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The Happiness Equation
Robert G. Gottlieb PhD
[email protected]
The Boeing Company
281 244 4408
Pauline Vaillancourt Rosenau PhD.
Management and Policy Sciences
University of Texas Houston - School of Public Health
1200 Herman Pressler E 915
Houston 77030 Texas
713 500 9491 (fax 713 500 9493)
email: [email protected]
Roundtable presentation at the American Sociological Association’s 2004 Annual Meeting –
August 14-17, 2004, San Francisco
In this paper we present a formal model, the “Happiness Equation,” that encompasses and is
consistent with much of the empirical research findings on the topic of happiness. This model
moves beyond the simplistic by incorporating a weighting factor, k, which facilitates the
consideration of social components sometimes overlooked by naive relativist representations.
This assessment implies that happiness is not merely relative to what others have so much as it
is influenced by comparisons with one’s own pass and current situations. The Happiness
Equation helps understand and resolve the contradiction between common assumptions and
empirical findings, for example why increased wealth, beauty, and intelligence do not make us
happier. It clarifies why and when techniques of psychotherapy such as “positive psychology”
and “self-esteem enhancement” make us happier. It points to strategies that political and
religious leaders might employ to maintain popular support. The Happiness Equation suggests
how individuals can maximize happiness in their daily lives. It is a useful tool for generating
hypotheses for future study. Finally, it meets the most demanding rule for such mathematical
paradigms: it is both elegant and parsimonious.