Configurations of affective and cognitive appraisal of life across nations

Gaël Brule and Ruut Veenhoven

International Journal of Happiness and Development, ISSN online: 2049-2804, 2015, 2 (2) 101-117 DOI: 10.1504/IJHD.2015.070070

When appraising satisfaction with life-as-a-whole, we draw on two sources of information: 1) how well we feel most of the time and 2) to what extent life brings what we want of it. These sub- appraisals are referred to as 'components' of happiness; respectively hedonic level of affect, the affective component, and contentment, the cognitive component. These sub-appraisals do not necessarily go together, one may feel fine but be discontented, or feel bad affectively, while being contented cognitively. In this paper we explore how these appraisals combine in nations, drawing on data from the Gallup World Poll. The affective component is measured using an affect balance scale based on responses about yesterday's affective experiences. The cognitive component is measured using responses to a question about how close one's present life is to the ideal life one can imagine.
Data is available for 133 nations for the years 2006 to 2009. Scores on both components of happiness tend to go together: r = +.48, but the correlation is far from perfect and differs considerably across nations. Discordant combinations of low affect and medium contentment are found in Eastern Europe, while the reverse is observed in Southern Europe. Discordant combinations of higher affect than contentment appear in Latin America and Africa. Explanations for the differences are explored.

Keywords: Subjective well-being, happiness, cross-cultural, hedonic, contentment

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