Examining the Internal Consistency Reliability and Construct Validity of the Authentic Happiness Inventory (AHI) among Iranian EFL Learners

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  • Examining the Internal Consistency Reliabilityand Construct Validity of the Authentic HappinessInventory (AHI) among Iranian EFL Learners

    Reza Zabihi & Saeed Ketabi & Mansoor Tavakoli &Momene Ghadiri

    # Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

    Abstract Unlike other measures of happiness that have tended to capture current levelsof happiness, the Authentic Happiness Inventory (AHI) (Peterson, 2005; Seligmanet al. in The American Psychologist 60:410421, 2005) assesses changes in happinessbased on the creation of positive emotions (the pleasant life), engagement in activitiesthat facilitate the utilization of ones strengths (the engaged life), and serving a moreworthwhile purpose than merely the selfs pleasures (the meaningful life). Nonetheless,there is little published data regarding the construct validation of the AHI. The presentstudy, which is part of a larger research project in assessing the effectiveness of integratinghappiness intervention programs in the foreign language teaching curriculum at privateEnglish institutes and universities in Iran, attempts an examination of the psychometricquality and the construct validation of the Persian version of AHI (hereafter AHI-PV)using data collected from 234 Iranian learners of English as a Foreign Language (EFL),mainly through employing the Exploratory Factor Analysis (EFA). The AHI was trans-lated into Persian to ensure item comprehension by the Iranian participants. The resultsshow that the AHI-PV enjoys a high internal consistency (alpha=.93). Further, havingdetermined a marvelous factorability of the present sample through the Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin (KMO) test of Sampling Adequacy (.94) and Bartletts Test of Sphericity (p

  • Introduction

    There is a substantial literature on how the construct of happiness is conceived. To citejust a few instances, Diener (1984) views happiness as ones cognitive and affectiveappraisal of his or her own life. Pavot and Diener (1993) conceptualize happiness as aconglomeration of cognitive appraisal of life, positive affect and negative affect.Lyubomirsky and Lepper (1999) highlight the global measurement of whether one isa happy or unhappy personsubjective happiness. Veenhoven (2000) conceives ofhappiness as the extent to which a person enjoys life, or the degree to which thejudgment that he or she makes of his or her quality of life is favorable. Happiness, inthese senses, has therefore been referred to as subjective well-being in scientificparlance, considering its relevance to how people evaluate their own lives and whatis most important to them.

    A recent conceptualization of happiness pertains to Seligman (2002) three-componentmodel which blends experience of positive emotions, engagement in life activities, andachievement of a sense of purpose or meaning in life. The first subcomponent of authentichappiness, i.e. pleasure, considers happiness to be a pleasure-based feeling. These positivefeelings can be successfully obtained through the experience and practice of positiveemotions about (1) the past such as satisfaction, complacency, and pride, (2) the presentsuch as enjoyment from current pleasures, or (3) the future such as the feeling ofhopefulness and optimism (Seligman, 2002). The second subcomponent of authentichappiness, i.e. engagement, is characterized by feelings of absorption, engagement, andflow, and can be achieved through engagement in activities that facilitate the utilization ofones strengths (e.g., reading a novel or listening to music). Engagement is supposed tolead to flow, a psychological state which Csikszentmihalyi (1990) believes can beexperienced when we are engaged in activities described by a feeling of reinforcedconcentration, full immersion, and success in the process of the activity. The thirdsubcomponent of authentic happiness, i.e. meaning, relates to the utilization of onessignature strengths in order to serve a more worthwhile purpose (e.g., teamwork, loyalty,social intelligence) than merely the selfs pleasures (Seligman et al., 2005).

    The authentic happiness model has been operationalized by Seligman et al. (2005)through the development of the Steen Happiness Index (SHI) which is a 20-item self-report scale. An updated 24-item version of the SHI, namely the Authentic HappinessInventory (AHI), was proposed by Peterson (2005). Similar to the SHI, the AHI wasdeveloped to capture Seligman et al.s three-component conceptualization of happiness,though with a more emphasis on the Engagement and Meaning components of happi-ness that are currently more appreciated than the mere experience of pleasures andpositive emotions (Waterman, Schwartz, and Conti, 2008). Be that as it may, althoughthe AHI appears to have good internal consistency but offers little published validity data(Schiffrin, Rezendes, and Nelson, 2008). It was only very recently that Shepherd (2011)has made an attempt to investigate the validity of the English version of the AHI in aNew Zealand population and has confirmed the convergent validity and test retestreliability of the AHI. As Shepherd (2011) has pointed out, if the reliability and validityof the AHI can be established, it can be a proper measure of happiness when consideringthe interventions designed to increase happiness. Therefore, this study, which is part of alarger research project (Notice that the research project was inspired by Pishghadam(2011) notion of 'Applied English Language Teaching' which considers English learning

