Academic journal article Psychology in Russia

Representations of Happiness and Life Satisfaction in the Group of Educated and Socially Active Young People

Academic journal article Psychology in Russia

Representations of Happiness and Life Satisfaction in the Group of Educated and Socially Active Young People

Article excerpt

Introduction

In many countries and regions, the current economic crisis and the great uncertainty over its events and effects has turned young people, who have received excellent modern educations and are only starting their adult life, into one of the most vulnerable social groups. They are not responsible for the emergence and development of the crisis, but they will soon have to shoulder the hard work to overcome its consequences.

Modern social psychology, represented by Seligman & K, appears to be most sensitive to the public demands, attitudes and feelings of the people affected by this crisis. It announces and formulates a special direction in the science under the name of "positive psychology", based on the search for and study of internal, psychological personality resources, the influence of the optimistic way of thinking, of one's belief that he or she is able to live through and cope with the most difficult circumstances of their life. In the opinion of experts, a positive mindset causes people to choose more promising adaptation strategies that allow them to cope with stress in their lives and lead to higher achievements and a better perception of their prospects (Taylor, 1989, Zeligman, 1997, Aranson, 1998, Stefanenko, 2002). These considerations served as a starting point in our empirical research. The representative of the "positive psychology" school, Diener, created a compact test for the assessment of life satisfaction. The test was unique in that it did not simply assess "life satisfaction" as a current emotional state, but measured the individual's cognitive mindset, including a general assessment of his or her past and present life as well as future prospects. The high level of life satisfaction in Diener's test suggested inner harmony, and acceptance of one's self, one's destiny and life in general (Diener, Emmons, Larsen & Griffin, 1985).

The test's extreme scores, i.e. the highest and lowest, correspond to the respondents' optimistic and pessimistic mindsets, which relate to their satisfaction with life as a whole. The assessment of inner resources (optimism or pessimism) of people living under a large degree of uncertainty about processes in advanced and emerging economies, is particularly interesting for social psychologists wishing to find out how these mindsets are linked with the individuals' representations of happiness. Our goal was to understand how these individual representations of happiness are developing into phenomena of collective consciousness, how they turn into social attitudes, into mindsets of large social groups.

Research into the pessimistic or optimistic mindsets of socially active groups of educated young people presents considerable interest not only for academics, but also for representatives of political elites in any society. In the study of such groups, analysis of socials attitudes is of special importance. This is where American "positive psychology" combines and intersects with the European approach, which is called "the theory of social mindsets" (Moskovichi, 1992).

Moskovichi's concept of social mindsets is based on the ideas of Durkheim, in whose sociology collective representations are regarded as an element of the "collective consciousness". Emelyanova correctly emphasizes that the reality of social mindsets, according to Moskovichi, is not individual and psychological, but a social reality constructed in microand macro-social interactions (Emelyanova, 2006, p. 34). Consequently, the appropriate object of study of the "production and formation" process is a social group (community), in which discussion and discourse are an essential condition, and also a tool in the work of this group.

For the purposes of this research we have chosen the social idea, or representation, of happiness. "Happiness", along with "success" has always been the most important value in the ideology of the modern market economy, which is based on the philosophy of hedonism and pragmatism. …

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