Happiness and stumbling

Browsing the new TED website I was led to this video of a 20 minute talk by Harvard psychologist Dan Gilbert. He explains some fascinating insights into happiness and what he calls “synthetic happiness”. That’s basically shorthand for the happiness we generate when we don’t get what we want. Apparently we’re surprsingly good at making it, so that both getting big things we want, or big things we don’t, have much less impact on our lives than we expect.

He also describes an experiment where subjects are given a choice of two pictures. In one group, they’re told they can change their minds over four days. The other group are told their choice is irreversible. Guess what: the one’s who don’t get the flexibility end up liking their pictures a lot more. An interesting sidebar on the value of freedom of choice.

For me, this supports the idea of obliquity: getting things in indirect ways. We seem to be less-than-expert at predicting what will make us happy… and probably therefore put ourselves through too many false hoops trying to bring it about. This thought has now triggered me to order Gilbert’s Stumbling on Happiness to find out more.

Now I’m off to the pub for a drink with Alex Kjerulf who I dare say will have views on all this…

5 thoughts on “Happiness and stumbling

  1. Mike Wagner

    I am sure Alex has more than a few thoughts on “happiness”.

    Wish I could be there to hear where the conversation goes.

    Thanks for the heads up on the book – will add to my list.

    Keep creating…it freaks people out,

    Mike

    Reply
  2. Mike Wagner

    I am sure Alex has more than a few thoughts on “happiness”.

    Wish I could be there to hear where the conversation goes.

    Thanks for the heads up on the book – will add to my list.

    Keep creating…it freaks people out,

    Mike

    Reply
  3. Rich Benson

    I’m a big fan of TED.

    Highly recommend Prof Richard Dawkin’s fascinating lecture on “thinking the improbable”. Especially the apparently true story of a US General who was sitting in his office one day and decided to try to run through the wall, because it was just made up of atoms – and atoms are mostly space…

    Reply
  4. annette

    I’m a complete TED junkie at this point. I’ve downloaded all of the podcasts and am planning to watch them back to back (again) on my flight to NYC next week. After one of my junkie posts I got a mail from the TED people asking if I wanted to drop into their office and say hello when I’m in NYC – how cool is that?

    Reply
  5. Matt Moore

    There is some mighty fine stuff on TED. I loved Dan Gilbert’s presentation – both content & style.

    I found the experiments with the Monet prints & the brain damaged people fascinating(“‘Yeah right’ is not the right answer”). We change our worldview to make ourselves happier. Which both heartening & quite scary.

    Steven Levitt’s Freakonomics presentation was also fantastic value – esp. for the “weak and sh*t” ending.

    Reply

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