What is Happiness?

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.

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