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Visualizing the Good Life: A Cross-Cultural Analysis


  • Gregory Bonn


  • Romin Tafarodi


How can we visualize similarity and difference across cultural conceptions of a good or worthy life? To examine the internal structure of such conceptions, we asked 584 university students from mainland China and Canada to indicate the relative importance of 30 elements or criteria commonly used in defining a good life. Statistical comparison and multidimensional scaling were used to reveal the form and extent of group commonalities and differences on the criteria and their meaning in relation to underlying dimensions of individual and cultural variation. The results suggested that South Asian Canadians were more oriented towards moral, spiritual, and beneficent concerns in envisioning a good life than were the mainland Chinese and Western European Canadians. The Chinese, for their part, tended to emphasize practical, prudential, and socially defined goods. This contrasted with the Western European Canadians, who showed more preference for personally defined, internal goods. East Asian Canadians fell between Chinese and Western European Canadians in overall orientation, reflecting their biculturality. All groups placed heavy emphasis on close and enduring relationships. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Suggested Citation

  • Gregory Bonn & Romin Tafarodi, 2013. "Visualizing the Good Life: A Cross-Cultural Analysis," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 14(6), pages 1839-1856, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:jhappi:v:14:y:2013:i:6:p:1839-1856 DOI: 10.1007/s10902-012-9412-9

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Romin Tafarodi & Greg Bonn & Hanyu Liang & Jiro Takai & Satoshi Moriizumi & Vivek Belhekar & Amruta Padhye, 2012. "What Makes for a Good Life? A Four-Nation Study," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 13(5), pages 783-800, October.
    2. Joseph Henrich & Steve J. Heine & Ara Norenzayan, 2010. "The Weirdest People in the World?," Working Paper Series of the German Council for Social and Economic Data 139, German Council for Social and Economic Data (RatSWD).
    3. Frank Busing & Patrick Groenen & Willem Heiser, 2005. "Avoiding degeneracy in multidimensional unfolding by penalizing on the coefficient of variation," Psychometrika, Springer;The Psychometric Society, vol. 70(1), pages 71-98, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:spr:ariqol:v:12:y:2017:i:2:d:10.1007_s11482-016-9472-9 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Agnieszka Bojanowska & Anna M. Zalewska, 2016. "Lay Understanding of Happiness and the Experience of Well-Being: Are Some Conceptions of Happiness More Beneficial than Others?," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 17(2), pages 793-815, April.
    3. Gregory Bonn & Romin Tafarodi, 2014. "Chinese and South Asian Conceptions of the Good Life and Personal Narratives," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 15(4), pages 741-755, August.


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