Thinking Fast and slow: 37 Experienced Well Being

Following the schedule of our Reading Calendar

In this chapter Kahneman revises our idea of well being, based on the idea of flow, developed by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. The main idea is to substitute the idea of a “general well being” which is clearly too ambiguous to be of any help, by the idea of “experienced well being” making people to recall their experiences in a given day (Day Reconstruction Method or DRM).

The main aim of this chapter is to argue for this “experienced well being” as a better way to mesure well being and inform policies in order to assure a better well being of citizens.

The results described are not very espectacular. Some of them are common sense: suffering is unevenly distributed and some people seem to have no worries in a whole day while other people spend most of their time in emotional distress and pain. Active hobbies are better than passive leisure like watching TV. Having children generates more stress but produce a higher life evaluation. Some are a little less evident, like the fact that people with better education tend to report higher stress, or that religion does not help to reduce depression or worry. Severe poverty also amplifies bad effects, beyond the mere economical facts, and illness has a more negative effect in people under extreme poverty.

Probably, the most quoted and surprising result is how experienced well being grows with salary but only to a point. When you pass the $ 75.000 income in high cost areas there is no relevant increase in experienced well being. Money gives happiness, but only to a certain point. Then it is irrelevant for that.

When developing his studies, Kahneman used  DRM because  “Experience sampling is expensive and burdensome.” BUt now it is not anymore. You can design an app and ask thousands of volunteers to participate in a research on well being. This has actually been done in several experiments but results are quite similar to those obtained by Kahneman and his team, as far as I can tell.

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