The Many Faces of Hedonic Adaptation

Søren Harnow Klausen, Jakob Emiliussen, Regina Christiansen, Lejla Hasandedic-Dapo, Søren Engelsen

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Hedonic adaptation has come to play a large role in wellbeing studies and in practical philosophy more generally. We argue that hedonic adaptation has been too closely assimilated to sensory adaptation. Sensation and selective attention do indeed play a role in adaptation; but so do judgment, articulation, contextualization and background assumptions, as well as coping strategies and features of one’s social and physical environment. Hence the notion of hedonic adaptation covers not a single uniform phenomenon, but a whole range of different processes and mechanisms. We present a taxonomy of different forms of hedonic adaptation, pointing especially to the importance of coping strategies and socially supported adaptation, which have been overlooked or misdescribed by adaptation theory, but implicitly recognized by empirical research. We further argue that the differences between types of adaptive processes have ramifications for normative theories. Adaptation can work both for good and for bad, depending on the psychological and contextual details. Acknowledging the many forms of hedonic adaptation, and the ubiquitous role of mutual adjustments of values, standards of judgment, emotional tendencies, behaviour and environmental factors in achieving wellbeing also gives support to a more complex and dynamic view of wellbeing as such.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPhilosophical Psychology
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)253-278
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2022


  • happiness
  • Hedonic adaptation
  • normative implications of psychological theorizing and empirical findings
  • wellbeing


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