Reports of subjective well-being: Judgmental processes and their methodological implications

Reviews the cognitive and communicative processes underlying individuals' reports of happiness and satisfaction with their lives as a whole. Not surprisingly, people may draw on a wide variety of information when asked to assess the subjective quality of their lives. The authors first explore the impact of information about one's own life, such as past events or expectations about the future. This review indicates that the same event may increase as well as decrease general life satisfaction, depending on how information bearing on that event is used in forming a judgment. Next, they address the role of comparison of one's own lot with the lot of others. Although people generally tend to feel better when they compare themselves to others who are worse off, the dynamics of social comparison are more complicated than early theorizing and common sense would suggest. Following these discussions of intra- and interindividual comparisons, they turn to the influence of temporary mood states and address how one's momentary feelings may override the impact of other information relevant to one's life. Finally, they integrate these processes in a judgment model of subjective well-being (SWB) before turning to an assessment of the methodological implications for survey research into SWB. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2007 APA, all rights reserved) (from the chapter)