- LAST REVIEWED: 19 October 2017
- LAST MODIFIED: 29 November 2011
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199828340-0030
- LAST REVIEWED: 19 October 2017
- LAST MODIFIED: 29 November 2011
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199828340-0030
In psychological science, “subjective well-being” is the term most often used in place of the popular term “happiness.” Subjective well-being consists of a person’s cognitive and affective evaluations of his or her life rather than the momentary mood state of happiness. Although psychologists have been interested in subjective well-being since the inception of psychology in the late 19th century, systematic research on this topic did not begin until the late 1970s and the early 1980s. In the 1990s and 2000s several psychologists started using terms such as “psychological well-being” and “eudaimonia” in place of “subjective well-being” to emphasize the aspects of the good life that are not well captured by pleasure and pain (e.g., meaning in life and personal growth). The present bibliography provides a general overview of the scientific field of subjective and psychological well-being followed by a list of informative books and articles on key issues.
At this point, subjective well-being is one of the most popular topics in psychological science. Although there are books and articles on this topic dating back to the late 1800s, the concept of happiness and therefore the study of happiness dissipated in the 1940s, just as the concept of emotion was questioned in the 1930s and 1940s under the influence of behaviorism. Even Henry Murray, the genius who successfully measured implicit motives, such as the need for affiliation, gave up and declared, “Aristotle’s assertion that the only rational goal of goals is happiness has never been successfully refuted as far as we know, but, as yet, no scientist has ventured to break ground for a psychology of happiness” (Murray and Kluckhohn 1948, p. 13). Although survey researchers included questions regarding happiness in the 1940s to the 1960s, very few mainstream psychologists studied happiness and related concepts during that time. The first comprehensive review on “avowed happiness” appeared in Wilson 1967. This review had a limited impact on the field, however, despite the fact that it was published in Psychological Bulletin (cited under Journals), one of the most prestigious journals in psychology. Perhaps most psychologists at the time still believed that happiness was not something that could be scientifically investigated. Nevertheless, the antagonism against the scientific study of happiness became gradually weaker with the cognitive revolution of the 1960s and 1970s. Bradburn 1969, an influential book on emotional well-being, introduced the new measure of positive and negative affect and showed the relative independence of positive and negative affect. Several years later Philip Brickman and colleagues published their famous paper Brickman, et al. 1978 on hedonic adaptation. Then Ed Diener published a comprehensive review on subjective well-being in Psychological Bulletin (Diener 1984) and finally legitimized the study of happiness in psychological science. It should be noted, however, that Hadley Cantril and Angus Campbell (see Cantril 1965; Campbell, et al. 1976) should also be credited as pioneers of subjective well-being, as their books on the quality of life were important inspirations for the later generation of well-being researchers. In a related vein, Martin E. P. Seligman and Chris Peterson and their colleagues have promoted positive psychology since the late 1990s (see Seligman 2002 for review). Subjective well-being has been a major component of positive psychology, and the increasing visibility of positive psychology also helped expand the scope of subjective well-being research.
Bradburn, Norman M. 1969. The structure of psychological well-being. Chicago: Aldine.
This is one of the first books that discussed psychological well-being as the central thesis.
Brickman, Philip, Dan Coates, and Ronnie Janoff-Bulman. 1978. Lottery winners and accident victims: Is happiness relative? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 36.8: 917–927.
This is one of the most famous papers in the history of subjective well-being. It reports the surprisingly small difference in self-reported happiness and enjoyment of mundane activities between paraplegics and lottery winners. Based on these findings, Brickman and colleagues proposed their famous hedonic treadmill theory of happiness.
Campbell, Angus, Philip E. Converse, and Willard L. Rodgers. 1976. The quality of American life: Perceptions, evaluations, and satisfactions. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.
Using a large national survey, these researchers summarize various issues related to life satisfaction, in particular demographic factors, such as marital status, income, number of children, and satisfaction with various life domains.
Cantril, Hadley. 1965. The pattern of human concerns. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers Univ. Press.
In this book the author introduced his famous ladder scale of life satisfaction. This book also includes cross-cultural data on life satisfaction.
Diener, Ed. 1984. Subjective well-being. Psychological Bulletin 95:542–575.
The most cited review paper on the science of subjective well-being. This review summarized most practical (measurement) and conceptual issues up to the early 1980s and ignited the scientific study of subjective well-being.
Murray, Henry Alexander, and Clyde Kluckhohn. 1948. Outline of a conception of personality. In Personality in nature, society, and culture. Edited by Clyde Kluckhohn and Henry Alexander Murray, 3–32. New York: Knopf.
This is one of the most influential books on personality. In the introductory chapter Murray and Kluckhohn discuss their rationale for defining personality in terms of tension reduction rather than happiness.
Seligman, Martin E. P. 2002. Authentic happiness: Using the new positive psychology to realize your potential for lasting fulfillment. New York: Free Press.
