Why Are We Happy? - Dan Gilbert
“Dan Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness, challenges the idea that we’ll be miserable if we don’t get what we want. Our ‘psychological immune system’ lets us feel truly happy even when things don’t go as planned.”
-In two million years, the human brain has tripled in size.
-One of the most important facets of our large brains and specifically of the pre-frontal cortex, is its ability to imagine and simulate the future.
-People fail to predict what will make them happy very often (specifically in relation to impact and duration of said happiness),
-Impact bias: the tendency to overestimate the hedonic impact of future events
-“Happiness can be synthesized.”
-Humans have a largely unconscious “psychological immune system” that maintains a balance of happiness despite unfortunate external events. Humans can synthesize happiness in order to counteract external unhappiness.
-People tend to view synthetic unhappiness as being lesser than “true” or “natural” happiness.
-Happiness is just as valid and just as enduring whether it’s natural or synthetic, whether it occurs because we got what we wanted or occurs after we didn’t get what we wanted.
-In an experiment, short term amnesiacs were asked to rank six Monet prints and choose to own from one of two of the prints. After they had forgotten this had happened, they were asked to rank them again. Healthy people will synthesize happiness and rank their choice better than they did before. Amnesiac patients do the same thing even though they can’t remember choosing the print originally.
-Synthesized happiness can fundamentally alter our reactions to external things.
-The psycholigical immune system works best at synthesizing happines when we no longer have a choice and are stuck in our course. Expending energy deliberating over a choice dissipates happiness over that choice.
-However, most people would choose to be in a reversible situation despite the great probability that this situation would incur doubt and eventual dissatisfaction.
-Preferences for the future are healthy and good but the overrating of differences between possible futures risks unhappiness.
-Ambition and fear both need to be responsibly restrained
-“Our longings and our worries are both to some degree overblown because we have within us the capacity to manufacture the very commodity we are constantly chasing when we choose experience.”