Geoffrey W. Sutton
In part one, Gilbert provides a brief overview of the philosophical foundations of the problem of subjective analysis of happiness. He gradually leads us to an operational definition by illustrating how common human experiences can deliver shared feelings of happiness. However, he illustrates how the elusive and subjective aspect of happiness can produce self-deception by demonstrating how the human brain misperceives visual phenomena and similarly misperceives the imagined happiness value of a future event.
In part two, Gilbert builds on the results of cognitive science to show how we mistakenly recall previously recorded feelings and struggle to make affective comparisons between experiences. He concludes the section with an appropriately humble appreciation of the problems in measuring happiness. Nevertheless, he urges us to forge ahead with the assessments we have because of the important role feelings play in our lives. Caveats aside, Gilbert has set the foundation for the next three parts that address the attitudes of realism, presentism, and rationalization to an understanding of happiness.
appraisal of experiences that we may or may not construe as a basis for happy feelings.
PRESENTISM. In part four, readers learn about the problems people have in accurately predicting their future feelings, which are largely based on the present (hence the name Presentism for this section). Beginning with illustrations of failed predictions and humorous past images of what the future (now past) would be like, Gilbert guides readers into an appreciation for the problems of using present experience to extrapolate to the future.
RATIONALIZATION. Paradise Glossed, the chapter that begins part five (Rationalization), opens with a familiar Shakespearean line, "For there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so (Hamlet)." Here we learn of the human penchant for recasting personal events and facts so they present a favorable impression. In Gilbert's words, we cook the facts (read confirmation bias). An interesting aside for therapists is that people end up handling trauma and disaster much better than they predict they would. So what do people commonly regret? Interested readers will find the answer on page 197.
In the last section, Gilbert illustrates how personal theories and problematic information add to the difficulty of predicting which event sequence will lead to any particular future, let alone one that affords us happiness. He concludes with a chapter suggesting that learning from the experiences of others may actually improve our odds of a happier future more than relying on our "faithless" memories or memory dependent imaginations.
Scholarly readers will appreciate the extensive chapter-by-chapter notes that include studies from the highest quality psychology journals. The notes are followed by an adequate index. On the book's website, there is a basic 12-week outline for those who wish to teach a unit on the subject (http://www.randomhouse.com/kvap/gubert/index .html)..Pragmatic readers will benefit from a current overview of a topic relevant to an understanding of human behavior—at least for those of us who believe that a good deal of human behavior is motivated by the pursuit of happiness.
“Impact is rewarding. Mattering makes us happy.”
― Daniel Gilbert, Stumbling on Happiness
“the feeling of control—whether real or illusory—is one of the wellsprings of mental health.”
Links to Connections
See My Page www.suttong.com
Here is a YouTube talk on happiness by Dan Gilbert