On Happiness

Can redefining our notion of happiness help save the planet? This was the question Ehrman Giustina Professor of Marketing Lynn Kahle posed to an audience of graduate students and faculty members in his recent presentation "The Pursuit of Happiness." While our cultural wisdom suggests that people are happiest when they have lots of big, expensive things, this view isn't accurate, according to well-regarded research. In fact, once people rise above the poverty level, the correlation between wealth and subjective well-being--the feeling of day-to-day satisfaction--is relatively weak. For Kahle, forging a new connection to well-being is a key step to understanding business's role in helping to evolve consumer culture in a sustainable direction. "We need to find a mechanism whereby happiness can be pursued without leading to ever-increasing consumption and inevitable environmental disaster," said Kahle. "I view this as one of the greatest challenges in consumer behavior." View slides from the first and second parts Kahle's talk.