• Why are lovers quicker to forgive their partners for infidelity than for leaving dirty dishes in the sink?• Why will sighted people pay more to avoid going blind than blind people will pay to regain their sight? • Why do dining companions insist on ordering different meals instead of getting what they really want? • Why do pigeons seem to have such excellent aim; why can’t we remember one song while listening to another; and why does the line at the grocery store always slow down the moment we join it?In this brilliant, witty, and accessible book, renowned Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert describes the foibles of imagination and illusions of foresight that cause each of us to misconceive our tomorrows and misestimate our satisfactions. Vividly bringing to life the latest scientific research in psychology, cognitive neuroscience, philosophy, and behavioral economics, Gilbert reveals what scientists have discovered about the uniquely human ability to imagine the future, and about our capacity to predict how much we will like it when we get there. With penetrating insight and sparkling prose, Gilbert explains why we seem to know so little about the hearts and minds of the people we are about to become.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
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This book sited a lot of the same examples as The Paradox of Choice, so much so that at times it felt like The Paradox of Choice was used as a primary resource in writing this book.more
Professor Daniel Gilbert discusses why it is so difficult to correctly imagine the future, especially our emotional futures. In personal terms: why are we so bad at figuring out what makes us happy? Professor Gilbert argues that we are misled by several useful tricks that our brains use to construct our world. First, the brain only stores the highlights of emotions, then fills in the details to construct memories. This leads to considerable distortion in our memories, particularly for emotional experiences. Second, even in the present, we fail to notice the ordinary, the everyday, or whatever might be missing. It’s rather like realizing how important something is only when it’s gone. Third, our ability to imagine the future is limited by our faulty memories, by the details our minds necessarily exclude, and by “presentism”, the tendency to assume that the future is going to look a whole lot like the present.Witty, accessible, Gilbert takes us on a surprising tour of our brains while showing them to be the marvelous constructors of our pasts and our presents. Unfortunately, they are not very good at imagining our futures due to their limitations. This is most true for our emotional experiences and explains why it is so difficult to stumble on happiness.more
What we believe will make us happy will not necessarily make us happy. Moving to California, for example, is widely believed to result in a happier life, but research suggests we'd be better off staying in South Dakota and spending more time with family. Gilbert rounds up the best of the research on happiness and presents it to readers in an enjoyable book replete with witty anecdotes to illustrate ideas. Does money make us happy? Most people behave as though it will but, beyond the level of income requisite for survival, more income does not make us happier. We would be better off working less and having more friendships. If you distill the results of happiness research into principles for living, they bear a remarkable resemblance to many teachings of the great world religions. In a secular society, books like this play an important role by enlightening us rugged individualists as to why more stuff isn't helping. Derek Bok extends Gilbert's ideas into the political sphere in his book, The Politics of Happiness. What if public policy were to concern itself with happiness as a priority instead of focusing on guaranteeing the kind of economic freedom that is bound to result in misery for some and no additional happiness for it's main beneficiaries? I've found the implications of Gilbert's book as interesting as the book itself.more
In the broader genre of psychology / sociology / statistics "why we make decisions" (Freakonomics, Nudge, Sway, Drunkard's Walk, Blunder, Black Swan, Predictably Irrational, Chances Are, Traffic, Critical Mass, Wisdom of Crowds, and all those annoying Malcolm Gladwell books), this one is a refreshingly well-written one that does weigh heavily on the psychology side of my rough genre description.I took a star off because the book (or maybe just me) lost steam as it progressed. The narrative has a somewhat compelling plot structure that aims to show us why imagination fails us, but the forced structure (with formal "summaries" -- what he calls "outlooks" I think -- at the end of chapters), takes something away from the experience. It's like watching a documentary mini-series of self-contained episodes rather than a single unified movie. So it is kind of uninspired. And it feels a bit more academic than most of the others in this genre.That said, I'd recommend this one over many of the others, simply because it is probably more well-written, thoughtful, and "big picture" than some of the others.more
Excellent book. This is on my "Re-Read" list. Daniel Gilbert explains how we seek and achieve happiness, and sometimes why we don't. Even after horrific events happen to his - he explains how people adapt to whatever circumstances they find themselves in and find a "baseline" of happiness.Excellent book for people who want to understand why lottery winners are sometimes miserable and how trauma survivors can come to view their circumstances as "the best thing that could happen to them".Enlightening.more
Why do humans often fail at making themselves happy? Gilbert answers with a great mixture of humor and psychology.more
I'm so glad I "stumbled" upon this book. It's a fascinating look on how the brain works and our perceptions of the world. Although, it's possible I just THINK I really enjoyed it...more
