White Paper-zzbrd2822

Working Hypothesis 1: Eliminating the single-minded search for happiness in life would increase the well-being of people who shift their focus to identifying the fulfilling purpose of life.

Purposeful Summaries:

  1. The Pursuit of Happiness Can Be Lonely

Mauss, I. B., Savino, N. S., Anderson, C. L., Weisbuch, M., Tamir, M., & Laudenslager, M. L. (2011, September 12). The Pursuit of Happiness Can Be Lonely. Emotion. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0025299

Even though it is natural to want and search for happiness, valuing happiness may have negative consequences. According to most North Americans, they value wanting to be happy above many other goals with the expectation that happiness not only feels good but is beneficial for you. Happiness is usually defined in terms of personal positive feelings or a personal gain and striving for personal gains can damage connections with others. For example, people who have high self-esteem often fail to attend to others’ needs and a narrow determination of achieving goals can cause people to disregard others’ feelings. This causes the pursuit for happiness to damage people’s connections with others and result in loneliness. Studies were conducted and examined correlations between valuing happiness and reports of loneliness in a large community sample. Another study was conducted as well to test the effects of an experimental manipulation of valuing happiness on loneliness, through self-reports and a hormonal indicator, progesterone, of social connection. These results suggest that valuing happiness is linked to greater loneliness on a suggestive basis.

2. The Paradox of Pursuing Happiness

Zerwas FK, Ford BQ. The paradox of pursuing happiness. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences. 2021;39:106-112. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352154621000541. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cobeha.2021.03.006.

Despite a common misconception that happiness is beneficial for you, a considerable amount of evidence suggests that valuing happiness to an extreme degree can backfire. The more value that people invest in happiness, the less happy they are in actuality. People approach the process of pursuing happiness similar to how they would approach any other goal. Typically, the more someone strives towards a goal the more likely they are to reach that goal. However, this logic doesn’t apply to happiness. Studies have shown that people who extremely value happiness are also less likely to attain long-term happiness, which is explained by lower levels of psychological well-being and life satisfaction. These patterns were strongly emphasized for individuals experiencing low life stress. It was also shown that those who pursue happiness, seem to be at risk for poor mental health and are associated with more depressive symptoms. Furthermore, it is found that having high expectations for the intensity of one’s happiness can be damaging by making the goal highly unreachable. Monitoring one’s progress towards happiness also creates room for negative meta-emotions, which are a negative emotional response to an original emotion.

3. The Dark Side of Happiness

Gruber, J., Mauss, I. B., & Tamir, M. (2011). A Dark Side of Happiness? How, When, and Why Happiness Is Not Always Good. Perspectives on Psychological Science6(3), 222–233. https://doi.org/10.1177/1745691611406927

There is a strong popular and scientific emphasis on happiness in today’s society as a beneficial outcome, which is evident by the increasing demand for guidance through motivational speakers, life coaches, and self-help books all with the primary focus of increasing happiness. One question that is being asked is “Might happiness be dysfunctional at times?” Most people’s immediate response is in opposition to that question; however, people have not considered if happiness may, under certain circumstances, be maladaptive. If there is a high intensity of happiness, people experience no psychological or health gains and sometimes they may experience costs. For example, when experiencing high degrees of positive emotions, some individuals are more inclined to engage in riskier behaviors, such as alcohol consumption, binge eating, and drug use.

4. The Pursuit of Happiness and Materialism

Cui, P., Shen, Y., Hommey, C. et al. The dark side of the pursuit of happiness comes from the pursuit of hedonia: The mediation of materialism and the moderation of self-control. Curr Psychol (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12144-021-02104-9

The dark sides of the pursuit of happiness have been emphasized before, but it does not deter people from pursuing happiness. There are few studies that explore the unethical behaviors of the dark side of the pursuit of happiness, but they do not distinguish the roles of different types of happiness. Based on hedonic and eudaimonic happiness orientations, the current research proposes that hedonic motives facilitated by materialism are more likely to lead to unethical behavior than eudaimonic motives. Hedomic motives focus on pleasure and happiness, while eudaimonic motives focus on meaning and personal expressiveness. A study was conducted in which 331 participants were sampled in an attempt to test these hypotheses and the results confirmed that hedonic motives promote unethical behavior through the facilitation of materialism. The study further found that self-control also plays a role in the relationship between materialism and unethical behavior. Overall, the study suggests that the dark side of the pursuit of happiness may arise from the pursuit of hedonia. As hedonic motives influence people toward the pursuit of extrinsic material goals, under low self-control level, people are more likely to choose active means to achieve extrinsic goals, which leads to a higher tendency to engage in unethical behaviors.

5. The Search for Meaning and Life Satisfaction

Park, N., Park, M., & Peterson, C. (2010). When is the Search for Meaning Related to Life Satisfaction? Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, 2(1), 1-13. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1758-0854.2009.01024.x

The meaning of life is important for psychological and physical well-being, and it is both a goal for and a means to a fulfilling life. However, researchers have only recently looked at the presence of life meaning and the search for life meaning as separate concepts. In a directed study, 731 adult volunteers from the United States completed a questionnaire regarding the meaning of life, which separately examines the presence of meaning and the search for meaning, alongside measures of well-being. The results show that the presence and search for the meaning of life showed different relationships regarding well-being. The search for meaning was positively associated with well-being among those who already had considerable meaning in their life, as they displayed greater life satisfaction, more happiness, and less depression. The search for meaning in life is not only morally worthy but, also satisfying as it is successful.

Topics for Smaller Papers:

  • Our happiness is influenced by what others define as happiness.
  • We are unaware of our own happiness.
  • The correlation between purpose and fulfillment.

Current State of Research Paper:

When I began my research process, I did not think I would find many sources to support my hypothesis. After Professor Hodges helped clarify my hypothesis, I was able to find multiple scholarly sources that provided support for my claims. However, I feel I need to find sources that are more specific to my topic and not as broad. As I continue my research, I am pretty confident that I will be able to obtain more topic-specific articles to support my hypothesis to ensure that my essay will be properly supported.

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1 Response to White Paper-zzbrd2822

  1. davidbdale says:

    ZZBird, there’s an important distinction between a specific and narrow thesis and finding specific and narrow sources. It would be a mistake to actively seek sources that address your argument any more directly than those you’ve already found. For example, “The Paradox of Seeking Happiness” is about as close as you can get to not needing to write your paper at all. If you find too many sources that “reinforce” your own point of view, you’ll have to wonder what you’re even contributing to the conversation.

    One way to achieve your own individuality, in fact, would be to dispute or at least critique the scholarly work that’s already been done on your topic. Take this section of your summary:

    Studies have shown that people who extremely value happiness are also less likely to attain long-term happiness, which is explained by lower levels of psychological well-being and life satisfaction. These patterns were strongly emphasized for individuals experiencing low life stress. It was also shown that those who pursue happiness, seem to be at risk for poor mental health and are associated with more depressive symptoms.

    —A strong case could be made that these conclusions are mistaking the effect for the cause. Is it not at least conceivable that people who “are less likely to have attained happiness” are those who “extremely value happiness” since it has so far eluded them?
    —Similarly, maybe those “at risk for poor mental health” and who suffer “depressive symptoms,” when asked, would report that they actively “pursue happiness”? Who would be more likely to want and strive toward happiness than someone whose mental health deprived them of it?

    In other words, just keep reading and following leads where they take you. What comes will come.


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