Defining and obtaining happiness through emotional state theory
Mentor:Jeffrey Wilson, Associate Dean of Bellarmine College of Liberal Arts, Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles
Depression affects 21 million Americans annually, research into well-being and happiness has skyrocketed, the ancient philosopher, Aristotle, is known for proclaiming human flourishing as the highest human good, and we consistently claim we want our children to “be happy and healthy” above all else. We are clearly concerned about happiness in an important way, but must readjust our thinking from “smiley-faced emotion” to “profound state of being” if we are to understand happiness in its fullest form. With this in mind, the ultimate goal of this research project is to address how public policy can help all citizens flourish—including the 2.2 million U.S. citizens incarcerated as a result of mass incarceration . The economic result of this war has exceeded $1 trillion, but the toll in human lives is far more disastrous . These citizens are confined and devalued physically, mentally, and spiritually which inhibits their ability to pursue happiness making them one of the largest groups happiness research can positively effect. Furthermore, the vast majority of the incarcerated will reenter to society, so their time incarcerated is critical to personal improvement. This project uses a mixed-methods approach to synthesize theory, empirical research, and analysis into a coherent argument aimed to support the flourishing of all citizens. By combining punitive and emotional state theory, psychology research, recidivism research, and examples of successfully implemented programs, this project makes an argument for revolutionizing the way we incarcerate with the aim of affecting societal change from the ground up. This research has vast implications for policy makers, NGOs, and concerned individuals, while ultimately calling for prisons to shift their focus from punishment to research.