[TED Talk Notes] Dan Gilbert: The Surprising Science of Happiness


  • A year after winning the lottery vs. becoming paraplegic, their level of happiness is the same
  • Something that happened 3 months ago has no impact on your happiness
  • Happiness can be synthesized
  • Human beings have a psychological immune system — help us change our views of the world so we can feel better about the worlds that we find ourselves
  • We synthesize happiness, but we think that happiness is something that needs to be found
  • We believe synthetic happiness is not the same as natural happiness
    • Synthetic – don’t get want we want
    • Natural – get what we wanted
    • Synthetic happiness is just as real as natural happiness
  • How can not getting what we want can make us just as happy as getting something we didn’t want?
  • The Free Choice Paradigm
    • Monet prints. One they got was later ranked higher. One they didn’t get, they liked least later
    • Amnesiacs. People like what they own, but they didn’t know they liked it.
  • Freedom – ability to make mind and change mind — is the enemy of synthetic happiness
    • Psychologic immune system: accept the things you cannot change
    • E.g. Date a guy who picks his nose, don’t go on another date. Married a guy who picks his nose, ah… just live with it.
  • Harvard experiment in a dark room
    • Reversible choice: people deliberate their choice overtime and more likely to become unhappy about their choice
    • Irreversible choice: like their chosen picture more and more over time
      • Synthetic happiness grows best when you tell yourself your choice is irreversible
  • Summary
  • Somethings are better than others (we should have preferences that lead us to one future over another), but when these preferences drive us too hard/fast (because we have overrated the differences between these two futures), we are at risk.
    • Bounded ambition = live joyfully
    • Ambitious is unbounded = lie, cheat, steal, hurt others, sacrifice things of value
    • Fears are bounded = prudent, cautious, thoughtful
    • Fears are unbounded/overblown = reckless, cowardly
  • Longing and worries are to a degree overblown. We can manufacture the commodity we are chasing when we chose our experience.

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