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Thursday, June 06, 2019

Are You Ready to Take a Slice Out of the “Happiness Pie”? | Fulfillment at Any Age - Psychology Today

Photo: Susan Krauss Whitbourne
The idea of the “happiness pie” has become widely popular, but does it stand up to research? A new study finds it might be time to change the recipe, argues Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D., Professor Emerita of Psychological and Brain Sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Photo: Fulfillment at Any Age
Happiness research, a fundamental area within positive psychology, can provide you with an understanding of how to improve the quality of your life. Within this rapidly-expanding field, the idea of the “happiness pie” (Lyubomirsky et al., 2005) has taken over the popular imagination, if not the scientific literature. Your happiness, the pie model proposes, can be broken down into a 50-10-40 split, reflecting your unique blend of heredity, or your “set point” (50%), circumstances (10%), and the activities you engage in to make yourself happier (40%). According to this model, you can’t change your heredity and your circumstances occur without your control. You can, though, change what you do to make yourself happier. Importantly, the pie model is intended to apply to your chronic happiness, not the moment-to-moment fluctuations in your mood.

Where did this 50-10-40 formula come from? Lyuobomirsky and her colleagues used a process statisticians use to explain a particular behavior that can vary from person to person by measuring, in percentages, the contributions of a set of predictors to an outcome variable (a factor that varies from person to person). Estimates of heritability, for example, reflect a statistical formula that examines relationships among variables taken from groups of people with known biological relationships. The 50% in the happiness pie, then, is intended to show that of the variability within a population in happiness levels, half of people’s scores can be accounted for by the happiness scores of their relatives.

Assuming that all of this is correct, this would leave another 50% to explain outside of biological relationships. Again, using statistical estimates, researchers examine relationships between the happiness of people in given samples with knowledge about the events that occurred to them in their lives, both favorable and unfavorable...

Ending on a fittingly positive note, Brown and Rohrer hope that their analysis will help “positive psychologists to critically re-examine the evidence base for their claims about the ability of people to improve their own happiness” (p. 14). Other critics of the happiness self-help movement take the work to task on other grounds, notably the idea that anyone can overcome objective circumstances that cannot be so readily changed, or whether it's even all that important to make happiness a goal in and of itself.

Source: Psychology Today