The Evolution of Eupathics: The Historical Roots of Subjective Measures of Wellbeing
Keywords:eupathics, happiness, measurement, satisfaction, wellbeing, well-being, positive psychology
This paper traces the historical roots of subjective measures of wellbeing, that is, measures designed to represent happiness, satisfaction, or other “positive” or desirable mental states. While it is often suggested that these measures are a modern invention, I argue that they have a long and rich history that conforms to Theodore M. Porter’s general account of measurement in social and behavioral science. Subjective measures emerged in marital success studies, educational psychology, and personality psychology in the 1920s and 30s, and were further shaped by the epidemiology of mental health, gerontology, and the social indicator movement in the 1960s and 70s. Consistent with Porter’s account, these measures emerged in applied rather than theoretical branches of social and behavioral science, and they did so not as a result of physics envy, but rather as a result of a moral impulse to improve society; quantification was intended to make up for perceived deficiencies in unaided human judgment; and radical disagreements about the nature of wellbeing did not impede efforts to measure it – indeed, in time, there was considerably more agreement about how to measure wellbeing than about how to define it.
Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:
- Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal. The license prevents others from using the work for profit without the express consent of the author(s). The license also prevents the creation of derivative works without the express consent of the author(s). Note that derivative works are very similar in nature to the original. Merely quoting (and appropriately referencing) a passage of a work is not making a derivative of it.
- Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work (See The Effect of Open Access).