Major Theoretical Questions Theories about subjective well-being have grown over the past several decades, but have been re
ned only slowly as adequate data have been compiled to test them. We can characterize the theories describing happiness along
several dimensions. The rst dimension is whether the theory places the locus of happiness in external conditions such as income
and status, as many sociological theories do, or within the attitudes and temperament of the individual, as many psychological
theories do. Some have maintained that people adapt to all circumstances over time, so that only individual personality matters
for producing happiness, whereas others believe that economicandothersocietalfactorsarethedominantforcesinproducingwell-being.
Throughout my writings there is a mix of both the internal and external factors that in uence well-being. A second dimension
that characterizes scholarship on well-being is the issue of whether the factors affecting well-being are relative or absolute.
That is, are there standards used by people at all times and places in judging their lives and in reacting to events? Or are
standards dependent on what other people possess, on expec- tions,andonadaptationlevelsbasedonpastcircumstances?Again,thereisevidence
supporting the role of both universal and relative standards. People around the globe are probably in uenced by common factors
such as friendship versus loneliness, but even these universal in uences on happiness are probably subject to some degree
of comparison depending on what the person is used to and what others have. However, some factors might be much more comparative
than other in uences, as Hsee, Yang, Li, and Shen (in press) have described.