The Psychology of Happiness

The Psychology of Happiness

The Psychology of Happiness

The Psychology of Happiness


What is happiness? Why are some people happier than others?

This new edition of The Psychology of Happiness provides a comprehensive and up-to-date account of research into the nature of happiness. Major research developments have occurred since publication of the first edition in 1987 - here they are brought together for the first time, often with surprising conclusions.

Drawing on research from the disciplines of sociology, physiology and economics as well as psychology, Michael Argyle explores the nature of positive and negative emotions, and the psychological and cognitive processes involved in their generation. Accessible and wide-ranging coverage is provided on key issues such as: the measurements and study of happiness, mental and physical health; the effect of friendship, marriage and other relationships on positive moods; happiness, mental and physical health; the effects of work, employment and leisure; and the effects of money, class and education. The importance of individual personality traits such as optimism, purpose in life, internal control and having the right kind of goals is also analysed. New to this edition is additional material on national differences, the role of humour, and the effect of religion. Are some countries happier than others? This is just one of the controversial issues addressed by the author along the way.

Finally the book discusses the practical application of research in this area, such as how happiness can be enhanced, and the effects of happiness on health, altruism and sociability. This definitive and thought-provoking work will be compulsive reading for students, researchers and the interested general reader


The first edition of this book was published in 1987, when the field of happiness research was quite young. Since then it has expanded enormously. A lot of new work has appeared in the journal Social Indicators Research, The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology and in Personality and Individual Differences. Veenhoven produced a reanalysis of surveys from around the world, Correlates of Happiness (1994). Kahneman, Diener, and Schwarz edited their equally massive Well-Being: The Foundations of Hedonic Psychology (1999), in which I have a chapter. Happiness and well-being research is now published mainly in psychological journals. However economists have also taken an increasing interest in this topic, through their concern with whether money makes people happy, and the effects of unemployment. Governments too have started to take an interest.

Since the first edition of this book I have been carrying out research and writing on some of the central topics of the present book, and this has helped me to rewrite some chapters. During this period I produced books on The Social Psychology of Work (2nd edition) (1989), The Social Psychology of Leisure (1996) and Psychology and Religion: An Introduction (2000).

I have been greatly helped by Peter Hills, Professor Adrian Furnham and Professor Peter Robinson, who read and commented on the whole manuscript. I am indebted to students, especially at Oxford Brookes University, some of whom have done empirical projects in this area. Two conferences have been very useful, one organised by Kahneman at Princeton in connection with the Well-Being book, the other at Nuffield College, organised by Professor Avner Offer and others.

Several libraries have been very helpful, especially the Radcliffe Science Library and the PPE Reading Room, New Bodleian at Oxford.

June 2000 Oxford Brookes University . . .

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