What is Happiness?
Daniel Gilbert is the Harvard College Professor of Psychology at Harvard University. His research with Tim Wilson on "affective forecasting" investigates how and how well people can make predictions about the emotional impact of future events.
Dan has won numerous awards for his teaching and research—from the Guggenheim Fellowship to the American Psychological Association's Distinguished Scientific Award for an Early Career Contribution to Psychology. However, he says that his greatest accomplishment is that he appears just before Dizzy Gillespie on the list of Most Famous High School Dropouts.
Dan's research has been covered by The New York Times Magazine, Forbes, Money, CNN, U.S. News & World Report, The New Yorker, Scientific American, Oprah Magazine, Psychology Today, and many others.
Dan Gilbert: It’s easy to be the world’s foremost authority on affective forecasting when you make up the term yourself.
Affective forecasting, which is what I spend most of my time studying these days, is the process by which people look into their future and make predictions about what they’ll like and what they won’t like. And when you make decisions – whether they’re large ones, about to marry Jim or Charlie, to move to Anchorage or Cleveland, or small ones, like whether to have a donut or a croissant, or wear the red blouse or the green blouse – all of these decisions are predicated on some estimation that your brain is making very rapidly that one of them will feel better than the other one.
How does your brain do that, and how well does it do that? Those are the questions that the study of affective forecasting tries to answer.
Recorded on: June 12, 2007
Gilbert discusses the nature of happiness and his work in affective forecasting, which is the process by which people look into their future and make predictions about what they'll like and what they won't like.
The key to happiness is being less optimistic and accepting a certain amount of unhappiness.
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- The two main ideas of stoic happiness are that problems are caused by your reactions to events not the events themselves, and the only things you can control are your thoughts and your actions.
- Choosing strategic pessimism over optimism and positive thinking is one way to avoid "unnecessary disturbance and anxiety."
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