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Regular version of the site

Article

Why do I feel this way? Attributional assessment of happiness and unhappiness

The Journal of Positive Psychology. 2019. Vol. 14. No. 5. P. 549-562.
Titova L., Sheldon K. M.

Much research has shown that how people explain events affects subjective well-being (SWB), in
particular when they explain positive events as being due to internal, stable, and global factors,
and negative events as being due to external, unstable, and local factors. In the current research,
we asked: how do people explain their SWB itself, and how do such attributions in turn relate to
SWB? In repeated measures studies 1 (N = 281) and 2 (N = 169) participants viewed happy
feelings as more personally controllable, stable, and internally caused compared to unhappy
feelings. In Study 3 (N = 142) participants made causal attributions about accurate SWB feedback,
or about randomly assigned false (low or high) SWB feedback. Those in the false low-SWB
feedback condition attributed their SWB to external and unstable factors controlled by others
compared to those in the high-level feedback condition. In all three studies, attributing SWB to
stable, personally controllable factors was positively associated with SWB.