Approaches to well-being, use of psychology and paternalism in economics

Marion Collewet*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This paper discusses three approaches in economics which take a position on the definition of well-being and which use insights from psychology to support their positions: Scitovsky’s Joyless Economy, happiness economics, and the constitutional approach to happiness in economics. The paper shows first that the definition of well-being by each approach, which is a normative step, is revealed by the choice of a psychological theory or method rather than resulting from the application of a theory or method. Secondly, this paper demonstrates that personal judgement by the authors is often needed in the positive realm, in order to interpret psychological results and to then translate them into practical recommendations. Both of these issues have implications for those theories that define well-being as something other than the fulfillment of individual preferences whatever their content, and which therefore yield a potential justification for paternalism. This paper argues that the potential paternalistic implications of these approaches are not based on positive science only, but rely on normative choice and personal judgement.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2 Oct 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Constitutional approach
  • Happiness economics
  • Paternalism
  • Scitovsky
  • Well-being


Dive into the research topics of 'Approaches to well-being, use of psychology and paternalism in economics'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this