
  • Well-being happiness
  • pleasure and not pain
  • Pleasure is the only thing that is intrinsically
    valuable for us
  • Folk get pleasure now!
  • Philosophers maximise pleasure over your entire
  • Bentham duration x intensity
  • Mill quality, duration x intensity

Is Pleasure the Only Thing of Value?
  • Compare two lives
  • Similarities
  • Both lived long lives have experienced equal
    pleasures from the same sources
  • Sources being loved by their family friends,
    achieving at work in hobbies etc.
  • Differences
  • One of them is mistaken about all of the things
    he takes pleasure in
  • The other is not
  • Whose life is better?

  • Well-being the satisfaction of your desires
    (sometimes) happiness
  • Getting what you want is the only thing that is
    intrinsically valuable for us
  • Informed D-S only adequately informed desires
  • Ideal D-S only desires that fit some objective
    criteria count

Is the Satisfaction of Our Desires Good for us?
  • Actual and informed desires are often for things
    that are, on balance, bad for us!
  • Ideal desires require some kind of objective
  • We choose to desire things because we think that
    their satisfaction will provide us with some
    value or meaning
  • D-S accounts put the value in the satisfaction,
    not the ultimate reason for having the desire

Modern Accounts of Well-Being
  • Mental state accounts
  • E.g. hedonism
  • Desire-satisfaction accounts
  • E.g. informed desire-satisfaction
  • Objective list accounts
  • E.g. flourishing/objective list accounts

  • The good life for the one
  • living it (well-being) is
  • the life of flourishing
  • Flourishing developing expressing natural
    capacities and powers
  • Developing excellencies in one or all of your
    species fundamental traits
  • Only some versions include or require
    happiness/enjoyment of life

Flourishing Objective List
  • But, which traits do you prioritise?
  • Is excellence in reasoning or long-distance
    running better for us?
  • The naturalistic fallacy
  • Unnatural things can be good for us too!
  • E.g. Pacemakers, wings etc.
  • We end up with a list of things that are good for

Objective List Objective List
  • A list of the ultimate goods
  • Most objective list theories
  • lack justification of their irreducible/intrinsi
    c goods
  • E.g. Ross account
  • Knowledge, Pleasure, Virtue and the proper
    apportionment of pleasure to virtue
  • Cant we explain knowledge with pleasure or
  • Why is it ultimately better for me that my
    pleasure comes from virtue?

What are the Ultimate Bearers of Value?
  • Remember Accounts of well-being need to say what
    the ultimate bearers of value are
  • Some accounts just use happiness
  • Some use happiness and other (independent) goods
  • Some dont even use happiness!

Discussion Accounts of Happiness/ Well-Being
  • What is the best account of happiness?
  • Do any of the modern accounts of happiness
  • Or are there other things that are intrinsically
  • for us?
  • If so, what are they?

Happiness and the Meaning of Life
  • Most people think happiness is at least important
    for our well-being for finding meaning/value in
    our lives
  • But its not clear what we can or should do about
    that fact
  • First we need to know how well happiness can be
  • And then we can discuss what we could and should
    do with that information

How to Find Out More
  • Further reading
  • The Pursuit of Happiness A History from the
    Greeks to the Present
  • By Darrin McMahon
  • Also published as Happiness A History

Happiness Its Meaning, Measurement and
  • L2 Measuring Happiness

  • Show how various types of happiness are measured
  • Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the
  • Understand the limitations of measurements

Are you Happy?
  • A simple and a complicated question
  • How we go about answering it depends on what we
    take happiness to mean
  • Or, it depends on how the question is asked

How Can I Find Out How Happy You Are?
  • Indirectly
  • Look at your wealth/income
  • Look at your capabilities or your quality of life
  • (More) Directly
  • Observe your behaviour
  • Brain scans
  • Ask you

Looking at Your Income
  • Used by
  • Some economists politicians
  • Most of us as an indicator of national progress
  • Income is an indicator of ability to satisfy
    preferences (and thereby make yourself happy)

