This course will introduce students to the scientific study of happiness, integrating findings from a variety of fields, including psychology, sociology, neuroscience, and economics. Topics include the nature and measurement of happiness, the bidirectional relationship between physical health and happiness, the social or collective dimensions of happiness, and the role of various institutions and the well-being of society. Students will engage with practical lessons from the scientific study of happiness by applying key insights from research to their own lives.
Introduction to the Scientific Study of Happiness, Core Questions, and the Value of Happiness
What is happiness? Why does happiness matter?
Lyubomirsky, Sonja, Laura King, and Ed Diener. 2005. “The Benefits of Frequent Positive Affect: Does Happiness Lead to Success?” Psychological Bulletin 131:803-55.
Peterson, C, Park, N, & Seligman, MEP. 2005. “Orientations to Happiness and Life Satisfaction: The Full Life versus the Empty Life. Journal of Happiness Studies 6, 25-41.
The Concept of Happiness
van Deurzen, E. 2013. “Contintental Contributions to our Understanding of Happiness and Suffering.” Pp. 279-290 in SA David, I. Boniwell, & AC Ayers, Oxford Handbook of Happiness. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
Veenhoven, Ruut. 2000. “The Four Qualities of Life. Ordering Concepts and Measures of the Good Life.” Journal of Happiness Studies 1:1-39. Available at: http://www2.eur.nl/fsw/research/veenhoven/Pub2000s/2000c-full.pdf.
The Measurement of Happiness
Veenhoven, Ruut. 2008. “Questions on Happiness.” Pp. 1-32 in Happiness in Nations, Introductory Text. Available at: http://worlddatabaseofhappiness.eur.nl/hap_nat/nat_fp.htm.
Happiness around the World/Lessons from Cross-National Studies
Oishi, S, Diener, E, Choi, DW, Kim-Prieto, C and Choi, I. 2007. “The Dynamics of Daily Events and Well-Being across Cultures: When Less is More.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 93: 685-698.
What Makes Us Happy?
Emmons, RA. 2003. “Personal Goals, Life Meaning, and Virtue: Wellsprings of a Positive Life. Pp. 1-5-128 in CLM Keyes, & J. Haidt (eds.), Flourishing: Positive Psychology and the Life Well-Lived. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Emmons, RA and ME McCullough. 2003. “Counting Blessings versus Burdens: An Experimental Investigation of Gratitude and Subjective Well-Being in Daily Life.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 84(2): 377-389.
Lyubomirsky, Sonja. 2008. The How of Happiness. Penguin Press.
Happiness and Human Connectedness
How does social connection promote happiness? What is the role of pro-social qualities such as kindness, compassion, and cooperation in happiness?
Cacioppo, John and William Patrick. 2009. Loneliness. WW Norton & Company.
Christakis, Nicholas A and James H. Fowler. 2011. Connected. Back Bay Books.
Dunn, E. W., Aknin, L. B., & Norton, M. I. 2008. “Spending Money on Others Promotes Happiness.” Science 319(5870): 1687-1688.
Eisenberger, N. I., Lieberman, M. D., & Williams, K. D. 2003. “Does Rejection Hurt? An fMRI Study of Social Exclusion.” Science 302(5643): 290-292.
Goetz, J., Simon-Thomas, E., & Keltner, D. 2010. “Compassion: An Evolutionary Analysis and Empirical Review.” Psychological Bulletin 136(3): 351–374.
Nelson, SK, Kushlev, K, & Lyubomirsky, S. 2014. “The Pains and Pleasures of Parenting: When, Why, and How is Parenthood Associated with More or Less Well-Being?” Psychological Bulletin 140(3): 846-895.
Olds, Jacqueline. 2010. The Lonely American: Drifting Apart in the Twenty-First Century.
Tabibnia, G. & Lieberman, M.D. 2007. “Fairness and Cooperation are Rewarding.” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1118: 90-101.
Calvo, Esteban, Kelly Haverstick, and Steven A. Sass. 2009. “Gradual Retirement, Sense of Control, and Retirees’ Happiness.” Research on Aging 31(1):112-135.
Carstensen, L.L., Isaacowitz, D. & Charles, S.T. 1999. “Taking Time Seriously: A Theory of Socioemotional Selectivity.” American Psychologist 54:165-181.
Siegrist, Johannes, Olaf Von Dem Knesebeck, and Craig Evan Pollack. 2004. “Social Productivity and Well-being: A Sociological Exploration.” Social Theory and Health 2:1-17.
Does Money Buy Happiness?
Arthaud-Day, Marne L. and Janet P. Near. 2005. “The Wealth of Nations and the Happiness of Nations: Why “Accounting” Matters.” Social Indicators Research 74:511-48.
Easterlin, R., et al. 2010. “The Happiness-Income Paradox Revisited.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 107(52), 22463-22468.
Kahneman, Deaton 2010. “High Income Improves Evaluation of Life but Not Emotional Well-Being.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 107(8): 16489-16493.
Inequality and Happiness
Veenhoven, Ruut. 2005. “Return of Inequality in Modern Society? Test by Dispersion of Life-satisfaction Across Time and Nations.” Journal of Happiness Studies 6:457-87. Available at: http://www2.eur.nl/fsw/research/veenhoven/Pub2000s/2005d-full.pdf.
Yang, Yang. 2008. “Social Inequalities in Happiness in the United States, 1972 to 2004: An Age-Period-Cohort Analysis.” American Sociological Review 73:204-26.
Happiness and Public Policy
Veenhoven, Ruut. 2002. “Why Social Policy Needs Subjective Indicators.” Social Indicators Research 58:33-45.
Grades will be based on class participation, a series of written and applied assignments, and two exams.