The pursuit of happiness
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The Pursuit of Happiness. Eda Gurel Atay University of Puget Sound Lynn R. Kahle University of Oregon Karen Ring Universal McCann, NYC. httpPol Political philosophy circa 1776.

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The pursuit of happiness

The Pursuit of Happiness

Eda Gurel Atay

University of Puget Sound

Lynn R. Kahle

University of Oregon

Karen Ring

Universal McCann, NYC

Httppol political philosophy circa 1776
httpPolPolitical philosophy circa 1776

  • “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men [sic] are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…”

  • --From U.S. Declaration of Independence

Political philosophers circa 1996
Political philosophers circa 1996

  • “It’s the economy, stupid.” --James Carville, advice to candidate Bill Clinton

Happiness is
Happiness is…$$$$$$$$$

  • The measurement of wealth and by implication happiness has generally been embodied by such economic indices as Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

  • Governments endeavor to create wealth and are judged by the wealth they create.

  • Government has fostered growth of GDP by motivating ever-greater levels of consumption (an ideology often supported by consumer behavior).


  • One problem with never-ending consumption growth for growth’s sake (also the ethic of a cancer cell) is that it is unsustainable.

  • We live on a planet with finite resources, as well as one where some types of consumption have undesirable consequences.

The big idea
The BIG Idea

  • We need to find a mechanism whereby happiness can be pursued without leading to ever-increasing consumption and inevitable environmental disaster.

Positive psychology
Positive Psychology

  • The positive psychology movement has achieved remarkable advances in both theory and measurement (e.g., Haidt, 2006).

  • Subjective well-being, or happiness, has been a focus of much attention in that field.

The pursuit of happiness

Beyond the lowest level of income, the cultural proverb that “money can’t buy happiness” is probably true.


As Maslow would suggest, other needs or values ascend in importance after physiological essentials are satisfied.

Happy places: Costa Rica, Denmark

From paper by daniel kahneman and alan krueger 2006
From paper by Daniel Kahneman and Alan Krueger (2006)

  • Table 1

  • Correlates of High Life Satisfaction and Happiness

  • Smiling frequency

  • Smiling with the eyes (“unfakeable smile”)

  • Ratings of one’s happiness made by friends

  • Frequent verbal expressions of positive emotions

  • Sociability and extraversion

  • Sleep quality

  • Happiness of close relatives

  • Self-reported health

  • Active involvement in religion

  • Recent positive changes of circumstances (increased income, marriage)

Economic wealth
Economic wealth

  • Or

  • Psychological Wealth?

Values as guiding principles
Values as Guiding Principles

  • Value (Rokeach 1973, p.5):

    “an enduring belief that a specific mode of conduct or end-state of existence is personally or socially preferable to an opposite or converse mode of conduct or end-state of existence”

    • Value System (Rokeach 1973, p.5):

      “an enduring organization of beliefs concerning preferable modes of conduct or end-states of existence along a continuum of relative importance”

Values as guiding principles1
Values as Guiding Principles

  • Self-definition (Rokeach 1973)

  • Guiding behaviors and judgments

    • Political attitudes (Reynolds et al. 1997; Lee 2003)

    • Moral reasoning (Abdolmohammadi and Baker 2006)

    • Employee creative behavior (Rice 2006)

    • Healthy lifestyles (Divine and Lepisto 2005)

    • Consumer Behaviors (Kahle & Xie 2008)

    • Adaptation (Kahle 1983)

Theoretical framework
Theoretical Framework







Standard of Living


H1: Individuals’ values will influence how they conceptualize success.

H2: Different conceptualizations of success will result in different levels of satisfaction with standard of living.

The pursuit of happiness

Media in Mind: Universal McCann’s 2003 U.S.

national survey

  • 5,143 participants aged 18 and above

  • Gender distribution:

    • Male: 2254 (48%)

    • Female: 2889 (52%)


Rokeach Value Survey – rank order of 18 values


Things associated with success – check all that apply

The pursuit of happiness


Standard of Living

I am satisfied with my current financial situation.

I like playing the lottery.

(1=Completely Disagree; 5=Completely Agree)








Standard of Living