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Are virtuous people happy all around the world? Civic virtue, antisocial punishment, and subjective well-being across cultures

Olga Stavrova, Thomas Schlösser, Detlef Fetchenhauer
Personality & Social Psychology Bulletin 2013, 39 (7): 927-42
23613124
Psychological research postulates a positive relationship between virtue and happiness. This article investigates whether this relationship holds in cultures where virtue is not socially appreciated. We specifically focus on civic virtue, which is conceptualized as citizens' honesty in interactions with state institutions (e.g., tax compliance). Two indicators served as measures of the degree to which civic virtue is a part of a country's normative climate: These were each country's mean level of punishment directed at above-average cooperative players in public good experiments and the extent to which citizens justify fraud and free-riding. The results of two studies with data from 13 and 73 countries demonstrate that a positive relationship between civic virtue and happiness/life satisfaction is not universal: In countries where antisocial punishment is common and the level of justification of dishonest behaviors is high, virtuous individuals are no longer happier and more satisfied with life than selfish individuals.

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