Psychology Magazine

Two Ways to Be Satisfied.

By Deric Bownds @DericBownds

Anna North points to an article by Helzer and Jayawickreme that examines two different control strategies for obtaining short and long term life satisfaction, "primary control" - the ability to directly affect one's circumstances - and "secondary control" - the ability to affect how one responds to those circumstances.

How does a sense of control relate to well-being? We consider two distinguishable control strategies, primary and secondary control, and their relationships with two facets of subjective well-being, daily positive/negative affective experience and global life satisfaction. Using undergraduate and online samples, the results suggest that these different control strategies are associated uniquely with distinct facets of well-being. After controlling for shared variance among constructs, primary control (the tendency to achieve mastery over circumstances via goal striving) was associated more consistently with daily affective experience than was secondary control, and secondary control (the tendency to achieve mastery over circumstances via sense-making) was associated more strongly with life satisfaction than primary control, but only within the student sample and community members not in a committed relationship. The results highlight the importance of both control strategies to everyday health and provide insights into the mechanisms underlying the relationship between control and well-being.

It is not clear why relationship status makes a difference. Helzer suggests that having a partner may help people deal with adversity the same way secondary control does, so secondary control may have less of an effect

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