MSU researcher chosen for major ‘happiness, well-being’ study

Alicia Hall (Photo by Megan Bean)

Contact: Karyn Brown

STARKVILLE, Miss.—A Mississippi State faculty member is part of a three-year international investigation into the variables that affect human happiness and well-being.

Assistant Professor Alicia Hall of the university’s Department of Philosophy and Religion recently was selected for the $5.1 million interdisciplinary research project.

Titled “Happiness and Well-Being: Integrating Research Across the Disciplines,” the project is being led by philosophy professor Dan Haybron of St. Louis University.

As part of this project, Hall’s research focuses on finding a pragmatic approach to measuring the impact of well-being specifically in health care and public policy. The grant is funded largely by the prestigious John Templeton Foundation, a Pennsylvania-based philanthropy, with additional support from SLU.

According to Hall, there is a high interest in both healthcare and public policy organizations to determine as specifically as possible how certain public policies, diseases and medical treatments affect happiness and well-being. While many of the measures are subjective, many researchers long have been interested in determining how various interactions affect individual human satisfactions with their lives as a whole.

Hall is a 2008 doctoral graduate of the University of Minnesota, where her dissertation was titled “Knowing the Good Life: A Narrative Approach to Subjective Well-Being.”

As she explained, life satisfaction typically is measured by personal standards and priorities. As priorities change over time, these same interventions also may change how individuals assess their own levels of life satisfaction.

“I’m going to be examining how medical and policy interventions can lead to changes in people’s values and expectations for their lives, in order to come up with a practical framework for determining when these changes are likely to be beneficial or maladaptive in the long term,” Hall said.

“This can then be used to better understand how specific policies and treatments affect people’s well-being and provide better guidance for decisions about which policies and medical interventions are most successful in terms of promoting an individual’s well-being,” she added.

Hall said that of some 300 letters of intent and 55 full grant proposals submitted from around the world, hers was among less than two dozen chosen.

In addition to having a very special opportunity to work with a distinguished list of international colleagues, “I feel privileged to be able to participate in a grant like this that allows me to develop my understanding of issues that are so relevant to all of our lives, and to be able to share these insights with my students at Mississippi State,” Hall said.

The university’s philosophy and religion department is a part of MSU’s College of Arts and Sciences.

Associate Dean Giselle Thibaudeau said the college takes great pride that one of its faculty members has been chosen for such a complex investigation. “We pride ourselves on our faculty successes in collaborative research," she said.

Thibaudeau said the Templeton Foundation award is a prime example of such successes, adding that she and other college leaders “look forward to seeing and experiencing the results of Dr. Hall and her colleagues in bringing the sciences and humanities together to improve happiness and well-being.”

The 138-year-old land-grant institution’s largest academic unit, the College of Arts and Sciences includes more than 5,000 students, 300 full-time faculty members, nine doctoral programs and 24 academic majors offered in 14 departments.

Home to the most diverse units for research and scholarly activities—including natural and physical sciences, social and behavioral sciences, and the humanities—its scholarly output in the humanities has helped place MSU in the National Science Foundation’s top 50. The NSF also ranked MSU among the top 25 for research expenditures in the social sciences. For more, visit

Information on the philosophy and religion department is found at

Complete details on the research project is found at, and on the Templeton Foundation, at

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