Journal of Happiness Studies

, Volume 14, Issue 6, pp 1839–1856 | Cite as

Visualizing the Good Life: A Cross-Cultural Analysis

Research Paper


How can we visualize similarity and difference across cultural conceptions of a good or worthy life? To examine the internal structure of such conceptions, we asked 584 university students from mainland China and Canada to indicate the relative importance of 30 elements or criteria commonly used in defining a good life. Statistical comparison and multidimensional scaling were used to reveal the form and extent of group commonalities and differences on the criteria and their meaning in relation to underlying dimensions of individual and cultural variation. The results suggested that South Asian Canadians were more oriented towards moral, spiritual, and beneficent concerns in envisioning a good life than were the mainland Chinese and Western European Canadians. The Chinese, for their part, tended to emphasize practical, prudential, and socially defined goods. This contrasted with the Western European Canadians, who showed more preference for personally defined, internal goods. East Asian Canadians fell between Chinese and Western European Canadians in overall orientation, reflecting their biculturality. All groups placed heavy emphasis on close and enduring relationships.


Good life Culture India China Multidimensional scaling Relationships 



This research was supported in part by a Standard Research Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (410–2006–1127) to the second author. We thank Lindie Liang, Sara Houshmand, Tiffany Jenzer, and Parisa Ghanbari for their assistance with data collection and translation.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of TorontoTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Monash University Sunway CampusJeffrey Cheah School of Medicine and Health Sciences Jalan Lagoon SelatanPetaling JayaMalaysia

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