Saturday, February 10, 2018

Moderately arousing


I heard a talk recently that argued that living in the Anthropocene will require new ideals of happiness - slow, communal, or collective - to wean us from the unsustainable culture of peak experience-seeking capitalist individualism. Sounds right to me. I was interested to learn about work in cultural psychology according to which East Asian societies already inculcate different, more sustainable conceptions of happiness than the American one (though young people the world over are exposed to the American version). Where American tend to aspire to "high arousal" forms of happiness like excitement and euphoria, East Asians apparently aspire rather to "low arousal" satisfaction, contentedness and stability.

The above "two-dimentional [sic] map" of high and low arousal states (not initially devised for comparative study) is from a survey of this kind of literature by a professor at Stanford, which also links the different conceptions of happiness to the difference between "independent" and "interdependent" cultures. Rings true, again, but can it all be so simple?

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