Satisfaction with life as a considered judgement: the information brought to mind and the associated cognitive processes

Charlie Lea

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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The main aim of this thesis was to test the idea that life satisfaction judgements, one of the most commonly used indicators of well-being, are meaningfully considered judgements. Six studies used unique, or rarely-used, methods and measures to examine the processes underlying life satisfaction judgements. Study 1 (Chapters 2, 3, 4) used an inductive, qualitative method to analyse Think Aloud interviews. Thirteen categories were identified, the most common being Relationships, Job and Feelings, representing the information brought to mind as participants considered their current life satisfaction and imagined better and worse lives. Using a method previously utilised for Meaning in Life judgements (Trent & King, 2010), Study 2 (Chapter 5) found that the information used in a life satisfaction judgement did not vary if the judgement was made rapidly or thoughtfully. A vignette study (Study 3a - Chapter 6), and a conceptual replication with survey data (Study 3b - Chapter 7), found evidence consistent with the long-held assumption (Pavot & Diener, 2008; Lucas & Lawless, 2013) that life satisfaction judgements involve the weighting of information: the domains of relationships, money and contribution-to-the-world had different effects on life satisfaction judgements, and also had differential effects on happiness and meaning judgements. Study 4 (Chapter 8) used the ease-of-retrieval paradigm (Schwarz, Bless, et al., 1991) to investigate whether life satisfaction judgements rely on retrieved content versus feelings-as-information, a potential mental short cut. While the expected results were not obtained, a post-hoc analysis led to the hypothesis that participants used whichever route provided the best life satisfaction score. Study 5 (Chapter 8) used self-reported information use following a life satisfaction judgement and identified a cognitive-bias: participants with high life satisfaction tended to use their most satisfactory domains while those with low life satisfaction did the opposite. The implications of the findings are discussed in Chapter 10.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • MacLeod, Andrew, Supervisor
  • Riazi, Afsane, Advisor
Award date1 Aug 2014
Publication statusUnpublished - 2014


  • life satisfaction
  • well-being
  • life satisfaction judgements
  • satisfaction with life
  • life domains

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