Measuring Happiness - From Fluctuating Happiness to Authentic–Durable Happiness

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Dambrun, 2012


  • ORIGINAL RESEARCH ARTICLEpublished: 07 February 2012

    doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00016

    Measuring happiness: from uctuating happiness toauthenticdurable happinessMichal Dambrun1*, Matthieu Ricard 2,3, Grard Desprs1, Emilie Drelon1, Eva Gibelin1, Marion Gibelin1,Mlanie Loubeyre4, Delphine Py 1, Aurore Delpy 1, Cline Garibbo1, Elise Bray 1, Grard Lac5 andOdile Michaux 5

    1 Laboratoire de Psychologie Sociale et Cognitive, CNRS, Clermont Universit, Universit Blaise Pascal, Clermont-Ferrand, France2 Mind and Life Institute, Boulder, USA3 Shechen, Kathmandu, Nepal4 CHU, Clermont-Ferrand et Thiers, Universit Blaise Pascal, Clermont-Ferrand, France5 Laboratoire de Biologie des Activits Physiques et Sportives, Clermont Universit, Universit Blaise Pascal, Clermont-Ferrand, France

    Edited by:Colin G. DeYoung, University ofMinnesota, USA

    Reviewed by:John Zelenski, Carleton University,CanadaErik E. Noftle, Willamette University,USA

    *Correspondence:Michal Dambrun, Department ofPsychology, Laboratoire dePsychologie Sociale et Cognitive,CNRS, Clermont Universit,Universit Blaise Pascal, 34 avenueCarnot, Clermont-Ferrand 63037,France.e-mail:

    On the basis of the theoretical distinction between self-centeredness and seless-ness (Dambrun and Ricard, 2011), the main goal of this research was to develop twonew scales assessing distinct dimensions of happiness. By trying to maximize plea-sures and to avoid displeasures, we propose that a self-centered functioning induces auctuating happiness in which phases of pleasure and displeasure alternate repeatedly(i.e., Fluctuating Happiness). In contrast, a seless psychological functioning postulates theexistence of a state of durable plenitude that is less dependent upon circumstances butrather is related to a persons inner resources and abilities to deal with whatever comeshis way in life (i.e., AuthenticDurable Happiness). Using various samples (n = 735), wedeveloped a 10-item Scale measuring Subjective Fluctuating Happiness (SFHS) and a 13-item scale assessing SubjectiveAuthenticDurableHappiness (SADHS). Results indicatedhigh internal consistencies, satisfactory testretest validities, and adequate convergent anddiscriminant validities with various constructs including a biological marker of stress (sali-vary cortisol). Consistent with our theoretical framework, while self-enhancement valueswere related only to uctuating happiness, self-transcendence values were related onlyto authenticdurable happiness. Support for the distinction between contentment andinner-peace, two related markers of authentic happiness, also was found.

    Keywords: happiness, fluctuating happiness, authenticdurable happiness

    INTRODUCTIONSince the early 1990s, researchers in the movement of positivepsychology have encouraged the study of the conditions andprocesses which contribute to the optimal functioning of indi-viduals, groups, and institutions (Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi,2000; Gable and Haidt, 2005). In recent years, the study of well-being and happiness has gradually become a eld of primaryimportance (e.g., Diener, 2000; Csikszentmihalyi and Hunter,2003; Lyubomirsky et al., 2005). In order to study happiness a validmeasuring instrument is needed (Layard, 2010). The rst aim ofthe studies presented in this paper is the development of two suchscales: the Subjective Fluctuating Happiness Scale (SFHS) and theSubjective AuthenticDurable Happiness Scale (SADHS). Thedevelopment of these two scales is intimately linked to a recenttheoretical model: the Self-centeredness/Selessness HappinessModel (SSHM; Dambrun and Ricard, 2011). Under this perspec-tive, our second objective is to empirically test the validity of somehypotheses derived from this model.

    According to this recent theoretical model, the attainment ofhappiness is linked to the self, and more particularly to the struc-ture of the self. This model proposes that the perception of a self asa permanent, independent, and solid entity leads to a self-centeredpsychological functioning that favors a uctuating happiness. A

    seless psychological functioning emerges when the perceptionof the self is exible, strongly connected with the environmentincluding others, favoring an authentic and durable happiness.

