The Greatest Gift? Happiness, Governance and Psychology



Both in the UK and internationally, governments are setting out to measure well-being, life satisfaction and happiness. Whilst this might seem to offer opportunities for psychology, their chosen method – self-report questionnaires – is problematic. Happiness questionnaires are troubled by problems of definition, introspection, memory and insight; their population-level summation is grossly inaccurate as a representation of everyday emotional experience; and both their reliability and their validity might be better accounted for as products of their ability to model, rather than to measure, psychological processes. Psychology therefore runs the risk of discrediting itself if it becomes too closely associated with these initiatives.