Do Happy People Care about Society’s Problems?


Kushlev, K., Drummond, D. M., Heintzelman, S. J., & Diener, E. (2020). Do happy people care about society’s problems? Journal of Positive Psychology, 15(4), 467-477.


Since ancient times, scholars, individuals, and societies have been preoccupied with the pursuit of happiness. But might individual happiness actually be bad for society and the world? A common concern – which we refer to as the Pollyanna hypothesis – is that happy people might be too happy to care enough about important current issues, thus being less likely to act on improving society and the world. In three studies, however, we found that feeling good predicted more, not less, action on current issues. We saw this pattern in the context of the 2017 far right rallies in Charlottesville, VA (Study 1), a wide range of social, political, and environmental issues chosen by participants (Study 2), and environmental action within a nationally representative sample (Study 3). These correlational findings speak against the Pollyanna hypothesis:
Happiness does not seem to preclude caring about local and global issues.

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