The Pursuit of Happiness: Can It Make You Happy?

Posted: 5 Jan 2012 Last revised: 30 Oct 2018

See all articles by Lauren Cheatham

Lauren Cheatham

Northwestern University

Kelly Goldsmith

Vanderbilt University - Marketing

David Gal

Northwestern University - Kellogg School of Management

Rajagopal Raghunathan

University of Texas at Austin - Red McCombs School of Business

Date Written: October 29, 2018

Abstract

Prior research examining happiness has concluded that its explicit pursuit is futile. The present work challenges this conclusion by demonstrating that a simple intervention that involves prompting individuals to engage in happiness-directed behavior can increase happiness levels. Specifically, in four experiments, including a large scale field study involving management-level employees from six different U.S. Fortune 500 companies, we validate a novel happiness intervention that can be effective for increasing individual’s happiness by promoting behavioral change. We also find that when behavioral change is inhibited, behavior-focused happiness interventions can be counterproductive, consistent with prior findings. In addition to challenging the view that the self-directed pursuit of happiness is futile, we underscore the importance of this inquiry for both individuals and organizations by demonstrating that behavior-focused happiness interventions can be cost effective, time-efficient, and have meaningful consequences for actual happiness and behavior.

Keywords: happiness, intervention, behavior, behavioral change

Suggested Citation

Cheatham, Lauren and Goldsmith, Kelly and Gal, David and Raghunathan, Rajagopal, The Pursuit of Happiness: Can It Make You Happy? (October 29, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1979829 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1979829

Lauren Cheatham

Northwestern University ( email )

2001 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208
United States

Kelly Goldsmith (Contact Author)

Vanderbilt University - Marketing ( email )

Nashville, TN 37203
United States

David Gal

Northwestern University - Kellogg School of Management ( email )

2001 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208
United States

Rajagopal Raghunathan

University of Texas at Austin - Red McCombs School of Business ( email )

Austin, TX 78712
United States

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