Personal or Interpersonal Construal of Happiness: A Cultural Psychological Perspective

Yukiko Uchida, Yuji Ogihara

Abstract


Cultural psychological research reveals considerable variation in how people construe happiness and experience subjective wellbeing. This paper identified substantial cultural differences in (1) meanings of happiness, (2) predictors of happiness, and (3) how social changes such as globalization are related to happiness. In European-American cultural contexts, happiness is construed as including experience of a highly desirable and positive emotional state defined in terms of a high arousal state such as excitement and a sense of personal achievement. Moreover, individual happiness is best predicted by personal goal attainment and high self-esteem or self-efficacy. In contrast, in East Asian cultural contexts (i.e., those found in Japan), happiness is construed as including experience of both positive and negative emotional state. Happiness is defined in terms of experiencing a low arousal state such as calmness and interpersonal connectedness and harmony. Furthermore, individual happiness is best predicted by relationship harmony and emotional support from others. While people maintain traditional cultural norms, some societies and organizations are under pressure from globalization and this might affect happiness. We examined how cultural change affects wellbeing, especially focusing on current Japanese contexts where individuals have experienced an increasing shift toward individualism and have experienced a large national disaster. Cultural psychological perspectives regarding happiness provide important contributions to psychological science and society at large.

Keywords


cultural construal of happiness, culture, happiness, achievement orientation, relationship orientation, individualism

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