Bullseye view: Developing a sociological method for studying happiness

Holthus, Barbara GND; Manzenreiter, Wolfram GND

Happiness research has gained tremendous popularity, yet research by anthropologists and sociologists trails behind in comparison to economists and psychologists. A sociological study that aims to understand the multidimensionality of happiness in Japan by focusing on a culture-sensitive understanding of happiness remains a desideratum. Therefore we developed a three-partite approach to studying happiness and life satisfaction: (1) word association, (2) in-depth conversation on happiness and life satisfaction issues using a bullseye-structured chart, which we refer to as “board game”, with tokens for visualization of dimensions’ overall importance, and satisfaction and dissatisfaction with them, (3) three quantitative questions on happiness, followed by in-depth discussion to tie to the multitude of existing quantitative studies. To test the methodology, we conducted 23 semi-structured interviews with Japanese men and women in rural Japan. We find that happiness is multidimensional, is an interpretative process, varies over the life course, and that the desire to maximize happiness is not universal. We argue to have created a methodology which we believe can be modified to be used in any country and with diverse population groups, while remaining culture-sensitive throughout.