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Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Todd…

Stumbling on Happiness (2006)

by gilbertdanieltodd

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,529912,384 (3.82)29
Why are lovers quicker to forgive their partners for infidelity than for leaving dirty dishes in the sink? Why do patients remember long medical procedures as less painful than short ones? Why do home sellers demand prices they wouldn't dream of paying if they were home buyers? Why does the line at the grocery store always slow down when we join it? In this book, Harvard psychologist Gilbert describes the foibles of imagination and illusions of foresight that cause each of us to misconceive our tomorrows and misestimate our satisfactions. Using the latest research in psychology, cognitive neuroscience, philosophy, and behavioral economics, Gilbert reveals what we have discovered about the uniquely human ability to imagine the future, our capacity to predict how much we will like it when we get there, and why we seem to know so little about the hearts and minds of the people we are about to become.--From publisher description.… (more)

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Showing 1-5 of 91 (next | show all)
This is precisely the kind of non-fiction I love: scientific and hilarious. Not unlike You Are Not So Smart, by David McRaney, this book illustrates how our brains are both incredibly complicated and seemingly at cross-purposes with survival in the modern world. ( )
  sterlingfink | Sep 5, 2019 |
Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert is not, astonishingly, about how to become happy. This book is mainly about how the brain predicts the future and how those futures affect our decision-making skills. It also talks about some unique aspects of the human brain that give rise to errors in thought and memory. It is really quite fascinating, though I have read something similar to this several times since I am a huge fan of knowing how the brain works and of cognition in general.

So the main section of the book is six parts long.

The first part of the book states what the author believes to be the defining attribute of humanity over other animals. This is the ability to envision its own future. Now Professor Gilbert has commented on the idea of publishing something that only a human being can do over say, a chimpanzee. Before, it was the use of language until we found that apes and chimps can be taught sign language. Then it was the use of tools until we saw that the chimpanzee is capable of using a stick to gather food. Since human beings have such massive frontal lobes and the Prefrontal Cortex, we use these brain structures to make predictions of what might happen if we do something. Take Phineas Gage, owner of one of the most famous Brains in history. Why was his brain famous? Well you see, Mr. Gage was a foreman for a Railroad until one fateful day when an iron rod blasted through his skull, destroying his frontal lobe. Now this book makes no mention of changes to his personality so I am not certain if that account is apocryphal or not. Anyway, that led to the Frontal Lobotomy. Anything that involved planning was gone, completely vanished.

The second part of the book discusses the Subjectivity of Experience, any experience at all. Your color yellow might be totally different from my color yellow, but everyone agrees that the bus that carries children to school and back is yellow. The same thing goes for happiness. Would what makes me happy make you happy? Probably not. The book discusses the case of a conjoined twin to illustrate the author’s position. Although they are joined together, the conventional wisdom has always been to separate them at birth, even at risk of killing one or both of the twins. However, the twins state that they are happy. Of course, people argue that the twins don’t really know what happiness is, but is that true or not? Who is correct in this case? Going back to yellow, it is merely what is experienced when the visual apparatus is struck by light with a wavelength of 580 nanometers. There is nothing more or less to it than that. It’s a bit like trying to describe the experience of color to a blind person, or the experience of music to a deaf person. It simply is the way it is. The same idea applies for looking at pretty much anything. If you look and see a rabid wolverine in your proximity you don’t look at all the characteristics that make it a rabid wolverine and then decide what to do about it, that would have gotten your ancestors killed. Rather, you take it all in and decide in a split second.

The third part discusses Realism. What would it feel like if you were horribly wealthy? We can imagine such things as this, but we would probably be wrong or imagine incorrectly. Take me for instance, I can’t imagine having a home with more than two bathrooms. I can’t see myself driving a Mercedes or some other expensive car. I certainly can’t imagine how I would get so rich. I suppose that having so much money would make me a target for a lot of different unscrupulous people, but I can’t even imagine moving away from where I live now. This is because the brain has some shortcomings when it comes to imagination. It fills in details and makes predictions that may or may not be correct.

The fourth part is called Presentism. It mentions that when making a prediction about the future, we tend to use our current situations and extrapolate from there. It’s like the predictions made in Back to the Future Part II. The 1980s thought that the year 2015 would have brought about fusion power, holograms, Flying Cars, and 16 Jaws sequels. Some things they did get correct, like the Cubs winning the World Series, though they were off by one year. That isn’t the point though. The main point is that the year 2015 in that movie looked an awful lot like the 1980s. Or take New York City for another example. Back when crime was rampant and no one knew what the heck tomorrow would look like, who would have thought that certain sections of town would become so exclusive and chic?

The fifth part is called Rationalization. Its main point is that when we are presented with our past choices we tend to rationalize them accordingly depending on what happened. Say you went on a job interview for modeling or something. If you were rejected, it is easy to rationalize one person’s opinion. All you have to do is say in your mind “Well he doesn’t know what he’s talking about, I could totally be a model.” On the other hand, if you went on American Idol or some other talent show and everyone booed you or were silently disapproving you would be devastated. In fact, people rationalize so well that they completely ignore relevant facts supporting another opinion. Take me with my dislike of Christian Apologetics. Maybe I am wrong about my “faith,” but as long as I hold the opinions I do, I will look for facts that support my opinion and blast the opposition.

The sixth and final part is called Corrigibility. It means that we have the ability to shape those opinions and responses according to new data. Of course, all the while our memories are amorphous things, easily shaped by new input.

Most of the stuff in this book I did know about, but it was framed in such a way that made it entertaining to read. ( )
  Floyd3345 | Jun 15, 2019 |
Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert was like attending the lecture of a jovial professor who enjoys his subject. I liked it but wasn't sure where it ended up in regards to the nature of happiness. (September 24, 2006) ( )
  cindywho | May 27, 2019 |
Uno dei saggi più divertenti e stimolanti che abbia letto quest'anno. L'audiobook letto dall'autore è ancora più divertente ( )
  lucaconti | Jan 24, 2019 |
i loved this book.

There is no simple formula for finding happiness. But if our great big brains do not allow us to go surefootedly into our futures, they at least allow us to understand what makes us stumble.

By the way, if you liked it too, you should check [b:Thinking, Fast and Slow|11468377|Thinking, Fast and Slow|Daniel Kahneman|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1317793965s/11468377.jpg|16402639]. Some ideas will repeat, sure, but it's really worth it. ( )
  Spr1t3 | Jul 31, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 91 (next | show all)
Gilbert has a serious argument to make about why human beings are forever wrongly predicting what will make them happy. Because of logic-processing errors our brains tend to make, we don't want the things that would make us happy — and the things that we want (more money, say, or a bigger house or a fancier car) won't make us happy.
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One cannot divine nor forecast the conditions that will make happiness; one only stumbles upon them by chance, in a lucky hour, at the world's end somewhere, and holds fast to the days, as to fortune and fame.

Will Cather, "Le Lavandou," 1902
For Oli, under the apple tree
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Priests vow to remain celibate, physicians vow to do no harm, and letter carriers vow to swiftly complete their appointed rounds despite snow, sleet, and split infinitives.
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