    Curr Psychol

  • classes as proper sites for the enhancement of several life skills as well as the study doneby Zabihi, Ketabi, and Tavakoli (2013) who point to the theoretical plausibility ofteaching happiness in second/foreign language teaching contexts) in assessing theeffectiveness of incorporating happiness intervention programs in the foreign languageteaching curriculum at private English institutes and universities in Iran, aimed to assessthe reliability and construct validity of the Persian (students native language) version ofAHI for use with language learners in Iranian universities and English language insti-tutes. More specifically, the present study intends to investigate the psychometric qualityof the translated (Persian) version of the AHI with a convenience sample of Iranian EFLlearners, and to explore the AHI-PV with exploratory factor analysis to find out if theitems on the scale align to Seligman (2002) conceptualization of authentic happiness.

    Theoretical Framework

    In this section, the readers are first provided with the introduction of positive psychol-ogy as an innovative movement in the 21st century psychological research. Next, insection 2.2, the notion of authentic happiness the theory put forth by Professor MartinSeligman is primarily considered in terms of its three subcomponents. In section 2.3,we consider the properties of the authentic happiness inventory and the reason forselecting this scale for investigation (Peterson, 2005). Finally, in 2.4, we shall explainthe objectives of this study alongside the relevant research questions.

    Positive Psychology: A new Movement in the 21st Century

    Clinical Psychology has traditionally placed emphasis on psychological deficits anddisabilities. On the contrary, it has infrequently highlighted individuals resourceful-ness, capacities and skills. This has been identified by the critical psychology traditionin the United Kingdom as a disadvantage of this approach (Johnstone, 2000; Newnes,Holmes, and Dunn, 1999; 2001). In the United States, Professor Martin Seligman, oneof the founders and leading figures within the positive psychology movement(Chafouleas and Bray, 2004), together with his colleagues, have begun laying thefoundations for a positive psychology (Seligman, 2002; Seligman andCsikszentmihalyi, 2000; Snyder and Lopez, 2002) to complement the traditionalpsychopathology-centered approaches that had been in vogue since the start of WorldWar II. As an outgrowth of the humanistic psychology movement that originated in the1960s and 1970s (Maslow, 1971), this new subfield of psychology is chiefly concernedwith the scientific study of human strengths and happiness as well as with identifyingfactors that promote well-being of individuals.

    Positive psychologists have recurrently pointed to the idea that, although the studyof diseases, disorders, and abnormalities is important, it ignores other equally signifi-cant and more positive aspects of life, such as happiness and/or subjective well-being(Diener, 2000; Layard, 2005), positive affect and human flourishing (Fredrickson andLosada, 2005), exuberance (Jamison, 2004), wellness (Miller, Gilman, and Martens,2008), and character strengths and virtues (Peterson and Seligman, 2004). As a case inpoint, one of the main objectives of positive psychology is to understand and facilitatehappiness and well-being, rather than to remediate present deficits (Seligman, 2002).

    Curr Psychol

  • Therefore, it is reasonable to suggest that positive psychology complements rather thanreplaces traditional clinical psychology.

    Seligman himself used the framework of positive emotions, traits, and institutions inhis book Authentic Happiness (2002) as well as other writings (e.g., Seligman andCsikszentmihalyi, 2000). This framework has been widely influential within the field ofpositive psychology and provides a useful heuristic structure for happiness. We nowfocus our discussion specifically on the notion of authentic happiness, in terms of itsdifferent subcomponents.

    Authentic Happiness: A Three-Component Model

    In his 2002 oft-cited book, Seligman depicts the ways through which one can achieveauthentic happiness. He argues that authentic happiness can be obtained through thecreation of positive emotions (the pleasant life), engagement in activities that facilitatethe utilization of ones strengths (the engaged life), and serving a more worthwhilepurpose than merely the selfs pleasures (the meaningful life). In the following para-graphs, each component of authentic happiness is taken into consideration, respectively.

