Unpacking the hedonic paradox: A dynamic analysis of the relationships between financial capital, social capital and life satisfaction: Wealth and happiness

Department of Psychology, University of Surrey, Guildford, UK University of Exeter, UK University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.
British Journal of Social Psychology (Impact Factor: 1.76). 05/2011; 52(1). DOI: 10.1111/j.2044-8309.2011.02035.x
Source: PubMed


Does money buy happiness? Or is happiness derived from looking outwards towards our social networks? Many researchers have answered these questions by exploring whether the best predictor of well-being is either economic or social (or some fixed combination of the two). This paper argues for a dynamic perspective on the capacity for economic and social factors to predict well-being. In two studies, we show that both money (individual income) and community (social capital) can be the basis for individual happiness. However, the relative influence of each factor depends on the context within which happiness is considered, and how this shapes the way people define the self. Study 1 primes either money or community in the laboratory and demonstrates that such priming shifts individual values (so that they are economic vs. communal) and determines the extent to which income is more (vs. less) predictive of life satisfaction than social relations. Study 2 looks at these same priming processes in the external world (with people travelling to vs. from work). Both studies show that while money can become the basis of happiness when the self is defined in economic terms, the role of community relations in predicting happiness is more stable across contexts.

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