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A Review of The Contagion Hypothesis of Dispositional Happiness For decades, the focus in the various disciplines of psychology has been on the diagnosis and treatment of psychopathology (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000). However, with the rise in positive psychology and a large body of research observing a relationship between mental well-being and physical well-being, present researchers have redirected their attention to the study of subjective well-being (Matteson, McGue, & Iacono, 2013a; Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000). According to Diener (2000), subjective well-being, or happiness, refers to individuals’ self-evaluation of their lives. Although most twin and family studies have reliably shown a genetic heritability of happiness (Kandler, Riemann, & Kämpfe, 2009; Stubbe, Posthuma, Boomsma, & De Geus, 2005), a recent research adopting social network analysis has revealed an environmental influence on happiness as well (Fowler & Christakis, 2008). In a study by Matteson et al. (2013a), the findings of Fowler and Christakis’s (2008) research were questioned and several limitations were identified. In order to examine the contagion hypothesis of happiness, Matteson et al. investigated the correlation of happiness, among 615 biological and adoptive families that were selected from the Sibling Interaction and Behavior Study (SIBS), in a study that spanned over three years. Specifically, Matteson et al. examined, (a) the magnitude of the relationship between the happiness of family members and the happiness of adopted individuals, (b) the relationship between the general happiness of families and the happiness of adopted individuals, (c) the association between the change in the happiness of family members and the change in ... ... middle of paper ... ... families has allowed the authors to study the influence of environment without the assumptions of and underestimation of environmental influences that have been observed in twin studies. Furthermore, Matteson et al. acknowledged some of the limitations in their study and have provided validations for them. Ultimately, Matteson et al.’s study produced no evidence for the contagion hypothesis of happiness that was found in Fowler and Christakis’s (2008) study. However, when comparing the results of the aforementioned studies, one must consider the difference in the methodologies that were employed. While genetic heritability has reliably been shown to influence happiness, future research could perhaps examine the contagion hypothesis amongst roommates, who are genetically different but share the same environment, in an attempt to elucidate the nature of happiness.
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