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CULTURE AND CONCEPTIONS OF HAPPINESS: INDIVIDUAL ...

CULTURE AND CONCEPTIONS OF HAPPINESS: INDIVIDUAL ...

CULTURE AND CONCEPTIONS OF HAPPINESS: INDIVIDUAL

LUO LU and ROBIN GILMOURCULTURE AND CONCEPTIONS OF HAPPINESS:INDIVIDUAL ORIENTED AND SOCIAL ORIENTED SWBABSTRACT. Adopting a cultural psychological approach, we believe thatculture and SWB are most productively analyzed together as a dynamic ofmutual constitution. We outline a cultural theory of SWB to systematicallyanalyze conceptions of happiness as embedded in both Euro-American andAsian cultures. Our cultural theory posits that distinct and different characteristicsof the conceptions of happiness are prevalent in Asian and Euro-Americancultures. For Asians, socially oriented SWB emphasizes role obligation anddialectical balance; for Euro-Americans, individually oriented SWB emphasizespersonal accountability and explicit pursuit. The present paper providesempirical data on American conceptions of happiness and contrasts these withpreviously collected Chinese data. Both similarities and differences were observedand were in general consonant with our theoretical propositions.KEY WORDS: conceptions of happiness, cultural psychological approach,individual oriented SWB, social oriented SWB.Consider the following quotations:a. Happiness is a mental state. Only when the spirit is rich, the mind ispeaceful and steady, is happiness possible.b. For me, happiness can be defined in four aspects: (1) free of physicalsufferings, illnesses or disabilities; (2) being socially acceptable, gettingalong well with other people, being respected and cared for, not beingisolated; (3) free of worries and hardships, being able to live a carefreeand joyful life; and (4) possessing a healthy, normal mind, being acceptedby the society.c. Happiness is absolutely great and one of the most important states ofbeing a person or living thing could ever pursue. The pursuit of happinessis one of my supreme goals in life.d. To me happiness is doing and being who I want to be without being heldback by the restrictions of society. Happiness is a reward for all the hardwork you employ.These four statements were extracts from essays written under thetitle of ‘‘what is happiness?’’ All of the respondents were universityJournal of Happiness Studies 5: 269–291, 2004.Ó 2004 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.

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