On hedonic adaptation

In: Uncategorized

7 Apr 2007

It is not worth striving to make yourself better off materially. That at least is an implicit message than can be gleaned from a piece on “hedonic adaptation” in Scientific American. Lottery winners, for example, tend to return to their normal levels of happiness within a year of their windfall according to a classic 1970s study.

There is nothing wrong with psychologists studying human happiness. But those who see happiness as a goal for humans to pursue are wrong. Many important and worthwhile enterprises – such as bringing up a family or learning another language – do not necessarily bring happiness. And the emphasis on individual contentment tends to downgrade the importance of prosperity to human welfare.