What is happiness? One of the most fundamental philosophical question is as Daniel Gilbert why are we happy is intriguing as its length. It only has three words in it but it opens up millions of possibilities. Daniel Gilbert, a psychologist at the University of Harvard has spent many years researching the secrets of happiness and affective forecasting. While the latter term refers to one’s predictions of happiness in the future, the science that lies behind the concept of happiness is worth being explored to its maximum potential.
In the TED Talk “The surprising science of happiness,” Dan Gilbert comes up with some interesting ideas that base their accuracy on well researched and tested methods.
Starting with an analogy about the physical evolution of man in time and his ability to develop new skills, Gilbert describes how the brain has developed the capacity to predict how happy we will be in a given situation by simulating an experience—a capacity unique to human beings. This ability, however, is somewhat flawed as our predictions often neglect the human capacity to adapt to circumstances. We can, in fact, find happiness in a large range of circumstances by reshaping our affective natures—an ability Gilbert refers to as our “psychological immune system.”
Our ability to find happiness in a situation can be undone by one simple factor: an increase in choice. When a situation is irreversible, we adapt to it, but when a situation is reversible and unfavourable we desire change. As Gilbert suggests, “We should have preferences that lead us into one future over another. But when those preferences drive us too hard and too fast because we have overrated the difference between these futures, we are at risk.”
Watch the full video here
[youtube height=”500″ width=”800″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4q1dgn_C0AU[/youtube]
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