We've Neglected The Role Of 'Psychological Richness'

Posted on September 22, 2021

A psychologically rich life is one that is characterised by a variety of interesting and perspective-changing experiences. In their paper, the pair presents a vast array of initial evidence in favour of the idea that this concept belongs alongside happiness and meaning as a third major dimension of wellbeing.

In one early study, 500 students reported on the extent to which a series of characteristics described their lives. Some were related to happiness (“enjoyable”, for example), some to meaning (such as “fulfilling”), and some to what the researchers felt related, positively or negatively, to the notion of psychological richness. This last group included “interesting” and “dramatic”, and also “uneventful” and “monotonous”. The results suggested that happiness, meaning and richness are indeed three distinct factors. “Psychometrically, psychological richness cannot be reduced to an aspect of meaning or happiness,” Oishi and Westgate write. They also analysed the adjectives used in a few hundred obituaries published in newspapers in the US and Singapore. Again, their analysis showed that the words could be grouped into these three distinct dimensions.

Further studies found that psychological richness, happiness, and meaning also all show distinct patterns of association with personality traits and socioeconomic status. Data from participants in the US, India and Korea all suggested that the traits of openness and extraversion are both associated with leading a psychologically rich life, while socioeconomic status (SES) is not. However, SES, along with extraversion and conscientiousness, was linked to happiness. Feelings of meaning weren’t associated with any particular pattern of Big Five scores.

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Source material from British Psychological Society

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