Is there a relationship between what makes people happy and the individualism/collectivism domain of culture?

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topic : Each year the Gallup World Poll measures happiness/SWB with 1 item asking people to “evaluate their current life as a whole using the image of a ladder, with the best possible life for them as a 10 and worst possible as a 0. Each respondent provides a numerical response on this scale, referred to as the Cantril ladder.

  • The Gallop World Poll results cannot tell us what makes people happy
  • We cannot tell how people are “evaluating their current life”
  • Different cultures have different values and beliefs
  • Therefore it is likely that different things make people happy in different cultures
  • It is also possible that people from different cultures might interpret the question differently

Essential reading:

Lu, L., & Gilmour, R. (2006). Individual?oriented and socially oriented cultural conceptions of subjective well?being: Conceptual analysis and scale development. Asian Journal of Social Psychology, 9(1), 36-49.

(available on LMS)

The Individualism/collectivism domain of culture


“…the degree to which cultures will encourage, on the one hand, the tendency for people to look after themselves and their immediate family only, or, on the other hand, for people to belong to ingroups that are supposed to look after its members in exchange for loyalty.” (Matsumoto & Juang, p. 22)

  • Concept was developed by Geert Hofstede in relation to work values and nationality.
  • The Individualism rating for your country of origin (or the country that you identify as your nationality) is expressed as a number between 0-100
  • It is a spectrum- avoid thinking of it as a binary
  • The Happiness Survey uses 2 subscales from the Individual-oriented and Socially oriented cultural conceptions of SWB Scales (ISSWB) (Lu & Gilmour, 2006).
  • The ISSWB has 4 subscales: 
  • Two measure individual-oriented SWB (ISWB
    • Personal accountability (ISWB – PA)
    • Explicit pursuit (ISWB – EP)
  • Two measure socially oriented SWB (SSWB)
    • Role obligations (SSWB – RO)
    • Dialectical balance (SSWB – DB)
    • The Happiness Survey uses:
      • Personal accountability (ISWB – PA)
      • Role obligations (SSWB – RO)
      • The items were combined into one measure  
      • The odd numbered items measure PA 
      • The even numbered items measure RO

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