    According to the SSHM (Dambrun and Ricard, 2011), the per-ception of the self as a real entity with sharp boundaries underliesa self-centered functioning. Laborit (1979) proposes that eachentity (or organized structure in the form of an entity), whichaims at its preservation, is led to favor gratications that posi-tively reinforce it, and to avoid disagreeable things that threatenits homeostasis. A self-centered functioning and the exaggeratedimportance given to the self which comes out of it, leads to ahedonic principle (e.g., Higgins, 1997). In this principle, indi-viduals are motivated to obtain pleasure (i.e., approach) and toavoid displeasure (i.e., avoidance). Attaining these objectives (i.e.,obtaining gratication and avoiding disagreeable stimuli) creates afeeling of pleasure, joy, and transitory satisfaction. However, thesestimulus-driven pleasures are contingent upon the appearance ordisappearance of certain stimuli (Wallace and Shapiro, 2006). Theexperience of pleasure is by nature eeting and dependent uponcircumstances. It is unstable and the sensations it evokes soonbecomes neutral (i.e., hedonic adaptation; e.g., Brickman et al.,1978). In addition, the impossibility to attaining valued objectivesgives rise to afictive affects such as frustration, anger, hostility, or February 2012 | Volume 3 | Article 16 | 1

  • Dambrun et al. Measuring happiness

    jealousy that damage well-being (e.g., Miller et al., 1996). Thus,by trying to maximize pleasures and avoiding displeasures, self-centeredness induces a uctuating happiness in which phases ofpleasure and displeasure alternate repeatedly. Happiness can thusbe, at least partly, characterized by the alternation of positiveand negative phases that provoke uctuating happiness. Usingthe experience sampling method, the work done by Csikszent-mihalyi and Hunter (2003) provides a support for the existence ofuctuating happiness. For example,momentary-level scores showthat reported happiness varies signicantly both with the timeof day and day of week. While particular activities signicantlyincrease happiness (e.g., talking with friends), others are associ-atedwith a decrease in happiness (e.g., homework andprofessionalwork), with the result being that there are important uctuationsin happiness over the course of a day or week. Because the experi-ence sampling method is very demanding, a scale that assesses per-ceived uctuating degrees of happiness would be useful. Second,while the experience sampling method assesses experienced well-being, traditional scales measure evaluated well-being. Each ofthese two interdependent components has potentials meaningfulantecedents and consequences (see Kahneman and Riis, 2005).Thus, a scale measuring evaluated uctuating happiness would beboth valuable and useful. To our knowledge, such a scale does notexist. Thus the rst objective of our research was to develop a validinstrument which would reect perceived degrees of variation inhappiness (i.e., the SFHS). Such ameasurewould contribute to ourunderstanding of happiness and, more particularly, would permitto examine the validity of the SSHM using a questionnaire basedcorrelational study. On the basis of the SSHM, we predict thatsubjective uctuating happiness would be robustly and positivelyrelated to self-centered values such as Schwartz self-enhancementvalues (i.e., achievement and success; e.g., Schwartz, 1992, 2003).

    Some theorists propose the existence of a more durable andauthentic happiness characterized by meaning and engagement(e.g., Seligman et al., 2005), both intrinsic and pro-social values(e.g., Ryan and Deci, 2001; Lyubomirsky et al., 2005), the develop-ment of character strengths such as gratitude (e.g., Peterson andSeligman,2004),wisdom (e.g., Le, 2011), or selessness (Dambrunand Ricard, 2011). However, all these characteristics are bothantecedents and consequences of authenticdurable happinessrather than markers of it. Authentic happiness is understoodhere as an optimal way of being, a state of durable contentmentand plenitude or inner-peace (based on a quality of conscious-ness which underlies and imbues each experience, emotion, andbehavior, and allows us to embrace all the joys and the pain withwhich we are confronted). The SSHM (Dambrun and Ricard,2011) proposes that authenticdurable happiness is intimatelylinked to selessness, a psychological functioning characterizedby benevolent affects (e.g., compassion, empathy). These affectsenhance emotional stability and generate a feeling of being inharmony that favors for example the experience of durable inner-peace and serenity, some markers of authenticdurable happiness.First, while contentment has been the focus of much research(e.g., Diener et al., 1985; Lyubomirsky and Lepper, 1999), plen-itude or inner-peace has rarely been taken into account. Thus, inorder to assess authentic happiness, it seems relevant and impor-tant to take into account these two complementary dimensions.Second, authentic happiness would be a lasting state that could