Gilbert's book is wry, funny and informative. My initial joy at finding such a book was muted as I read, finding little that I could relate to. Now, the point of the book is that the many cited studies show that everyone thinks better of themselves than they can justify, so perhaps I'm in that boat. In the end, though, I found myself frustrated by how little new knowledge I gained. True, the details behind the mechanics of thought, perception, judgement and analysis are fascinating, but only confirm what observant folks have been saying for years.A fun read, but unsatisfying.more
Filled with research, written for mental health professionals but without jargon. Perfect for anyone who wants to KNOW how our minds work. A fun read too. Found myself chuckling out loud on a regular basis. Also, as a psychologist, found plenty of meat on the bone. Reviews of research well written and relevant. Universally recommended to ALL readers.more
Central message: our minds trick us the same way our eyes trick us with visual illusions. And we are foolishly un-aware of the ways it tricks us. The rest of the book is basically a list of psychology experiments backed up by pretty horrible long-winded prose to explain how that applies to our daily lives, sprinkled with annoyingly "witty" jokes. His "wit" was not funny to me, but merely annoying, like someone trying really hard to counteract his innate boring-ness w/ strained jokes. While I did appreciate the science behind this book, I felt that his writing style was bloated and dull (even when the subject matter was so interesting). He seems to think that the more you repeat a thing that is self evident, the more interesting it becomes. Perhaps he also underestimates his reader's ability to get something after reading it a couple of times. He needs a good editor; this book could have been cut down to 150 pages (instead of 240 minus notes). I would recommend reading Flow, The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi instead, which is excellently written and researched, and covers a more satisfying aspect of Happiness. This book is still worth reading, though, and works as a good complement because it's nice to have some insight into how we trick ourselves (which Flow really doesn't cover). But this book tackles happiness in a most superficial way; it would be more fitting to say it tackles brain-illusions. It should be called "Brain Illusions: How the mind tricks you daily" instead of "Stumbling on Happiness", which is kind of a misnomer. Overall, Dan Gilbert could've afforded to be a little more ambitious and visionary with all this data.more
Some interesting ideas on memory, perception and predicting happiness. But way too long with too many psychological studies. These studies are treated as more factual than they are. While I enjoyed his humor, it was a little overdone.more
The author is incredibly funny and persuasive. He's also quite adept at using metaphor to explain complex ideas. I was annoyed at his depressing conclusions, which inferred that we're all chasing an elusive feeling, and the only way to scientifically know how to achieve it is to ask people who are currently experiencing what we want, which no one ever does. Clearly science doesn't include "instill hope for humanity" in its list of aims.more
How can you predict how happy you'll be doing something in the future? Ask someone else who is doing that same thing NOW!Why? Daniel Gilbert explains with wit and humor that psychological studies, observations and experiments show how poorly we remember our emotional states of the past, and how that and our present states color - usually "wrongly" - our imagination of our future states. And yet, evolution selected for these seemingly conflicting traits for the benefit of us and the others: If one weren't somewhat deluded into imagining the future could not be better than the present, then one might be content to just remain status quo, and not working for the advancement of society in general. Read about this and more in Gilbert's wonderful book! Do note, however, that this is not so much a book that gives prescription for happiness, but rather explains the stumbling blocks that cause us to mis-estimate our happiness. It would seem that other than attempting to gauge future levels of happiness by querying others in the present, that we are always bound (by evolutionary wiring) to otherwise not predict or remember well, and it is difficult or impossible to get around such. Again, that is not necessarily such a bad thing; after all, evolution selected for this.more
He has some interesting ideas and research results - the basic premise is that people are not very good at figuring out what will make them happy. However, I really didn't like the style of his writing. The examples he made up to illustrate concepts ended up being more distracting than illustrative, and his humor is not all that funny.more
A thoroughly fascinating read that manages to examine neurology, psychology and a few other related disciplines to explain why it is that we're so bad at determining what it is that will make us happy.more
This study of how our minds work provides an interesting insight into the human condition. The book examines why we are not very good at achieving happiness even though we're very good at imagining scenarios of our future happiness. The book's narrative unfolds like a psychological detective story about the mystery of why there is so much pursuit of happiness but so little satisfaction at achieving happiness. After all, pursuit of happiness must be very important to us since it is one of the inalienable rights referenced in the U.S Declaration of Independence. Almost all reviews of this book note that this is not a "how to" book as inferred by the title. My thought is that this may indeed be a better "how to" book than most books the claim to explain "how to" achieve happiness. After all, isn't knowing one's self the first step toward such a goal? And what better way to know one's self than to understand the workings of the human brain. The first part of this book reminded me some of the material covered in the book, Animals In Translation by Temple Grandin (see my review).Read in August, 2008more
