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“All important decisions—are based on predictions about how the different options will make us feel.” (Wilson & Gilbert, 2003)
Daniel Gilbert is a Harvard psychologist and professor, author of New York Time’s bestselling book “Stumbling on Happiness” (which has been translated into more than 30 languages), and his TED talk, “The surprising science of happiness” has received more than 11 million views.
Gilbert is also a social psychologist, having won many awards including the Phi Beta Kappa Teaching Prize, Guggenheim Fellowship, and Harvard College Professorship. His research has also made a strong impact, having won the American Psychological Association’s Distinguished Scientific Award for an Early Career Contribution to Psychology. He has also contributed to Forbes, New York Times Magazine, CNN, Psychology Today, and so on (Social Psychology Network, 2015).
“People are motivated to make sense of any novel event, but are especially motivated to interpret negative events in ways that minimize their impact.” (Wilson & Gilbert, 2003)
Daniel Gilbert completed his Ph.D. in Social Psychology from Princeton University in 1985. His well-known research, with Timothy Wilson, is “Affective Forecasting” or “Hedonic Forecasting Mechanism”: The ability for people to predict their emotional state in the future.
In general, there are 4 components of affective forecasting: predictions about the valence of one’s future feelings, the specific emotions that will be experienced, the intensity of the emotions, and their duration (Wilson & Gilbert, 2003).
Their findings also showed that people have a bias of ignoring important factors in making judgment and decisions, which has caught interest by people in the law, economic, business, and ethics field.
Stumbling on Happiness
“We cook the facts” (Gilbert, 2009)
This bestselling book, which won the 2007 Royal Society Prizes for Science Books, has given a different perspective on how we look at happiness and how we misinterpret things: people are bad at forecasting their emotional states.
Gilbert bases his theories on scientific research, as well as some research he conducted himself in his research lab. He reveals that by rating happiness with the scale, a level 8 of happiness might be equal to another’s level 5 since our interpretation of happiness is different.
There is no way to accurately predict happiness. Whatever you think will make you happier in the future is untrue because we are likely to base our feeling on what is going on in the present.
During an interview with the New York Times, Gilbert states that
“As a species, we tend to be moderately happy with whatever we get. If you take a scale that goes from zero to 100, people, generally, report their happiness at about 75. We keep trying to get to 100. Sometimes, we get there. But we don’t stay long.” (Dreifus, 2008)
He suggests that the best way to predict how happy you will be in the future when you accomplish something is to ask the person who has already gone through it.
“It turns out we’re not nearly as unique as we think”, Gilbert continues in his interview, “at least when it comes to emotional responses to events” (Jaffe, 2007).
Gilbert Ted Talks
Here are 3 videos that the happiness expert gives on Ted Talks. Each has received more than 2 million views.
Wilson, T. D., & Gilbert, D. T. (2003). Affective forecasting. Advances in experimental social psychology, 35, 345-411.Gilbert, D. (2009). Stumbling on happiness. New York: Vintage Canada.
Social Psychology Network. (2015). Daniel Gilbert. Retrieved from http://gilbert.socialpsychology.org/
Jaffe, E. (2007). Interview: Daniel Gilbert. Retrieved from http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/interview-daniel-gilbert-152390035/?no-ist
Dreifus, C. (2008). A Conversation with Daniel Gilbert: The Smiling Professor. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/22/science/22conv.html?_r=0