A comment on Ostroot & Snyder

By Ruut Veenhoven,Erasmus University Rotterdam
Published in: Social Indicators Research, 1987, vol 18, pp 329-334

The results of comparative surveys have demonstrated great differences of perceived life quality. Yet there is doubt whether these differences mean that people are really more satisfied in one country than in another. It is generally believed that the responses are distorted by actors such as language, familiarity with concepts like satisfaction, and social desirability pressures. Though often alleged. the truth of these charges has not yet been demonstrated empirically.
    Ostroot & Snyder (1985) now claim to have demonstrated that about 40% of the difference in satisfaction between the French and Americans is due to 'cultural bias'. in particular to a rosier outlook of the latter. Yet their arguments labor under two defects: firstly, their use of the word 'bias' is misleading. They do not demonstrate any discrepancy between avowed satisfaction and 'true' satisfaction. Speaking of a 'cultural effect' would be more appropriate. Secondly, Ostroot & Snyder do not demonstrate that the greater satisfaction of Americans is due to a rosier outlook on their part. The data did not allow the conclusion that Americans hold a rosier view than the French, nor that such a view is responsible for their greater satisfaction

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