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Re: Hedonic range?

Posted by KenB on October 22, 2000, at 17:32:59

In reply to Re: Hedonic range?, posted by Athena on October 22, 2000, at 15:20:46

> To are suggesting that we as a society have a "Hedonic range" in a "happiness range"? A range of what is considered "normal" for the masses?


There is generally not much of a range that is considered normal in individuals. There is a range of set points - each individual is believed to have a hedonic set point somewhere within a range of "set points" considered normal, but the majority of literature I have read on depression does not discuss variations as far as some individuals being able to tolerate a wider range of hedonic conditions than others. If anyone is familiar with literature along those lines, please educate me.

My suggestion is that individuals have a hedonic range, rather than a hedonic set point, and that the breadth of that range varies from person to person. Some individuals might be able slip into despair accompanied by suicidal ideation and make art of it. Others might feel way out of sorts when their happiness slips slightly below their individual norm - their personal hedonic set point.

The breadth of hedonic conditions any specific individual might be willing or able to tolerate might be determined by nature, by nurture or by both. Social expectations could contribute to a tendency for some individuals to worry about deviations from their presumed hedonic set point that they might otherwise find tolerable.

An example of similar variance in the ranges of tolerance among various individuals might be found in different people's tolerance for thermal variations. Some people might require a constant 72 degree environment or they will feel either uncomfortably hot or cold. Others might be able to live in a 50-degree house or in a 90-degree house with only minor inconvenience. Various people's tolerance might be based on inheritance, on childhood experience or on life-long experience. An outdoors person or a scuba diver might learn to extend their range of tolerances through practice. A foundry worker might learn to tolerate the heat. But others, because of the genetic predisposition of their thalamus, or because of their lack of experience with heat, might not last an hour on a foundry job.

The role of social expectations, at least in our time, seems to be to narrow popular expectations of hedonic range. The expectation is generally that we have a hedonic set point and that most downward deviations are treatable. The availability of medicines for people who cannot tolerate wide hedonic fluctuations might be driving a tendency to label most such fluctuations as "disease." If not for these social and clinical influences, some but not all people might more readily handle extreme fluctuations without wanting or needing medical assistance.





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