Stumbling on Happiness Paperback – Mar 20 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Not offering a self-help book, but instead mounting a scientific explanation of the limitations of the human imagination and how it steers us wrong in our search for happiness, Gilbert, a professor of psychology at Harvard, draws on psychology, cognitive neuroscience, philosophy and behavioral economics to argue that, just as we err in remembering the past, so we err in imagining the future. "Our desire to control is so powerful, and the feeling of being in control so rewarding, that people often act as though they can control the uncontrollable," Gilbert writes, as he reveals how ill-equipped we are to properly preview the future, let alone control it. Unfortunately, he claims, neither personal experience nor cultural wisdom compensates for imagination's shortcomings. In concluding chapters, he discusses the transmission of inaccurate beliefs from one person's mind to another, providing salient examples of universal assumptions about human happiness such as the joys of money and of having children. He concludes with the provocative recommendation that, rather than imagination, we should rely on others as surrogates for our future experience. Gilbert's playful tone and use of commonplace examples render a potentially academic topic accessible and educational, even if his approach is at times overly prescriptive. 150,000 announced first printing.(May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Anticipating the future, psychologist Gilbert suggests, is the brain's most important function, and the notion of later, a powerful idea. But why not live in the here and now, as many self-help gurus urge? Because, Gilbert says, thinking about the future can be pleasurable; for instance, daydreaming tends to be about success and achievement "rather than fumbling or failing." Citing the research of scientists and philosophers through the ages and incorporating facts and theories from psychology, cognitive neuroscience, philosophy, and behavioral economics, Gilbert discusses the science of happiness, the shortcomings of imagination as well as the illusions of foresight. And far from being a dry tome, the book is a sly, irresistible romp down, or through, memory lane--past, present, and future. It is not only wildly entertaining but also hilarious (if David Sedaris were a psychologist, he very well might write like this) and yet full of startling insight, imaginative conclusions, and even bits of wisdom. June Sawyers
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
Everyone agrees that the human mind is an incredibly complex and powerful device. But it certainly is not perfect. When it does not have all the information -- which, by necessity, is almost always -- it fills in with estimates, guesses and predictions. Usually, the mind is so effective and efficient that we do not even notice. Other times, however, our minds end up fooling themselves, which is to say, us.
Gilbert offers a look behind the curtain of how our mind creates our understanding of the past, the present and the future. In each case, the mind employs different methods, and its vision is therefore subject to different kinds of errors. Our ability to remenber how we felt in the past is less than perfect, Gilbert points out. Our ability to predict how we will feel about an event in the future, however, can be even more misguided.
While this book asks serious questions, recounting how cognitive sciences have revealed some of the answers, this is hardly a ponderous academic study. Gilbert's lively wit ameliorates some of the grim episodes he must use to impart how science has considered these issues. How can a man wrongfully imprisoned for thirty-seven years declare his incarceration "a glorious experience"? More significantly, who are we to judge his viewpoint as "impossible" or "misguided"? Gilbert acknowledges that most of us would view askance such a judgement of a legal mis-judgement. He also contends that both viewpoints are correct - if considered in their actual frame of reference. Our problem is that we have our own views of what comprises happiness, and projecting it on how others should feel is an error. Compounding that situation is that our own view of our own happiness is likely out of whack.
One of the major points this author proposes is that any attempt we make to forecast what will bring us happiness will almost surely prove false.Read more ›
I would also recommend "Thinking Fast, Thinking Slow"
Although I purchased this book a while ago, I keep re-reading this book every once in a while to glean new facts and ideas from the book. This book isn't a path to happiness, it's more like a way of identifying the situations that will make you happier. I was surprised (though maybe not so much now) about the number of studies done to figure out what makes people happy and what makes people unhappy.
Daniel Gilbert goes through several studies, not specifically focused on happiness, in order to reveal surprising truths about how we feel. One experiment was based on how you would feel if you got the same order at a restaurant every week or if you got something different. I vaguely remember that conventional wisdom would probably tell you that you would like it if you ordered something different, but the experiment showed that people felt differently about it. In any case, you'll have to read the book for the exact study ;P
Remember, this isn't a book on how to make you happier in life, it's a book that reveals surprising truths about what makes and what doesn't make us happy.
Most recent customer reviews
I wish I could rate it 6 out of 5! This book was great! Very persuasive, informative and amusing!Published 4 months ago by Pouyan
This was one of the best books I've ever read, and I don't say that often. It was exceptionally well-written, full of humor, but most importantly, the ideas discussed were truly... Read morePublished 12 months ago by Jeremy
very interesting book, helps modify your decision making process if you ever need to make a decision about what will make you happiest, and is very engaging all at the same time.Published 15 months ago by Jesse May
Loved it. Easy to follow but fun to read and most importantly to me; a palpable message that is rooted in real scientific research.Published 15 months ago by AchilleanEra
A good read, entertaining and informative. Daniel Gilbert is a very amusing writer and the topic is important for understand the human condition.Published 16 months ago by Sassella
This book rattles around in my mind like so much trivia. There are so many things that will stick with me from this. Read morePublished 23 months ago by Alexander Ellefson
Like learning things. There was a lot of enlightenment in this book.
Enjoyed the style of writing.
Information was presented very effectively. Read more
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