18. May 2023

Antonella Delle Fave

Antonella Delle Fave

Invisible people: a missed opportunity for knowledge development


Psychological research on happiness and well-being gradually expanded its focus from college students and educated participants to more diverse groups. Nevertheless, several populations are still invisible to investigation. Farmers are ignored by researchers, yet they provide nourishment to mankind, and they comprise the majority of inhabitants in many countries. Artisans and handicraftsmen, housewives and domestic workers play indispensable social roles worldwide, but they remain unnoticed. Marginalized groups, such as homeless people, irregular migrants, and prisoners, are ubiquitous yet neglected in well-being studies. Disregarding all these individuals represents a serious bias in research. Investigating their priorities, goals and life purposes, strengths and resources, daily challenges and opportunities could shed a much more comprehensive light on human psychological functioning, values and worldviews. Related findings could also orient education and work policies, inform social development trajectories, and enhance awareness of human diversity and interconnectedness.
Invisibility also affects participants who report intermediate scale ratings in well-being studies: neither very high, nor very low happiness and satisfaction levels; neither highest nor lowest meaning perception; neither flourishing nor languishing mental health status. These people often represent the highest percentage of study participants, and yet they are ignored in the evaluation and interpretation of findings. This polarization bias is rooted in a culture-bound worldview, assuming that less is worse, more is better and well-being maximization is desirable. Considering intermediate well-being ratings from an unbiased perspective could rather provide new knowledge and offer suggestions to build a more balanced, culture-fair and inclusive view of human experience.

About Antonella Delle Fave

Antonella Delle Fave, MD specialized in Clinical Psychology, is professor of Psychology at the Medical School, University of Milano, Italy. Her research work is centered on the study of mental health indicators, flow experience and daily experience fluctuation patterns across life domains and cultures, and among individuals experiencing conditions of diversity and adversity. Together with international partners she has launched a mixed-method design project aimed at identifying happiness and well-being components across countries. Her scientific production includes papers in international peer-reviewed journals, as well as authored and edited academic books. She served as President of the International Positive Psychology Association, the European Network of Positive Psychology, and the Società Italiana di Psicologia Positiva. She is currently Editor in Chief of the Journal of Happiness Studies.