Lay beliefs and projections of trait happiness

Volume 3 - Issue 2
Nicholas A. Coles Valerie K. Sims Matthew G. Chin
Pages: 116-125 Download Count : 3457 View Count: 3512 Facebook Share on Google+ Save to Zotero Save to Mendeley


To achieve high levels of Subjective Well Being, it is argued that one must experience frequent positive affect, low levels of negative affect, and high satisfaction with life. However, researchers have not investigated whether the lay theories of happiness also include these dimensions. Using a 2 (negative, positive affectivity) x 2 (low, high life satisfaction) factorial design, this experiment explored whether 256 university students believed that positive affect and high satisfaction with life were necessary precursors for happiness. Additionally, the study explored whether participant’s own trait affectivity, life satisfaction, and happiness projected onto their social judgments of a hypothetical other’s happiness. Overall, participants believed that both positive affect and life satisfaction are necessary for high levels of happiness, and that these two factors provided an additive effect in their social judgments. Correlational analyses demonstrated that, contrary to past findings, there were no significant associations between one’s judgments of another’s happiness, and their own affectivity, life satisfaction, or happiness. Altogether, our study suggests that when given sufficient information, participants are capable of formulating multidimensional judgments of happiness that are not influenced by their own trait happiness.


  • Lay beliefs
  • projections
  • social judgments
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