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Marina Bianchi

One of the fundamental dimensions of art is its ability to de-familiarize, to question the known, to create a contrast with the patterns of everyday life. But if art creates doubts, if it challenges our certainties and our ‘learned’ responses, why should we regard it as interesting, much less enjoyable? Recent psychological literature on aesthetic preferences has addressed precisely this question and has begun to analyze the emotional and affective value of complex goods such as art. We are used to thinking of aesthetic preferences as related to art only. Yet aesthetics has a much larger scope and includes all those goods and activities that we enjoy for the challenges they provide in terms of novelty and complexity, goods that include design and architecture, fashion and advertising, but range also to activities such as conversation and conviviality, political and social involvement, and the enjoyment of nature. What is argued in this chapter is that creative activities, pursued primarily for the intrinsic reward they provide, are also those mainly responsible for keeping curiosity, exploration and interest alive. Because of their complexity and evolving nature, these activities are open ended. They allow for constant new connections and associations to be discovered and pursued. This makes them the material for an engaging and enjoyable life.

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Luigino Bruni

The transformation of wealth into well-being has been a central point in some of the main protagonists of the economic tradition. In particular, from Malthus to Sen, the Cambridge economic tradition paid special attention to non-economic domains important for human happiness, and to the effects of economic choices over general well-being. Marshall was the bridge between the classical reflection on happiness in the eighteenth century and the recent debates on the ‘paradoxes of happiness’, where we find again some of the issues of classical and neo-classical economics, which have been forgotten by the mainstream.

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Mario Lucchini, Sara Della Bella and Luca Crivelli

In recent decades a great deal of research about the nature and causes of subjective well-being (SWB) has emerged. Economists, psychologists and sociologists have unravelled the socioeconomic and psychological determinants of SWB, often forgetting or underestimating the role of genetic factors in accounting for the relative stability in SWB over the life span. This chapter offers a contribution to the research in this field by providing a robust estimate of the role of genetic endowment in the explanation of the self-reported level of life satisfaction. The empirical analysis is performed by applying a model of variance decomposition (ACE multilevel model) to a large dataset that entails family data coming from waves 2010, 2011 and 2012 of the ISTAT-Multipurpose Survey on Households. The heritability estimate for satisfaction with life (that’s to say, the proportion of the phenotypic variance ‘explained’ by the additive genetic factors) is equal to 45 per cent, an estimate that appears to be in line with those obtained by studies on twins. The specificity component, which captures a combination of measurement error and unique environmental influences, is around 41 per cent, while the influence exerted by the shared environment is rather small but not marginal (14 per cent), in contrast to other studies that give zero weight to this component. These robust estimates suggest that informative genetic designs derived from behavioural genetics can support social sciences in their attempt to develop a more systematic understanding of SWB.

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M. Joseph Sirgy and Chad Miller

In this chapter we discuss how globalization affects societal quality of life. We first describe the concept of globalization in terms of inflows and outflows of goods, services, capital, technology and workers. We then describe societal quality of life in terms of economic, consumer and social well-being. Lastly, we make arguments about how globalization affects societal well-being by articulating specific relationships among the dimensions of globalization and societal well-being. Public policy and research implications are also discussed.

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Edited by Luigino Bruni and Pier Luigi Porta

Offering a thorough assessment of the recent developments in the economic literature on happiness and quality of life, this Handbook astutely considers both methods of estimation and policy application. The expert contributors critically present in-depth research on a wide range of topics including culture and media, inequality, and the relational and emotional side of human life. Accessible and far-reaching, it will prove an invaluable resource for students and scholars of welfare and economics.
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Luca Crivelli, Sara Della Bella and Mario Lucchini

Studies concerning the determinants of subjective well-being (SWB), conducted in several countries and based on different datasets and methods, have all shown that health is one of the strongest predictors of individual happiness. However, more work is necessary in order to determine whether this relationship is a truly causal one and to unravel the temporal dynamics of the effect of health on SWB. In this chapter we aim, first of all, to provide an accurate estimate of the effect of self-assessed health on SWB by using the Swiss Household Panel dataset and panel data models that enable us to get rid of unobserved heterogeneity, which represents the main obstacle in models trying to estimate causal effects. As a second objective, we focus on the study of the temporal dynamics underlying the emergence of happiness and the relationship between happiness and health. We are interested in clarifying: (a) whether people are able to fully adjust to past health circumstances as well as to past life events and (b) whether SWB is autoregressive. In other terms, we investigated the existence of general and specific habituation in SWB. In this chapter we applied a FE model in order to investigate specific habituation channels and a GMM model in order to understand whether life satisfaction (our indicator of SWB) is autoregressive. In conclusion our models confirm the strong association between health and SWB revealed by previous studies. Both the FE and the GMM model prove that current health is a strong predictor of SWB.

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Luca Stanca

Media consumption plays an increasingly important role in modern societies throughout the world. It is therefore essential to understand its effects. We review the existing evidence on the impact of media consumption on well-being, focusing in particular on television viewing and use of the Internet. In both cases we consider studies that examine the effects of either quantity of use or specific contents. With relatively few exceptions, the empirical literature generally indicates negative effects of television viewing and positive effects of Internet use.

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Luigino Bruni and Pier Luigi Porta

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Luca Stanca

This chapter reviews recent evidence on valuing interpersonal relations. We focus, in particular, on two approaches that have received much attention in the recent literature on relational goods: the hedonic price method and the life satisfaction approach. We survey the key empirical contributions while discussing the main advantages and limitations of the two approaches.