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Edward Diener (born 1946) is an American psychologist, professor, and author. He is noted for his research over the past twenty-five years[1][2][3] on happiness — the measurement of well-being; temperament and personality influences on well-being; theories of well-being; income and well-being; and cultural influences on well-being.[4]

For his fundamental research on the subject, Diener is nicknamed Dr. Happiness.[5] He has worked with researchers Daniel Kahneman and Martin Seligman — and he is a senior scientist for the Gallup Organization.

Background[edit | edit source]

Diener was born in 1946 in Glendale, California and grew up on a farm in the San Joaquin Valley of California. His wife, Carol and three of his children are psychologists.

He attended San Joaquin Memorial High School in Fresno and subsequently received his B.A. in Psychology in 1968 from California State University at Fresno. He received his doctorate at the University of Washington in 1974 and was a faculty member at the University of Illinois for 34 years, retiring from active teaching in 2008.

He holds the Smiley chair, the Joseph R. Smiley Distinguished Professor of Psychology, at the University of Illinois. In 2010 he received honorary doctorates from the Free University of Berlin and Eureka College. He has won the distinguished scientist award from the International Society of Quality of Life Studies, as well as the Jack Block award for outstanding contributions to personality psychology.

Happiness Research[edit | edit source]

Happiness Research[edit | edit source]

Ed Diener, also known as Dr. Happy, is one of the lead researchers in the field of subjective well-being. Subjective well-being (SWB), as Diener et al. define it, is: how people evaluate their lives- both at the moment and for longer periods such as for the past year. These evaluations include people’s emotional reactions to events, their moods, and judgments they form about their life satisfaction, fulfillment, and satisfaction with domains such as marriage and work.[6]

In 2002, Diener conducted a study at the University of Illinois with Martin Seligman, finding that "the most salient characteristics shared by the 10% of students with the highest levels of happiness and the fewest signs of depression were their strong ties to friends and family and commitment to spending time with them."[4] Diener has said "It is important to work on social skills, close interpersonal ties and social support in order to be happy."[4]

Temperament and Personality Influences on SWB[edit | edit source]

Diener has found that the correlations between SWB and extraversion and neuroticism are stronger than the correlations with any demographic predictor or major life circumstance that has thus been studied.[7] One aspect of individual differences in well-being that his research on personality and SWB has been focused on is emotional reactivity/ reward theory. Diener discovered that there are reasons for greater SWB among extraverts beyond the fact that they spend more time with others, a hypothesis popularized by other researchers. He found that the more active reward system in extraverts is a greater influence than the social or nonsocial aspect of a situation.[8] This is evident in his research that shows that the pleasantness of a situation is a more important factor than the social or nonsocial aspect in determining extraverts’ enjoyment. His longitudinal studies also reveal that extraverts are happier whether living solitarily or with others, working in social or nonsocial job environments, and living in large cities or rural areas.[9]

Cultural Influences on SWB[edit | edit source]

In recent years, Diener has conducted major studies comparing happiness in different parts of the world. In 2010 he published a study comparing the US and Denmark and looked specifically at why Danes are so much happier than Americans. He concluded that that difference in happiness level was due to the difference of mentality in the two countries. Danes focused on enjoying life with the means that they had available, and did not feel the need to be jealous over their neighbors’ wealth and thus did not feel the stress over the need for achievement. For people in the US on the other hand, it was important to have the biggest and best TV, car, etc, in order to show that they were better than the rest. This attitude, as well as the type of government, Diener concluded, was a leading source of decreased happiness levels among Americans. The Danish government is focused on collectivism whereas the US government is focused on individualism.[10] Two studies from 2010 and 2011 included Gallup world polls to study happiness in more than 100 countries and found similar results: that collectivist societies, such as Northern European countries, New Zealand, and even Costa Rica, on average, were happier than individualist societies such as the US.[11][12]

Income and SWB[edit | edit source]

Diener's research showed that once a person's "basic needs are met, additional income does little to raise your sense of satisfaction with life.[4] According to Diener, two events in a person's life with the greatest impact were shown to be loss of a spouse (taking 5–8 years for recovery) and loss of a job.[4]

