Stumbling on Happiness
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

Stumbling on Happiness

3.76 of 5 stars 3.76  ·  rating details  ·  19,240 ratings  ·  1,521 reviews
Why are lovers quicker to forgive their partners for infidelity than for leaving dirty dishes in the sink?

Why will sighted people pay more to avoid going blind than blind people will pay to regain their sight?

Why do dining companions insist on ordering different meals instead of getting what they really want?

Why do pigeons seem to have such excellent aim; why can't we rem...more
Paperback, 263 pages
Published March 20th 2007 by Vintage (first published January 1st 2006)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Lena
This is pretty much the opposite of a self-help book. Instead of telling you how you can be happier, Harvard Psychology professor Gilbert talks about why we are so bad at predicting what will make us happy in the first place. Gilbert is a smooth and entertaining writer, and he does a good job of explaining in detail the cognitive errors we make in trying to predict our future happiness. For those who hope to gain some practical value from the book, Gilbert also outlines one technique that has be...more
Trevor
Years ago there was a poster that appeared around Melbourne of a young man with one of those far away looks in his eyes. The photo in the poster was extreme close up and the expression on the young man’s face was that which I believe only comes from religious ecstasy or a particularly transporting bowel movement. In bold type under this young man’s face was the single word Happiness. Below this in smaller type was Transcendental Meditation. I figured we were talking religion rather than laxative...more
kareem
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Caitlin
May 05, 2007 Caitlin rated it 3 of 5 stars Recommends it for: anyone except most moralists and libertarians... so... none of my friends. ;b
Shelves: psychology, american
April 2007, first impression: So far, this book is witty, eye-opening and really fun. Also really well researched. He references Daniel C. Dennett in the first five pages, so how could I not love it?

May 2007, upon completion: Update...

Ultimately, I decided to give this book three stars because I believe that it is a ballsy and well-executed attempt to take on an impossibly difficult problem (happiness - that's a biggie). For the most part, I admire Gilbert's methods, though they ALL become incr...more
Foster
I just finished Daniel Gilbert’s new book, and it’s highly recommended. Next time in Cambridge, I’ll be asking him to join me at Grafton Street for a Guinness (you’ll get this if you read the book).

He uses one of the most humorous and accessible non-fiction, science-related writing styles to explain a whole genre of psychological, psychiatric, and philosophical research. His basic message is that we are crap at remembering our past happiness, and also terrible at making decisions that would incr...more
Inder
Is it just me, or is the author of this book unusually cocky in his writing style? Gilbert reiterates a bunch of basic ideas that any normal, reasonably intelligent person should already have arrived at (like, you shouldn't judge another person's life without all of the facts, and, wow, things never turn out quite how you plan them) and then acts like he's discovered a new planet. His tone is one of an utterly brilliant professor talking down to his idiotic, simple students.

I was actually, mild...more
Maggie Campbell
"No one likes to be criticized, of course, but if the things we successfully strive for do not make our future selves happy, or if the things we unsuccessfully avoid do, then it seems reasonable (if somewhat ungracious) for them to cast a disparaging glance backward and wonder what the hell we were thinking."

"This is when I learned that mistakes are interesting and began planning a life that contained several of them."

"Surprise tells us that we were expecting something other than what we got, ev...more
Scott
Combining the rigor of scientific inquiry with the affability of a humorist, this remarkable book examines the brain's systematic inability to reliably predict what will make us happy. Gilbert shows how neurological structures that allow us to store and re-imagine information may serve us all too well, creating a persuasive yet fundamentally distorted picture of what we want and why we want it. A life-changing book, or at least ought to be. This, more than any other recent read, is the one I'm r...more
Rebecca
This is another one of those books, like Blink or Outliers, where an author applies science in an unorthodox way, flings a bunch of interesting anecdotes and studies at you, and pretends to draw more conclusions than are actually warrented. You can tell because the cover is completely white with a single, extra shiny object slightly off-center and the title in a trendy modernist color.

