Psychological measures

Personality type has a significant impact on how people respond to questions on subjective well-being (Diener, Oishi and Lucas, 2003; Gutierez et al., 2005). While this will not normally bias results if personality is uncorrelated with the main variables used in the analysis of subjective well-being, it is desirable to control for it if possible. In panel surveys, personality type can be controlled for, to some extent, using individual fixed effects. In cross-sectional household surveys this is not possible. One approach is to incorporate measures of personality type such as the standard instrument for the Five Factor Model (Costa and McCrae, 1992) in surveys focusing on subjective well-being.7 Although such measures are rarely used in official statistics, this is an area that may warrant further investigation.

Aspirations and expectations, which form part of the frame of reference8 that individuals use when evaluating their lives or reporting their feelings, are also of interest when analysing data on subjective well-being. There is good evidence that life evaluations are affected by aspirations (Kahneman, in Kahneman, Diener and Schwarz, 1999), and it has been suggested that differing aspirations may account for some cultural differences in life evaluations (Diener, Oishi and Lucas, 2003). There is less evidence with respect to how aspirations impact on measures of affect or eudaimonia. Nonetheless, information on people’s aspirations and expectations would be useful for investigating this relationship. There are no standard approaches to measuring aspirations and expectations, so it is not possible to be specific as to best practice in approaching measures of this sort. However, this area is one where further research would be of high value.

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