Definition and Measurement of SWB[edit | edit source]

To facilitate happiness research, Diener created the Satisfaction with Life Scale, a basic and widely used tool.[4]

Accomplishments[edit | edit source]

Diener has been awarded the 2012 Distinguished Scientist Lifetime Career Award by the American Psychological Association. Diener founded a new journal, Perspectives on Psychological Science, which has become one of the most acclaimed and widely read journals in the field. Diener is listed on the Institute of Scientific Information’s most-cited psychologist list, with a total of approximately 27,000 citations. Diener has published 300 books and articles. He has several Psychological Bulletin articles, several American Psychologist papers, 7 publications in Psychological Science, and over 50 publications in JPSP, more than any other author. He has authored three books and edited seven more. Working with the Gallup survey organization, Diener conducted the first poll of the world ever conducted, including 155 nations and representing 99 percent of the population of the globe. More than any other scientist, Diener has studied the poorest people in the world, including groups such as the homeless and those living in slums such as in Calcutta. In this research he has discovered how some individuals can achieve positive well-being in dire circumstances, for example through their relationships and spirituality. In recognition of his scientific contributions, Ed Diener holds an endowed chair at his university, the Joseph R. Smiley Distinguished Professorship of Psychology. He has received the Distinguished Scientist Award from both the American Psychological Association and the International Society of Quality of Life Studies, and the outstanding personality psychologist award (the “Jack Block Award”) from Division 8 of APA, the Society of Personality and Social Psychology. Diener has several honorary doctorates to his name, is a fellow of five scientific societies, and he has been the focus of many popular media articles, from Newsweek to the Wall Street Journal to Reader’s Digest.

Partial bibliography[edit | edit source]

  • Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth, with his son, Robert Biswas-Diener.
  • Well-being and Public Policy (2009) with John Helliwell, Richard Lucas, Ulrich Schimmack
  • International Differences in Well-Being (2010) with Daniel Kahneman and John Helliwell.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Diener, E., Emmons, R. A., Larsen, R. J., Griffin, S. (1985). The satisfaction with life scale. Journal of Personality Assessment, 49, 71- 75.
  2. Diener, E. (1984). Subjective well-being. Psychological Bulletin, 95, 542-575.
  3. Diener, E. (2000). Subjective well-being: The science of happiness and a proposal for a national index. American Psychology, 55(1), 34-43.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 includeonly>"The New Science of Happiness", Time Magazine, Claudia Wallis, Jan. 09, 2005, January 9, 2005.
  5. includeonly>"The Science of Happiness Turns 10. What Has It Taught?", Time Magazine, Claudia Wallis, July 8 2009, July 8, 2009.
  6. Diener, Ed, Oishi (2003). Personality, culture and subjective well being: Emotional and cognitive evaluations of life. Annual Review of Psychology 54: 403-425.
  7. Johns, O. (2008). Handbook of personality, 785-814, New York: Guilford.
  8. Pavot, W, Diener, E., & Fujita, F. (1990). Extraversion and happiness. Personality and Individual Differences 11: 1299-1306.
  9. Diener, E., Sandvik, E., Pavot, W. & Fujuita, F. (1992). Extraversion and subjective well-being in a U.S. national probability sample. Journal of Research in Personality 26: 205-215.
  10. Biswas-Diener, R., Vittersø, J., & Diener, E. (2010). The Danish effect: Beginning to explain high well-being in Denmark. Social Indicators Research, 97(2), 229-246. doi:10.1007/s11205-009-9499-5
  11. Diener, E., Ng, W., Harter, J., & Arora, R. (2010). Wealth and happiness across the world: Material prosperity predicts life evaluation, whereas psychosocial prosperity predicts positive feeling. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 99(1), 52-61. doi:10.1037/a0018066
  12. Tay, L., & Diener, E. (2011). Needs and subjective well-being around the world. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 101(2), 354-365. doi:10.1037/a0023779

External links[edit | edit source]

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