In this book the author introduced the field of positive psychology to a general audience.
Wilson, Warner. 1967. Correlates of avowed happiness. Psychological Bulletin 67:294–306.
The first comprehensive review on the scientific research of happiness, covering research mainly from the 1930s to the mid-1960s.
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- Abnormal Psychology
- Action Research
- Addictive Behavior
- Affective Forecasting
- Allport, Gordon
- Alzheimer’s Disease
- Animal Behavior
- Animal Learning
- Anxiety Disorders
- Art and Aesthetics, Psychology of
- Attachment in Social and Emotional Development across the ...
- Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) In Adults
- Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in Childre...
- Attraction in Close Relationships
- Attribution Theory
- Authoritarian Personality
- Behavior Therapy, Rational Emotive
- Behavioral Economics
- Behavioral Genetics
- Bereavement and Grief
- Biological Psychology
- Birth Order
- Body Image in Men and Women
- Bystander Effect
- Clinical Neuropsychology
- Clinical Psychology
- Cognitive Consistency Theories
- Cognitive Dissonance Theory
- Cognitive Neuroscience
- Communication, Nonverbal Cues and
- Comparative Psychology
- Conformity, Compliance, and Obedience
- Coping Processes
- Counseling Psychology
- Critical Thinking
- Cross-Cultural Psychology
- Cultural Psychology
- Death and Dying
- Deceiving and Detecting Deceit
- Defensive Processes
- Depressive Disorders
- Development, Prenatal
- Developmental Psychology (Cognitive)
- Developmental Psychology (Social)
- Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM...
- Dissociative Disorders
- Drugs and Behavior
- Eating Disorders
- Ecological Psychology
- Educational Settings, Assessment of Thinking in
- Embodiment and Embodied Cognition
- Emerging Adulthood
- Emotional Intelligence
- Environmental Neuroscience and Environmental Psychology
- Ethics in Psychological Practice
- Evolutionary Psychology
- Exploratory Data Analysis
- Eyewitness Testimony
- Factor Analysis
- Festinger, Leon
- Five-Factor Model of Personality
- Flynn Effect, The
- Friendships, Children's
- Fundamental Attribution Error/Correspondence Bias
- Gambler's Fallacy
- Game Theory and Psychology
- Health Psychology
- Heuristics and Biases
- History of Psychology
- Human Factors
- Implicit Association Test (IAT)
- Industrial and Organizational Psychology
- Intercultural Psychology
- Intergroup Conflict
- International Classification of Diseases and Related Healt...
- International Psychology
- Interviewing in Forensic Settings
- Intimate Partner Violence, Psychological Perspectives on
- Item Response Theory
- Law, Psychology and
- Learned Helplessness
- Learning versus Performance
- LGBTQ+ Romantic Relationships
- Lie Detection in a Forensic Context
- Life-Span Development
- Locus of Control
- Meaning in Life
- Mechanisms and Processes of Peer Contagion
- Media Violence, Psychological Perspectives on
- Memories, Autobiographical
- Memories, Flashbulb
- Memories, Repressed and Recovered
- Memory, Human
- Memory, Implicit versus Explicit
- Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI)
- Moral Development
- Moral Psychology
- Moral Reasoning
- Neuroscience of Associative Learning
- Obsessive-Complusive Disorder (OCD)
- Operant Conditioning
- Optimism and Pessimism
- Organizational Justice
- Parenting Stress
- Path Models
- Peace Psychology
- Perception, Person
- Personality Disorders
- Personality Psychology
- Placebo Effects in Psychology
- Positive Psychology
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Prejudice and Stereotyping
- Prisoner's Dilemma
- Prosocial Behavior
- Prosocial Spending and Well-Being
- Psychology, Political
- Psychophysics, Visual
- Psychotic Disorders
- Reasoning, Counterfactual
- Rehabilitation Psychology
- Religion, Psychology and
- Research Methods
- Risk Taking
- Schizophrenic Disorders
- School Psychology
- Self, Gender and
- Self, Psychology of the
- Self-Regulation in Educational Settings
- Sensation Seeking
- Sex and Gender
- Sexual Minority Parenting
- Sexual Orientation
- Single People
- Skinner, B.F.
- Sleep and Dreaming
- Small Groups
- Social Class and Social Status
- Social Cognition
- Social Neuroscience
- Social Support
- Social Touch and Massage Therapy Research
- Somatoform Disorders
- Sports Psychology
- Stereotype Threat
- Stress and Coping, Psychology of
- Subjective Wellbeing Homeostasis
- Teaching of Psychology
- Terror Management Theory
- Testing and Assessment
- Theory of Mind
- Therapies, Person-Centered
- Therapy, Cognitive-Behavioral
- Thinking Skills in Educational Settings
- Time Perception
- Trait Perspective
- Twin Studies
- Type A Behavior Pattern (Coronary Prone Personality)
- Women and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM...
- Women, Psychology of