In this fascinating and often hilarious work – winner of the Royal Society of Science Prize 2007 – pre-eminent psychologist Daniel Gilbert shows how – and why – the majority of us have no idea how to make ourselves happy.
We all want to be happy, but do we know how? When it comes to improving tomorrow at the expense of today, we're terrible at predicting how to please our future selves.
In ‘Stumbling on Happiness’ Professor Daniel Gilbert combines psychology, neuroscience, economics and philosophy with irrepressible wit to describe how the human brain imagines its future – and how well (or badly) it predicts what it will enjoy. Revealing some of the amazing secrets of human motivation, he also answers thought-provoking questions – why do dining companions order different meals instead of getting what they want? Why are shoppers happier when they can't get refunds? And why are couples less satisfied after having children while insisting that their kids are a source of joy?
‘“Stumbling on Happiness” is an absolutely fantastic book that will shatter your most deeply held convictions about how your own mind works. Ceaselessly entertaining, Gilbert is the perfect guide to some of the most interesting psychological research ever performed. Think you know what makes you happy? You won’t know for sure until you have read this book.’ Steven D. Levitt, author of ‘Freakonomics’
‘He does for psychology what Bill Bryson did for evolution.’ Scotsman
‘In “Stumbling on Happiness”, Daniel Gilbert shares his brilliant insights into our quirks of mind, and steers us toward happiness in the most delightful, engaging ways. If you stumble on this book, you’re guaranteed many doses of joy.’ Daniel Goleman, author of ‘Emotional Intelligence’
‘This is a brilliant book, a useful book, and a book that could quite possibly change the way you look at just about everything. And as a bonus, Gilbert writes like a cross between Malcolm Gladwell and David Sedaris.’ Seth Godin, author ‘All Marketers Are Liars’
‘Everyone will enjoy reading this book, and some of us will wish we could have written it. You will rarely have a chance to learn so much about so important a topic while having so much fun.’ Professor Daniel Kahneman, Princeton University, Winner of the 2002 Nobel Prize in Economics
About the author
Daniel Gilbert was born in 1957 and is the Harvard College Professor of Psychology at Harvard University in Cambridge Massachusetts. He has won numerous awards for his teaching and research, including the Phi Beat Kappa Teaching Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the American Psychological Association's Distinguished Scientific Award for an Early Career Contribution to Psychology. His research has been featured in the 'New York Times Magazine', Forbes, Money, 'The New Yorker', 'Scientific American', 'Oprah Magazine', 'Psychology Today', and more. His short stories have appeared in 'Amazing Stories' and 'Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine', as well as other magazines and anthologies. 'Stumbling on Happiness' was awarded the Royal Society of Science Prize in 2007.
Not offering a self-help book, but instead mounting a scientific explanation of the limitations of the human imagination and how it steers us wrong in our search for happiness, Gilbert, a professor of psychology at Harvard, draws on psychology, cognitive neuroscience, philosophy and behavioral economics to argue that, just as we err in remembering the past, so we err in imagining the future. "Our desire to control is so powerful, and the feeling of being in control so rewarding, that people often act as though they can control the uncontrollable," Gilbert writes, as he reveals how ill-equipped we are to properly preview the future, let alone control it. Unfortunately, he claims, neither personal experience nor cultural wisdom compensates for imagination's shortcomings. In concluding chapters, he discusses the transmission of inaccurate beliefs from one person's mind to another, providing salient examples of universal assumptions about human happiness such as the joys of money and of having children. He concludes with the provocative recommendation that, rather than imagination, we should rely on others as surrogates for our future experience. Gilbert's playful tone and use of commonplace examples render a potentially academic topic accessible and educational, even if his approach is at times overly prescriptive. 150,000 announced first printing.