    The experience of frequent positive emotions such feelings as joy, contentment,serenity, interest, vitality, and pride is the hallmark of happiness (Diener, Sandvik, andPavot, 1991; Urry et al., 2004). Seligman (2002) discusses positive emotions, and howwe can raise ours. There are three importantly different kinds of positive emotion (past,future, and present), and it is entirely possible to cultivate any one of these separatelyfrom the others. Positive emotion about the past (e.g., contentment) can be enhanced bygratitude, forgiveness, and freeing ourselves of imprisoning deterministic ideology.Moreover, positive emotion about the future (e.g., optimism) can be promoted bylearning to recognize and dispute automatic pessimistic thoughts. Finally, positiveemotion about the present can, in turn, be divided into two very different things, i.e.pleasures and gratifications. The pleasures are transient, and they are defined by feltemotion. Although the pleasant life component of authentic happiness can be success-fully attained through the experience and practice of positive emotions about thepresent, past, and future, these feelings are not much abiding.

    As regards the second component of authentic happiness, i.e. engagement in lifeactivities, Seligman (2002) advocates the identification of ones signature strengths andbuilding them and choosing to use them in the main realms of ones life. Therefore,these are assumed to be more enduring than positive emotions and are not aboutmaximizing positive emotion. They are referred to as gratifications and are typicallycharacterized by states of absorption, engagement, and flow. The gratifications comeabout through the exercise of ones strengths and virtues; accordingly, Seligman in hisbook Authentic Happiness lays out 24 universal strengths, and has provided tests forthe readers to identify their own signature strengths. These laid the groundwork for himto formulate his notion of the good life, which involves the utilization of onessignature strengths as frequently as possible in these domains to obtain authentichappiness and abundant gratification.

    Having delineated the areas of positive emotion and engagement, Seligman (2002)turns to his third component, i.e. finding meaning and purpose in life. The meaningfulcomponent of authentic happiness has one additional feature: using your signaturestrengths in the service of something larger than the selfs pleasures or fulfillment. As a

    Curr Psychol

  • matter of fact, a meaningful life is attained when we strive hard to join ourselves withsomething larger than we are; and the larger that something is, the more meaning ourlives have. Therefore, it would be reasonable to conclude that, as the engaged lifedepends on obtaining happiness through using our signature strengths everyday in themain domains of life, the meaningful life transcends such an attempt, and adds one morecomponent by using these same strengths to forward knowledge, power, or goodness. Alife that does this is, in Seligman (2002) words, pregnant with meaning (p. 92).

    The Authentic Happiness Inventory

    As previously mentioned, Seligman and his colleagues (Seligman et al., 2005) arguethat the road to authentic happiness passes through (a) pleasure, (b) engagement and (c)meaning. Seligman (2002) refers to such a conglomerate construct as authentichappiness . Following Seligmans theory of happiness (Seligman andCsikszentmihalyi, 2000; Seligman et al., 2005), two instruments were devised in orderto capture the three components put forth by Seligman (2002).

    The Steen Happiness Index (SHI) (Seligman et al., 2005) was developed to assessupward changes in happiness based on three subcomponents of positive emotions,engagement, and meaning in life. The instrument comprised 20 items on a five-pointLikert scale from which respondents had to choose one statement to describe theirpresent circumstances. The SHI was later updated from 20 items to 24 items and hasbeen renamed the Authentic Happiness Inventory (AHI). The AHI has one advantageover the SHI in that, in comparison with the SHI, it has four additional items thatpurport to measure the Engagement (1 item) and Meaning (3 items) components ofhappiness the two components that are more in line with the eudaimonic philosophy ofhappiness which is currently more appreciated than the hedonistic philosophy ofhappiness (Waterman, Schwartz, and Conti, 2008).

    This Study

    It is vital to ensure that the instruments used to measure happiness are valid andreliable. However, within the field of positive psychology, happiness has been regardedas a highly subjective concept and thus the precise measurement of this construct hasbeen limited (McDowell, 2010). Therefore, there is no doubt that any attempt towardthe precise measurement of happiness and other positive psychological constructs isessential to secure the ongoing advancement of the field of positive psychology. Todate, only evidence for the c...


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