I'll give Gilbert this--he's an unusually witty writer. I literally laughed out loud throughout this book. But I...more
Cjasper
I think this book should have been called Stumbling on Humility, cause what I took from it is that I'm not even as happy as I thought I was, and really, I didn't think I was that happy to begin with. So, I get it, our perception is flawed. Our ability to remember, perceive and predict is not well developed. I have thought of this book and brought it up in conversation quite a bit because either a)it has a lot of real life applications or b) I'm kind of obsessed with the subject of happiness. I w...more
Ron
Gilbert's argument in this book is the best endorsement for reading other people's reviews of the book, because if what he says is accurate, they are more reliable indicators of customer satisfaction than how customers imagine they'll feel after making any purchase. If that seems like a no-brainer, then you won't find yourself greatly illuminated by this book. While I'd still give this book 4 stars for its often interesting survey of cognitive research about the behavior of imagination in predic...more
Eric
Dec 03, 2007 Eric rated it 4 of 5 stars Recommends it for: anyone
The author Dan Gilbert, is a gifted teacher and professor of social psychology at Harvard. This book is an overview of his research on affective forecasting, which examines what and how people think about their own emotions. This line of research began with the question of how accurate are people at predicting how they will respond emotionally to a variety of experiences. Not very well, it turns out. This led to an examination of the factors that lead to these fascinating mistakes that we all ma...more
Guy
May 13, 2008 Guy rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: socsci
First thing you need to know about this book: it's cognitive psychology, not self-help. To Gilbert's credit, he states this clearly early on... but by then, for many purchasers, it will be too late, since the cover fairly shouts "Self-Help!!".

So, to be clear: "Stumbling on Happiness" won't do much to help you be happy, but it will help you understand some of the many reasons as to why, despite our best efforts, we so often fail to be so.

But only some of the reasons, and frankly only some of the...more
Laura
If you are technical or scientific then "Stumbling on Happiness" may be a good read for you. For me, Daniel Gilbert's conclusions were fascinating but most may be garnered by reading his articles or the last chapter of his book. As Gilbert admits in his foreword, his book is not about happiness so much as it is about the way that our minds work in an attempt to find happiness.

Particulary interesting to me were his findings on children and happiness. "Every human culture tells its members that h...more
Froztwolf
The most enlightening work I have ever read on how we fail to make decisions in a way that makes us happy.

Happiness can be seen as being produced by two actions:
1) Making good day-to-day decisions, to create circumstances that allow us to be happy
2) Being happy regardless of the circumstances

It appears that we are fairly bad at #1 but really good at #2.

The book explores why this is, through a bottom-up approach; first exploring the roles of memory and imagination in the decision-making pro...more
Jimmy
Central message: our minds trick us the same way our eyes trick us with visual illusions. And we are foolishly un-aware of the ways it tricks us. The rest of the book is basically a list of psychology experiments backed up by pretty horrible long-winded prose to explain how that applies to our daily lives, sprinkled with annoyingly "witty" jokes. His "wit" was not funny to me, but merely annoying, like someone trying really hard to counteract his innate boring-ness w/ strained jokes. While I did...more
Cheryl in CC NV
Oy. How to talk about this frustrating book. Very funny, but I'm sure some readers would get turned off by his style of wit as it does kinda get old. Lots of insights into how the mind works, but the relevance of those insights is in question.* And who is the audience? I read a lot of popular science books about the brain, the mind, psychology, biology - and anyone with any more training than I would probably be even more frustrated by the author's lack of rigor. But I don't think your average C...more
Joy H.
_Stumbling on Happiness_ (2006) by Daniel Gilbert
Added 5/3/11.

I listened to the unabridged audio version of this book.

