Ethical Inquiry Lecture:
Cultural Relativity of Happiness
Shigehiro Oishi, Psychology,
University of Virginia
Abstract: Once believed to be universal, a growing body of research shows that both the conception and predictors of happiness vary cross-culturally. First, the meaning and importance of happiness varies both across time and between nations. Americans, for instance, tend to define happiness in terms of pleasure or enjoyment and view happiness as universally positive, whereas East Asian and Middle Eastern cultures may highlight the transient and socially disruptive nature of happiness and be ambivalent about whether it is good. Second, predictors of happiness vary between cultures. Recent work highlights new mediators (e.g., relational mobility), individual predictors (e.g., person-culture fit), societal factors (e.g., good governance and wealth), within-culture variations (e.g., at the state or city level), and interventions (e.g., practicing gratitude) that differ cross-culturally or help explain cultural differences in happiness. Though many questions remain, this review highlights how these recent advances broaden and revise our understanding of culture and happiness.
A reception will follow immediately after the lecture.