Happiness is a warm abstract thought: Self-construal abstractness and subjective well-being

John A. Updegraff, Eunkook M. Suh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


Research investigating the relationship between self-construals and subjective well-being has traditionally focused on understanding how dimensions such as positivity-negativity and internality-externality relate to well-being. This paper presents two studies that investigate how a potentially important yet unexamined dimension, the abstractness versus concreteness of people's self-construals, is related to life satisfaction. Study 1 showed that happier people tend to think about themselves with higher level of abstraction than less happy people, even after controlling for the overall valence and internality of their construals. Study 2 found that people randomly assigned to think about themselves in abstract rather than concrete terms reported greater pre- to post-manipulation increases in reports of life satisfaction. Implications of these findings for understanding individual differences in well-being are discussed, and directions for future research are presented.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)18-28
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Positive Psychology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2007 Jan

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Preparation of this manuscript was supported by funding from the National Institute of Mental Health to the first author (MH019958). We would like to thank Giovanni Garofalo, Michelle Higa, David Kalmbach, Tina Kim, Jasper Law, Angela Manapat, Vanessa Potter, Jacob Roope, Jared Slanina, Betty Ta, and Annie Yeh for their research assistance. We would also like to thank a number of anonymous reviewers for their comments on previous versions of this manuscript.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychology(all)


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