Margin of Discontent
  • Gap between what we have and what we want
  • Two solutions
  • Sages solution
  • Give up wanting Hard boring?
  • Economic growth solution
  • People satisfy their wants by increasing their
    possessions, thus becoming happier

Looking at Your Income
  • Used by
  • Some economists politicians
  • Most of us as an indicator of national progress
  • Income is an indicator of ability to satisfy
    preferences (and thereby make yourself happy)
  • Benefits Easy to calculate and compare on large
  • Problems

Does Make Us Happy?
  • Reducing the margin of discontent makes people
  • Economic growth helps consumers to reduce their
    margin of discontent
  • If 1. and 2. are both
  • true, then why have
  • we gotten richer
  • but not happier?
  • Evidence?

(No Transcript)
Materialism Doesnt Pay
Very High
  • Lottery winners return to pretty much the same
    level of happiness after 1 year (contested)
  • The more we have
  • The more we want and
  • The more we think we need
  • Evidence?

So, Does Make Us Happy?
  • So, unless you are materialistic, more makes
    very little difference to our happiness much
    less than
  • A loving relationship
  • Volunteering
  • A rewarding job
  • But materialistic people seem to have a pretty
    strange idea of happiness
  • Having said all this who would not want to win

  • Can money not buy happiness or are we just
    spending it on the wrong things?
  • Is it possible to avoid adapting to new things
    that bring us happiness?
  • Has anyone sacrificed money for happiness? How
    did it go?

Looking at Your Capabilities/QoL Indicators
  • Used by
  • Some economists politicians
  • Often encouraged by NGOs
  • Income, access to education, healthcare, clean
    environment, employment, political freedoms etc.
  • Benefits Not too hard to calculate and compare
    on large scale
  • Problems

Arent We all Capable of Happiness?
  • People from all walks of life report themselves
    as happy, even those whose circumstances look
    dire to us
  • Adaptation (again)
  • Relativity of happiness
  • Determinants of happiness
  • Evidence?

Determinants of Happiness
  • What is more important, freedom, education, or
  • Which is better, a long life of medium happiness
    or a medium life of great happiness?
  • Should we focus on genetic technology and
    cognitive behavioural therapy instead of

Observe Your Behaviour
  • Used by
  • A few academics
  • Just about all of us!
  • By observing body language and behaviour we can
    tell how happy someone is
  • Benefits easy to do, especially with people you
    know well
  • Problems impractical on large scale and

  • Smiling is the main way to tell if someones
    happy but only if they are real smiles
  • Duchenne (real) smiles can be noticed by the
    sparkle in the eyes

Scanning Your Brain
  • Used by
  • A few academics
  • Activity in specific areas of the brain are
    measured and compared to the other direct
    measures of happiness
  • Benefits becoming increasingly accurate
  • Problems very impractical on large scale and
    still mysterious

  • If happiness has a biological cause in the brain,
    then we will be able to influence it with drugs,
    surgery, bionics etc but should we?
  • If our brains show equal happiness activity,
    then are we equally happy? How can we know this?

Asking You
  • Used by
  • Psychologists
  • Occasionally by economics academics
  • You think about and answer a question regarding
    your happiness. After all, who could be better
    than you at judging how happy you are?
  • Benefits Not too hard to calculate and
    (possibly) compare on large scale
  • Problems depend on the question

3 Types of Questions I Can Ask You (3 Levels of
  • How are you feeling right now (from 1 to 7)?
  • Introspection
  • All things considered, how happy are you these
    days (from 1 to 7)?
  • Introspection, comparative judgement
  • On the whole, how good do you think your life is
    (from 1 to 7)?
  • Introspection, comparative judgement, relative to
    conception of the good life

Level One Happiness Feeling Happy in the Moment
  • How are you feeling right now?
  • Introspection
  • Level One Happiness (Nettle)
  • Mood
  • Pleasure
  • Joy
  • Absence of pain and suffering (negative feelings)
  • Fear, Anger, Sadness, Disgust, Pain

Level One Happiness Feeling Happy in the Moment
  • Is there really such a thing?
  • How good are we at getting it right?
  • Introspection
  • Smiling.
  • Brain scans
  • How good is it to have?

