TWO STATE-TRAIT DISCUSSIONS ON HAPPINESS: A Reply to Stones et al.

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Abstract

ABSTRACT

Rejoinder to reaction by Stones et al. (SIR 36) on Veenhoven's “Is happiness a trait?” (SIR 32).

There are two discussions about the trait-likeness of happiness. One is concerned with the possibility of creating greater happiness for a greater number. In this discussion the focus is on variability of happiness level. The other discussion is about chances for reducing inequalities in happiness. That discussion focusses on permanence of differences in happiness. My thesis concerned the first discussion. The criticism pertains to the second.

The criticism is framed in notions of psychological personality research. In line with that tradition its conceptualizations are rather loose. The terms ‘happiness’ and ‘trait’ are used in broader meaning than in my article. In this respect the critics conduct a different discussion as well.

Stones et al. present studies that would show that happiness is more trait-like than state-like. Yet their evidence is not convincing. The data do not pertain to happiness in the sense of life-satisfaction, and the interpretation of their data is deficient.

For the time being it seems that happiness is not a fixed matter. In that respect it is a feasible goal for social policy.

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