Personality and Happiness

Using the "Big Five" personality dimensions, we can attempt to estimate how happiness varies with the conditions in which a person lives ("the environment").

The Big Five dimensions are represented by the acronym OCEAN*:

• Originality (preserver to explorer)
• Consolidation (flexible to focused)
• Extraversion (introvert to extrovert)
• Accommodation (challenger to adapter)
• Need for stability (reactive to resilient)

If we score each dimension between zero and one (low score to high score), the resulting five numbers will represent a person's personality, or "ideal state": OpCpEpApNp. The environment can be similarly scored, corresponding to the personality that thrives best in it: OeCeEeAeNe.

The person will be totally happy (H = 1) when the two sets of values match, that is:

Op = Oe

Cp = Ce

Ep = Ee

Ap = Ae

Np = Ne

The person will be totally unhappy (H = 0) when the differences between each value are at their maximum (1):

ABS(Op - Oe) = 1

ABS(Cp - Ce) = 1

ABS(Ep - Ee) = 1

ABS(Ap - Ae) = 1

ABS(Np - Ne) = 1

We can therefore estimate the "happiness components" as:

HO = 1 - ABS(Op - Oe)

HC = 1 - ABS(Cp - Ce)

HE = 1 - ABS(Ep - Ee)

HA = 1 - ABS(Ap - Ae)

HN = 1 - ABS(Np - Ne)

The total happiness is therefore the average of the happiness components:

H = AVERAGE(HO, HC, HE, HA, HN)

For example, an adaptable person in a changing environment might have the following profile:

 O C E A N Average Preferred 1 0 0.5 1 1 0.70 Environment 1 0.5 0.5 0 1 0.60 Happiness 1 0.5 1 0 1 0.70

Average happiness (H = 0.70) can be converted into ecological footprint (F) and life expectancy (L) for a population of such people using the relationships derived from world data:

F = 5.29 hectares

L = 77 years

Note that in an unchanging environment (O, C, E, A, N = 0, 0.5, 0.5, 1, 0), the average person in such a population would be less happy, consume fewer resources per year, and live a shorter life (H = 0.50, F = 1.06, L = 61). A population of unadaptive people (preferring 0, 1, 0.5, 0, 0) would have opposite reactions to such environments (H = 0.50 for a changing environment, H = 0.70 for an unchanging environment).

For estimates of how the environment is changing over time, see Environment History.

* From The Owner's Manual for the Brain (Pierce J. Howard, Bard Press, 2006), p. 755.