Level Two Happiness Judging Your Happiness
  • All things considered, how happy are you these
  • Introspection, comparative judgement
  • Level Two Happiness (Nettle)
  • Total net Level One happiness (Kahneman)
  • Well-being
  • Satisfaction
  • Judgement about feelings
  • Can be distorted by biased judgements

Level Two Happiness Judging Your Happiness
  • Is there really such a thing?
  • How good are we at getting it right?
  • Appraisal biases
  • Aspirational biases
  • How good is it to have?

Level Three Happiness Thinking You Have a Good
  • On the whole, how good do you think your life is?
  • Introspection, comparative judgement, relative to
    conception of the good life
  • Level Three Happiness (Nettle)
  • Eudaimonia
  • Fulfilling potential
  • Quality of life
  • Doesnt always require Level 1 or 2 happiness

Level Three Happiness Thinking You Have a Good
  • Is there really such a thing?
  • Subjectively yes
  • Objectively interesting question
  • How good are we at getting it right?
  • How good is it to have?

Happiness Continuum
  • Level 2
  • Judgements about feelings
  • Net level 1 happiness
  • Well-being
  • satisfaction
  • Level 3
  • Holistic evaluation of value of life
  • Flourishing
  • Neednt include happiness
  • Level 1
  • Momentary feelings
  • Mood
  • Pleasure or joy
  • Not suffering

More emotional, sensual, and reliable
More cognitive, moral, and easily biased
  • When (if ever) are our judgments about how we
    feel accurate enough to make decisions by?
  • For self- and governmental assessment, which
    method of measuring happiness
  • Provides the best gauge of actual happiness (most
    accurate/ reliable)?
  • Is the easiest to carry out?
  • Or, suggest another method

How to Find Out More
  • Further reading
  • Happiness The Science Behind Your Smile
  • By Daniel Nettle
  • Stumbling on Happiness
  • By Dan Gilbert
  • Multimedia info
  • www.danturton.com/happiness
  • http//www.nationalaccountsofwellbeing.org/

Happiness Its Meaning, Measurement and
  • L3 Happiness So What?

  • Use our previous learning (about what happiness
    is, how valuable it is and if we can measure it)
    to help us
  • Decide what we should do about happiness both
    personally and as a society

So What Should I Do?
  • Perhaps you should pursue happiness (wisely)
    gently encourage those you love to do the same
  • Perhaps by trying to change things about yourself
  • Try to be open-minded,
  • Extroverted,
  • Positive,
  • Believe that you can control your own life,
  • And, stop negative thought patterns (Cognitive
    Behavioural Therapy)

So What Should I Do?
  • Perhaps you should change what you do with your
  • Reduce commuting
  • Take holidays with family (work-life balance)
  • Get married spend time keeping it in good shape
  • Dont necessarily have kids
  • Make and keep good friends
  • Meditate once a day
  • Exercise at least twice a week
  • Volunteer become socially enmeshed
  • Go to church?

So What Should I Do?
  • Perhaps you should buy experiences, not stuff
  • And maybe happiness hats drugs!
  • Happiness hats
  • http//gizmodo.com/5391968/the-happiness-hat-will-
  • Deep Brain Stimulation
  • Early days, but has temporarily cured anhedonia
    in chronic depressives
  • Drugs of the future might be easier to use than
    DBS hats

  • Would you take a 50 higher-paying job that
    required 1 hour more commuting per day?
  • If meditation has been proven to make us
    happier, why dont more people do it? Do you do
  • Would you advise a friend about what the latest
    happiness study says about the decision s/he is
    about to make?
  • Would you use a happiness hat/drugs?

