The Empirical Face of Happiness

Posted on 2014/03/03

Much of the new research on the science of happiness reveals that the way we think about feeling is important in determining how good we feel. If we think it is good, we feel good; if we think it is bad, we feel bad. It is the matter of subjective feelings where one distinctively knows how one feels. Cultural studies, on the other hand, don’t rely on subjectivity. Cultural and psychoanalytic approaches argue that ordinary attachments of everyday life create ambivalence to the very idea of happiness and these are a source of confusion and discourage the clear distinction of good and bad feelings. 

Happiness research has documented the places where happiness is located and it has also explored which individuals, social groups, and nations are happier than others. It makes a connection between social indicators and levels of happiness. These signs not just help evaluate subjective well being but they also foresee how happy different kinds of people will be, Frey and Stutzer call them psychograms (2002). One of the key indicators of happiness is marriage. It means that getting married maximizes happiness and on the basis of this prediction we can say that married people are likely to be happier than those who are unmarried. This measurement is powerful and it implies that the science of happiness is per-formative when we find happiness in certain place, we count those places as causes of happiness. 

We encounter many speech acts in our day to day lives that are called happiness speech acts by the researchers who collect empirical data on happiness. In our early childhood, we often hear our parents saying “We work hard to make you happy” or “what else you want to be happier”. Then in later life, you may hear your friend or spouse saying “I can’t bear you to be unhappy” or “I can do anything to make you happy”. These are just a few examples of kind of happiness speech acts. When we hear someone saying “you make me happy”, probably that person is moved by something (an object related to us) in such a manner that when he thinks of happiness, he imagines that object. So when we imagine happiness as a feeling state, or a form of perception that assesses a life situation we’ve reached over time, happiness also moves towards objects. We turn to objects and consider them as the ‘makers’ of happiness. When we say ‘it makes me happier’ we assume that happiness begins from somewhere other than ourselves who actually describe a situation.

When we turn to the concept of how objects become happy, we can say that happiness is a state of consciousness that is achieved when we follow the desired proximity to an object and desire varies from person to person. Happiness also involves affect and it implies when we are affected by a desired object, we feel happier. Another factor is intentionality since we feel happy when we purposely think about something good. It can be the case of making judgments also, unless we don’t self evaluate to be happy we’ll not judge something to be good. Happiness when viewed as a science takes into account potential objects and their positive affective value as social goods and the empirical research in this regards views the society as a happy object, and discovers what factors contribute to its happiness, and to what degree they have their affect on individuals’ subjective well being.