Subjective well-being reflects an individual's overarching evaluation of the condition of her or his life. Researchers from economics to psychology to medicine have become increasingly interested in this construct. Health researchers have discovered connections between well-being and mortality, whereas policy-makers are debating how to best use information about well-being to inform policy decisions. The simplest approach to assessing well-being is to use global evaluative measures. Such measures are easily incorporated into large- scale surveys, which has allowed researchers to make substantial contributions to the science of well-being. However, there are pressing concerns about the validity of these evaluative measures. A major alternative is the use of experiential methods that track feelings of satisfaction and affect more or less in real-time. Proponents argue that these approaches are less cognitively demanding than evaluative measures, which makes it less likely that heuristics and biases will affect their validity. The gold standard experiential approach is the experience sampling method (ESM) in which a portable recording device is used to track feelings and behaviors in the moment. However, ESM research is expensive, time consuming, and difficult to implement on a large scale. A less intensive alternative is the Day Reconstruction Method (DRM) in which participants divide their previous day into psychologically-meaningful units and report what they were doing and how they were feeling during those different episodes. The DRM is more practical than ESM for large panel studies. The broad goals of this project are to critically evaluate the psychometric properties of these three approaches and to incorporate both experiential approaches into an on-going, nationally representative panel study that already includes evaluative measures. The first specific aim is to thoroughly evaluate the properties of the DRM by comparing ESM and DRM responses on the same day and by estimating the stability of DRM assessments using short- and long-term longitudinal studies and advanced psychometric models. The second specific aim is to precisely quantify the extent that mood, survey context, and priming issues compromise the validity of global measures of well-being. This information is essential for making informed judgments about evaluative measures which are the easiest to implement in large-scale survey research. The final specific aim is to incorporate both ESM and DRM assessments into an on-going, nationally representative panel study. This existing study already includes evaluative measures and has been used to make important discoveries regarding well-being over the lifespan. The goal of the final specific aim will be to evaluate how previous aging- related well-being findings obtained with evaluative measures generalize to experiential methods. More importantly, the data from this longitudinal study will be made publicly available so that other researchers can advance the science of well-being using all three approaches.

Public Health Relevance

This project will evaluate the psychometric properties of experiential and evaluative measures of well- being and incorporate experiential approaches (experience sampling and the day reconstruction method) into an on-going, nationally representative panel study. Improving well-being measurement may improve policy-related decisions and clarify how well-being is linked to health and mortality.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Aging (NIA)
Research Project (R01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Special Emphasis Panel (ZAG1-ZIJ-1 (M1))
Program Officer
Nielsen, Lisbeth
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Michigan State University
Schools of Arts and Sciences
East Lansing
United States
Zip Code
Lucas, Richard E; Freedman, Vicki A; Cornman, Jennifer C (2018) The short-term stability of life satisfaction judgments. Emotion 18:1024-1031
Hudson, Nathan W; Lucas, Richard E; Donnellan, M Brent (2017) Day-to-day affect is surprisingly stable: A two-year longitudinal study of well-being. Soc Psychol Personal Sci 8:45-54
Hudson, Nathan W; Anusic, Ivana; Lucas, Richard E et al. (2017) Comparing the Reliability and Validity of Global Self-Report Measures of Subjective Well-Being With Experiential Day Reconstruction Measures. Assessment :1073191117744660
Yap, Stevie C Y; Wortman, Jessica; Anusic, Ivana et al. (2017) The effect of mood on judgments of subjective well-being: Nine tests of the judgment model. J Pers Soc Psychol 113:939-961
Baird, Brendan M; Lucas, Richard E; Donnellan, M Brent (2017) The Role of Response Styles in the Assessment of Intraindividual Personality Variability. J Res Pers 69:170-179
Hudson, Nathan W; Lucas, Richard E; Donnellan, M Brent et al. (2016) Income reliably predicts daily sadness, but not happiness: A replication and extension of Kushlev, Dunn, & Lucas (2015). Soc Psychol Personal Sci 7:828-836
Wortman, Jessica; Lucas, Richard E (2016) Spousal similarity in life satisfaction before and after divorce. J Pers Soc Psychol 110:625-33
Cheung, Felix; Lucas, Richard E (2016) Income inequality is associated with stronger social comparison effects: The effect of relative income on life satisfaction. J Pers Soc Psychol 110:332-41
Hudson, Nathan W; Lucas, Richard E; Donnellan, M Brent (2016) Getting older, feeling less? A cross-sectional and longitudinal investigation of developmental patterns in experiential well-being. Psychol Aging 31:847-861
Cheung, Felix; Lucas, Richard E (2015) When does money matter most? Examining the association between income and life satisfaction over the life course. Psychol Aging 30:120-35

Showing the most recent 10 out of 16 publications