So What Should the Government Do?
  • Assuming the following
  • Happiness is important to most of us
  • Happiness can be increased
  • Government policies can affect happiness
  • Governments try to do what is best for their
  • Governments should seek and use relevant
    happiness data when deciding if policies are
    good. Assuming
  • A sufficiently effective data-collecting method
    is available
  • Gathering the data would not create any
    widespread perverse incentives

Bhutan vs. New Zealand
  • In Bhutan, happiness (they define it more like
    peaceful serenity) is the most important driver
    of policy
  • Since the late 1980s
  • In New Zealand, its often the effect on the
  • On jobs or per capita incomes or GDP/GNP

  • Consider the assumptions mentioned before
  • Do we know enough about happiness and value it
    enough to follow in the footsteps of Bhutan?
  • Or should we just increase the relevance of
    happiness research in policy-making?
  • If we do use considerations of happiness to
    inform policy-making, then should we use studies
    or just common sense?
  • Or, are we assuming too much? Is using happiness
    to guide policy a hopeless idea?

Income Inequality
  • Income inequality might make Kiwis unhappy
    (relativity of happiness)
  • Any citizens with an income of 20,000 or less
    per year could be made happier by giving them
    access to more
  • Should we cap very high incomes or guarantee
    minimum incomes?

  • Unemployment is a major cause of unhappiness
    dissatisfaction with life
  • A redistribution of wages for civil servants
    (less for top execs) could create enough spare
    cash to create more jobs for unemployed
  • Should drastic measures like this be taken to
    ensure unemployment is minimal?

  • More quality time with family, less time at work
    and more time commuting could make us happier
    (both individually and as a nation)
  • Should the government mandate a better work-life
  • More holidays?
  • Virtual workplaces?

  • Rosser Reeves
  • Manager of a successful advertising company
  • While holding up two coins
  • Making you think that this quarter is more
    valuable than that one

The Benefits of Advertising
  • Winston Churchill
  • Advertising nourishes the consuming power of
    men. It creates wants for a better standard of
    living It spurs individual exertion and greater
  • Advertising improves our well-being

Does Advertising Make Us Dissatisfied?
  • Beautiful (photo-shopped) women are in adverts
  • They make us unhappy/ dissatisfied
  • Should we remove tax breaks for pictorial
  • Should we ban pictorial advertising?

  • Being more intelligent doesnt make you happier
    it may even make you less happy
  • Should we make learning positive psychology
    social skills part of school education?
  • Should schools focus on happiness or work?
  • Happiness 52, work 43

  • Psychological health has a big impact on
  • Should more taxes go to counseling, positive
    psychologists, mediation classes etc?
  • What about anti-depressants, happy pills, happy
    hats etc?

Foreign Policy
  • A slight increase in taxes for rich people in
    rich countries would be more than enough to fund
    the continual development of the worlds poorest
    communities (making them happier)
  • But, people (rich or not) dont like having stuff
    taken from them
  • Should foreign aid tax be increased?

  • There are many policies that could be implemented
    in the name of increasing happiness
  • Most policies just cost money. Are there other
    things that should not be sacrificed for
    happiness? E.g. freedom, intelligence etc?
  • Some policies would work better if people didnt
    know about them (e.g. happiness drugs in the
    water). Should the government always have to
    inform the public about such policies? Even when
    it would make them less happy?

The Press/Media
  • The press/media has long had the role as a check
    and balance on government (where bias does not
    have too much influence)
  • The press has the power (to some extent) to set
    the method used to measure the success of
  • They seem to focus on financial economic
  • http//www.youtube.com/watch?vmWC-2ZcIJCs

  • The media both sets and measures what is
    newsworthy what the public want to know what
    they learn to want
  • Should the media also publish information about
    what the people should want to know about?
  • Should the press/media do what they can to ensure
    the government does more direct measuring of
    happiness and uses the results to inform

How to Find Out More
  • Further reading
  • Happiness Lessons from a New Science
  • By Lord Richard layard
  • Further research
  • Google Scholar search
  • happinessfactorreview (from 2000 onwards)
  • Multimedia info
  • www.danturton.com/happiness
  • http//www.nationalaccountsofwellbeing.org/
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