Psychological Selection and Optimal Experience Across Cultures: Social Empowerment through Personal Growth

byAntonella Delle Fave, Fausto Massimini, Marta Bassi

Paperback | January 27, 2013

Psychological Selection and Optimal Experience Across Cultures: Social Empowerment through Personal Growth by Antonella Delle Fave
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Studies on subjective well-being derive from two main perspectives: hedonism and eudaimonism. The former emphasizes human search for pleasure and satisfaction The latter stems from Aristotle's concept of eudaimonia as the fulfilment of one's true nature, that includes both self-actualization and commitment to socially shared goals. The framework adopted in this book belongs to the eudaimonic approach, and it is grounded in the scientific tradition of bio-cultural studies.

Most researchers agree that humans are living systems equipped with biological and cultural features. Theoretical approaches however differ in their emphasis on the role and relevance of biology and culture in influencing human behavior. In particular, the impact of culture and social norms on individual behavior and quality of life can hardly be overestimated. Day by day, people acquire cultural information from their social contexts by means of various forms of learning, and they subsequently replicate and transmit it. These cultural constraints can be used as objective indicators to evaluate quality of life and well-being, but they are not sufficient to grasp the real life conditions of an individual. This book introduces a third perspective in this debate: it emphasizes the role of individuals as active agents in shaping their cultural environment and in promoting both their own development and culture complexity.

Each person within her culture has a more or less wide extent of autonomy and freedom in facing challenges and in discovering opportunities in daily activities, in interpreting life events and in setting self-selected goals. Far from simply being recipients and vehicles of cultural information, human beings actively take part in the process of cultural transmission and change. A process of psychological selection takes place at the individual level, promoting the differential reproduction of cultural information units. A great number of cross-cultural studies have been conducted, in order to detect the basic criterion which guides this process. Results show the paramount role played by the quality of experience people associate with their daily activities and social contexts. In particular, individuals preferentially select and cultivate activities connected with optimal experience, or Flow, in which individuals describe themselves as active and deeply involved in the task at hand, excited and relaxed at the same time. In optimal experience people perceive high challenges in the activity, and adequate personal skills in facing them. They report engagement, activation, enjoyment, and autonomy.

However, provided that individuals play a central role in the process of cultural transmission and change, they should be supported in finding in meaningful and socially relevant challenges. From childhood, citizens should be exposed to opportunities for engagement, enjoyment and optimal experiences in socially useful activities. They should be taught to appreciate the development potential embedded in agency and co-operation towards community objectives. Intrinsic motivation and the autonomous search for meanings and goals should be sustained. The individual effort and ability to find a personalized way toward well-being and complexity have to be primarily supported. At the social level, the individual tendency to pursue self-selected goals and personal wellbeing could be channelled to foster at the same time co-operation and community empowerment.

In this historical period it is of paramount importance for positive psychology to contextualize the study of individual well-being within the broader perspective of social empowerment and cultures' cooperation. Following the long tradition initiated by Aristotle with his studies on virtues and ethics, we strongly believe in the human potential to match the pursuit of optimal experiences and personal wellbeing with agency and the active contribution to the empowerment of societies.

Antonella Delle Fave, MD specialized in Clinical Psychology, is professor of Psychology at the University of Milano, Italy. Her studies concern optimal experience and individual psychological selection, that is the lifelong process of differential replication and cultivation of activities and competencies. Her cross-cultural studies ha...
Title:Psychological Selection and Optimal Experience Across Cultures: Social Empowerment through Personal...Format:PaperbackProduct dimensions:369 pages, 9.25 X 6.1 X 0 inShipping dimensions:369 pages, 9.25 X 6.1 X 0 inPublished:January 27, 2013Publisher:Springer-Verlag/Sci-Tech/TradeLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:9400734549

ISBN - 13:9789400734548

Appropriate for ages: All ages

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