    be maintained through the various upheavals of life. Somerecent researches support the sustainable happiness model ofLyubomirsky et al. (2005). This model proposes that lasting gainsin happiness can occur under specic optimal circumstances. Forexample, using a longitudinal design, Sheldon et al. (2010) revealthat sustained gains in happiness were observed in three treatmentconditions (autonomy vs. competence vs. relatedness), only whentherewas continuing goal engagement. Thus, thedurabledimen-sion would also be an important marker of authentic happiness.In other words, a measure of authenticdurable happiness wouldconsist of two related constructs, namely durable contentmentand durable inner-peace or plenitude. To our knowledge, existingscales of happiness do not directly assess these dimensions. Manyscales assessing happiness and well-being have been developed(e.g., Gurin et al., 1960; Cantril, 1965; Bradburn, 1969; Tellegen,1982; Dupuy, 1984; Diener et al., 1985; Watson et al., 1988; Argyleet al., 1989; Lyubomirsky and Lepper, 1999; Hills and Argyle,2002), but none of them seem to focus on the authenticdurablehappiness that is characterized by both durable contentment anddurable inner-peace. Thus, one of the objectives of the presentstudywas to develop a valid instrumentwhichwould assess subjec-tive authenticdurable happiness (i.e., SADHS). Such a measurewouldpermit to test oneof thehypotheses derived fromthe SSHM.Specically, on the basis of this model, we predict that subjec-tive authenticdurable happiness would be robustly and positivelyrelated to seless values such as Schwartz self-transcendence val-ues (i.e., benevolence anduniversalism; e.g., Schwartz, 1992,2003).

    In sum, this paper describes two new instruments assessingdistinct components of happiness (i.e., the SFHS and the SADHS), and presents studies examining their reliability and valid-ity using various psychological and biological constructs. Dataare presented on factorial structure, internal consistency, testretest reliability, convergent and discriminant validity. Moreover,on the basis of the SSHM (Dambrun and Ricard, 2011) andusing the Portrait Values Questionnaire (PVQ; Schwartz, 2003),we predict that while subjective uctuating happiness would berobustly and positively related to self-enhancement values (i.e.,self-centeredness), subjective authenticdurable happiness wouldbe robustly and positively related to self-transcendence values (i.e.,selessness).

    MATERIALS AND METHODSSCALE DEVELOPMENTThe 10-item SFHS was created in two steps. First, ve itemswere administered to a university student sample (n = 320) ina pilot study. Because reliability of this scale was only moderate(= 0.70), we incorporated ve additional items resulting in a10-item scale. This last version provides adequate psychometricvalidity (i.e., high Cronbach alpha and a single factor solution,see below). A single composite score of subjective uctuatinghappiness is computed by averaging responses to the 10 items.Thus the possible range of scores is from 1.0 to 7.0, with higherscores reecting greater uctuating happiness. Both French andEnglish versions of this scale are presented in Table 1. Items wereintroduced by the following: Below is a collection of statements.Using the 17 scale below, please read each statement carefullyand then indicate how much you agree or disagree by circling the

    Frontiers in Psychology | Personality Science and Individual Differences February 2012 | Volume 3 | Article 16 | 2

  • Dambrun et al. Measuring happiness

    Table 1 | Factor loadings, means, SDs, and item-total correlations.

    Scale item F1 F2 F3 M SD IT


    In my life . . .2

    Dans ma vie. . .

    1. I have had satisfactions and also great disappointments 0.52 4.93 1.54 0.45

    je connais des satisfactions, mais galement des insatisfactions importantes

    2. The periods of pleasure that I have known are always followed by periods of displeasure 0.67 3.53 1.74 0.57

    les phases de plaisir que je connais laissent toujours place des phases de dplaisir

    3. My level of serenity is very changeable 0.59 4.57 1.69 0.56

    mon niveau de srnit est trs variable

    4. I have often known periods of euphoria but they are almost always followed by much

    less exciting periods

    0.75 3.58 1.77 0.68

    je connais souvent des phases deuphorie, mais qui laissent presque toujours place des

    phases beaucoup moins exaltantes

    5. I often go from euphoria to sadness. 0.71 3.36 1.89 0.67

    je passe souvent de leuphorie la tristesse

    6. Periods of ill-being follow periods of well-being 0.77 3.53 1.77 0.72

    des phases de bien-tre succdent des phases de mal-tre

    7. My level of happiness is rather unstable, sometimes high, sometimes low 0.73 3.78 1.83 0.71

    mon niveau de bonheur est plutt instable, tantt lev, tantt bas

    8. I often go from a rather high level of pleasure to a rather low level of pleasure 0.73 3.47 1.70 0.71

    je passe souvent dun niveau de plaisir assez lev un niveau de plaisir assez faible

    9. I have times when I swing from moments of total bliss to much less satisfying moments 0.72 3.99 1.71 0.61

    je connais des alternances entre des moments de plnitude totale et des moments

    beaucoup moins satisfaisants

    10. In the same day, I can sometimes be happy and sometimes sad 0.62 4.48 1.83 0.58

    dans la mme journe, il peut marriver dtre tantt joyeux, tantt malheureux

    Full scale 3.92 1.24


    In your life2, what is your regular1 level of. . .

    Dans votre vie, quel est votre niveau regulier de. . .

    1. Overall well-being? bien-tre general 0.70 4.72 1.17 0.73

    2. Happiness ? bonheur 0.83 4.91 1.23 0.74

    3. Pleasure? plaisir 0.83 4.79 1.18 0.70

    4. Bliss (seemingly...


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