Colloquia - “Quotidian Psychology: How the Little Things in Life Matter for Our Lives”

Matthias R. Mehl, Ph.D. Department of Psychology University of Arizona


In psychology – as well as in the social sciences more broadly – major life events have historically been in the theoretical spotlight of what is considered to impact human health and wellbeing. Marriage, child birth, divorce, or death of a loved one; moving and starting a new job, receiving a promotion, or getting unemployed; being diagnosed with a life-changing or life-threatening illness or personally or vicariously experiencing a trauma – these are the critical life events that have received the vast majority of scientific attention in the field. The late ecological psychologist, Kenneth Craik, insightfully said that “lives are lived day by day, one day at a time, from day to day, day after day, day in day out … lives as we experience and observe them are inherently quotidian.” In this talk, I adopt such a “quotidian” theoretical perspective. Drawing broadly on daily life research, including the naturalistic observation research I have been part of for the last 25 years, I will illustrate how the “little things in life”, “the 99% experiences and behaviors” that make up most of our lives are much more than “supporting actors” on the psychological science stage and can matter profoundly for human health and wellbeing.