Thought provoking and often humorous, this book may not show the way to happiness, but it does a very good job of pointing out how the shortcomings of our thinking process lead to us all making similar mistakes when it comes to finding happiness.more
I liked this book for his humor and many illustrations--he made it interesting and accessibily for the general public, no matter how little one might know about modern psychology. And, though I didn't LOVE it, I'm almost tempted to give it a higher rating just because he made the very short list of non-fiction books I've read through in less than a week. A thumbs-up for sure.more
Gilbert writes about our perceptions of what will "make us" happy, sad, satisfied.... He supports his points by outlining current research. This is a book about the difficulties of decision making and our ability to predict how we will feel.This is not a 1, 2, 3 book of how to be happy. A good read based on psychological research.more
Really fascinating - it reminds me of when I first read [book:Brain Tricks], ten years ago, and how revelatory a lot of the explanations of our minds' workings were to me at the time. I'd like to take some time to thumb through it a few more times and review the ideas within; they're that good and that useful. Also, the author has a very relaxed and enjoyable writing style; for such a potentially dry subject matter, he's quite a funny read! ("My friends tell me that I have a tendency to point out problems without offering solutions, but they never tell me what I should do about it.")more
This is pretty much the opposite of a self-help book. Instead of telling you how you can be happier, Harvard Psychology professor Gilbert talks about why we are so bad at predicting what will make us happy in the first place. Gilbert is a smooth and entertaining writer, and he does a good job of explaining in detail the cognitive errors we make in trying to predict our future happiness. For those who hope to gain some practical value from the book, Gilbert also outlines one technique that has been effective in predicting future happiness, but then goes on to discuss the reason why the vast majority of humans won’t use it. Still, I found the book more uplifting than depressing, as there’s something comforting about knowing that everyone else makes the same kinds of mistakes that I do, and the mind is much more skilled at finding happiness in unexpected places than we imagine.more
A good book that's in the same vein as Gladwell's books.I've tried alot of the experiments on my wife and she doesn't give the results that the book would lead me to think she should get.I'd like to think I would give answers divergent from the results in this book too. And that I'm pretty good at predicting how to create my own happiness.Unfortunately, that may just be me fulfilling the misapprehension the book says people have about their own uniqueness.more
Every psychologist vows to one day complete the sentence, “The human being is the only animal that . . .”Most wait until late in their careers to complete the sentence. They know, intuitively, the worse they do, the better they will be remembered. In this book, Daniel Gilbert, a psychology professor at Harvard College argues “The human being is the only animal that thinks about the future.”In a witty, well-written and insightful fashion, he uses the latest research in psychology, cognitive neuroscience, philosophy and behavioral economics to illustrate our ability to imagine the future and our capacity to predict whether we will like it when we arrive there. Foresight is a fragile commodity. Happiness is not found using a simple formula. In answering “the question,” Gilbert entertains while he illuminates many of the reasons why we stumble in our visions of the future. The subject is not new, but Gilbert’s treatment is novel, perceptive and amusing.Penned by the Pointed PunditDecember 9, 200612:04:35 PMmore
A very pleasant discovery and not at all what I was expecting. Rather than 'how to be happy' it explains why we can never predict how happy we will be in the future. Easy and entertaining to read. One of those books you wish you could remember every point to impress your friends with at dinner parties.more
It is not a self help book. It is a book about how the mind works analyzing the failures in our decision making process in our quest for happiness. I had already read a number of this studies that the author references and I still found some of his conclusions fascinating. One of the ideas he discussed is that our memories aren't videos, they are portraits created from idiosyncratic summaries. Every time you remember something you are actually recreating the memory from your own set of Cliff Notes. It is a quick read and very enjoyable I liked his analysis of the problem better than his solution which is to use surrogates.more
Very interesting book. I thought it was well done, and amusing. Didn't take itself too seriously, but some good info.more
I would expect more from a faculty member at Harvard. I am seeing more and more in psychology books or sociology books -- except for Malcolm Gladwell thank God -- this trend for professors or authors to put in content about themselves. Use 'I' and other voices. And this is not because it's necessary, it's gratuitous. Gilbert not only does this, he goes into aside from personal anecdotes, talking about his personality and other things that seem to this reader rather arrogant. I'm not reading to know more about him. All that said, which pretty much ruined this for me, he does have a good concept. I've heard the concept from a couple of psychological studies/experiments, but no where is it merged, catalogued, and presented here. The idea especially that we all can be happy or will be just as happy very untied from our outside circumstances -- whether than means winning the lottery, or what Gilbert goes into more, having birth defects or being in jail wrongly, etc. His attempt to get at the underlying psychology of this is also appreciated and I wouldn't reject most of his claims.more
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