Adaptation and the Set-Point Model of Subjective Well-Being

  title={Adaptation and the Set-Point Model of Subjective Well-Being},
  author={Richard E. Lucas},
  journal={Current Directions in Psychological Science},
  pages={75 - 79}
  • R. E. Lucas
  • Published 1 April 2007
  • Psychology
  • Current Directions in Psychological Science
Hedonic adaptation refers to the process by which individuals return to baseline levels of happiness following a change in life circumstances. Dominant models of subjective well-being (SWB) suggest that people can adapt to almost any life event and that happiness levels fluctuate around a biologically determined set point that rarely changes. Recent evidence from large-scale panel studies challenges aspects of this conclusion. Although inborn factors certainly matter and some adaptation does… 

Figures from this paper

Testing Set-Point Theory in a Swiss National Sample: Reaction and Adaptation to Major Life Events
It is demonstrated that major life events are associated with marked changes in life satisfaction and, for some events, these changes are relatively long lasting even when accounting for normative, age related changes.
Accounting for Adaptation in the Economics of Happiness
Reported happiness provides a potentially useful way to evaluate unpriced goods and events; but measures of subjective well-being (SWB) often revert to the mean after responding to events, and this
Hedonic Adaptation and the Set Point for Subjective Well-Being
The empirical evidence suggests that although SWB is stable for most people, lasting changes are nevertheless possible and recent theoretical developments such as the revised set-point theory, SWB homeostasis theory, and the hedonic adaptation prevention model offer different explanations for these findings.
Population- and Individual-Level Changes in Life Satisfaction Surrounding Major Life Stressors
How do stressful life events impact well-being, and how does their impact differ from person to person? In contrast to work focusing on discrete classes of responding, the current study examines the
The Emotional Timeline of Unemployment: Anticipation, Reaction, and Adaptation
Unemployment continues to be one of the major challenges in industrialized societies. Aside from its economic and societal repercussions, questions concerning the subjective experience of
Health, Happiness and Adaptation: an economic perspective
In this paper we present a theoretical framework for the analysis of the economic relevance of adaptation as an "happiness engine" in bad health conditions. Positing that for a given individual the
Subjective well-being and adaptation to life events: a meta-analysis.
The findings show that life events have very different effects on affective and cognitive well-being and that for most events the effects of life events on cognitive well -being are stronger and more consistent across samples.
Happiness and Adaptation : an economic perspective
In this paper we present a theoretical framework for the analysis of the economic relevance of adaptation as an "happiness engine" in bad health conditions. Positing that for a given individual the
Back to Baseline in Britain: Adaptation in the BHPS
We look for evidence of adaptation in well-being to major life events using eighteen waves of British panel data. Adaptation to marriage, divorce, birth of a child and widowhood appears to be rapid


Reexamining adaptation and the set point model of happiness: reactions to changes in marital status.
Data from a 15-year longitudinal study of over 24.000 individuals was used to examine the effects of marital transitions on life satisfaction and found individuals reacted to events and then adapted back toward baseline levels, but there were substantial individual differences in this tendency.
Unemployment Alters the Set Point for Life Satisfaction
Although life satisfaction is moderately stable over time, life events can have a strong influence on long-term levels of subjective well-being, as shown in the results of a 15-year longitudinal study of more than 24,000 individuals in Germany.
Beyond the hedonic treadmill: revising the adaptation theory of well-being.
5 important revisions to the hedonic treadmill model are needed, which offer hope for psychologists and policy-makers who aim to decrease human misery and increase happiness.
Long-term disability is associated with lasting changes in subjective well-being: evidence from two nationally representative longitudinal studies.
  • R. E. Lucas
  • Psychology, Medicine
    Journal of personality and social psychology
  • 2007
Investigation of the extent of adaptation that occurs following the onset of a long-term disability found disability was associated with moderate to large drops in happiness, followed by little adaptation over time.
Subjective Well-Being: Three Decades of Progress
W. Wilson's (1967) review of the area of subjective well-being (SWB) advanced several conclusions regarding those who report high levels of "happiness". A number of his conclusions have been
Happiness Is a Stochastic Phenomenon
Happiness, or subjective well-being, was measured on a birth-record-based sample of several thousand middle-aged twins using the Well-Being (WB) scale of the Multidimensional Personality
The Benefits of Frequent Positive Affect: Does Happiness Lead to Success?
The results reveal that happiness is associated with and precedes numerous successful outcomes, as well as behaviors paralleling success, and the evidence suggests that positive affect may be the cause of many of the desirable characteristics, resources, and successes correlated with happiness.
Personality and Subjective Well-Being
Personality has been found to be more strongly associated with subjective well-being in many instances than are life circumstances. In part, this might be due to the fact that temperament and other
The science of subjective well-being
R.J. Larsen, M. Eid, Ed Diener and the Science of Subjective Well-Being. Part 1. The Realm of Subjective Well-Being. D.M. Haybron, Philosophy and the Science of Subjective Well-Being. R. Veenhoven,
Lottery winners and accident victims: is happiness relative?
Lottery winners were not happier than controls and took significantly less pleasure from a series of mundane events, and Paraplegics also demonstrated a contrast effect, not by enhancing minor pleasures but by idealizing their past, which did not help their present happiness.