I originally came across this book at the website of Keith Martin:
http://96db.com/books/notes/0554_0/
Keith Martin's review said: "This is a well-written popular science book about the psychology of happiness, and Gilbert does a good job explaining why we humans are horrible at predicting what will make us happy. It's a fascinating insight into the human condition and an enjoyab...more
Jaclyn
I randomly selected this audio book off the shelf at the library because the title was intriguing to me. It wasn't quite what I expected because I was expecting more of a self-help book, and this is more of a psychological analysis/science and study related book. There are no real answers on how to find happiness or what you can do to help your perceptions and improve your odds of finding happiness. However, once I got used to the study-related, scientific nature of the book, I found myself real...more
Cheri
I really struggled to finish this book, despite the warm praise from Malcom Gladwell and Seth Godin and my interest in the subject. Make no mistake: Daniel Gilbert is an academic. Stumbling on Happiness reads like a rather dry lecture from a mildly-entertaining Harvard professor. Gilbert rattles off studies at a brisk pace, strong handling his thesis and leaving you nodding off before you know it. He expounds upon our inability to estimate how we'll feel once we get what we desire and the perils...more
Huyen
Definitely the most amusing science book I have read this year. I love Daniel Gilbert after watching his really cool video on youtube. Instead of being a lame self-help guide which it may look like, this is a psychology book which analyzes how we think about what happiness is, what is going to make us happy, might be fundamentally wrong. The ability that sets human beings apart from a lot other animals is imagination, functioned by the frontal lobe. However, our imagination can be misleading be...more
Alana
May 29, 2008 Alana rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Alana by: Angela
Shelves: 2008_05_may, reviewed
I was given this book by a friend who likened the style to Alain de Botton. While I don't agree with the comparison, I can understand that the genre bears certain similarities -- a nonfiction book with meandering tone, musing on a single topic -- but because this is primarily about psychology and the way we make decisions, I wouldn't really put these on the same shelf.
That being said, this was an interesting read... although I've been "currently-reading" this in bits for about a year now, so th...more
B.
Two of the abilities that separate us from the beasties; the ability to remember the past and the ability to imagine the future; receive a thorough analysis from author Daniel Gilbert that inform us just how unreliable these faculties can be. We create illusions on a daily basis that enable us to find happiness no matter what life tosses our way. This is fascinating stuff. Much of what our senses tell us is real, much of what we remember of our past, and much of what we anticipate will be true i...more
Alicia
Stumbling On Happiness and is my current rebellion book. (It isn't on my assigned reading list.) and it is a fascinating book. The author explores our perception of happiness and why we consistantly guess wrong about what will make us happy. How, once a moment has passed, it is impossible for the individual who experienced the moment to accurately rate how happy that moment made us because, our subsequent experiences change how we view that experience. How convinced we as Americans are that are...more
Ann Porter
What a fantastic read! I learned, I laughed, my brain got bigger, I may be able to make some changes.

I can't begin to summarize Gilbert's fascinating work. I can say that Gilbert's analysis is backed by dozens and dozens of pages of peer-reviewed articles. Gilbert's writing style is smooth and entertaining and downright hilarious at times.

I'm late to this book. If you haven't read it, you should. You'll like it. Everyone does!
Jonathan
This is a fascinating read. It is written like a beautiful college lecture, complete with wit, charm, self-deprecation and self assuredness. It is brilliant in unpacking so many of our assumptions about ourselves and our happiness. I highly recommend it.

I also was frustrated in the glaring lack, most of the time, of a social context. It is very White and Western centric.

None the less, I learned a lot and enjoyed the journey.
Tiffany Young
This book gives a clear idea of why people make decisions they think will make them happy, but don't always end up that way. In the end, we learn that the best way to determine if we should do something is to ask someone how they feel right now as they are doing the thing we are thinking about doing. Notice I didn't say to ask someone who has done what we want to do. The reason is we often have different feelings about what we have done or are going to do than what we actually felt while doing t...more
Emily
Nov 09, 2009 Emily rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2006
Stumbling on Happiness is a book by Daniel Gilbert, a Harvard professor who has recently been much in the news for his work on affective forecasting. This is the study of predicting future emotional states, something that people do all the time. If you get a tattoo, you're betting that your future self will like the person whose name you've just emblazoned yourself with. People spend huge amounts of their time doing things in the interest of their future selves--think flossing, jogging, educatio...more
Bob Grommes
From the title you might expect this book to be another self-help screed showing you how to be happier. It's actually a general introduction to the topic of perception -- how we perceive the past, present and future, and judge how we did / do / will feel about them. When you think about it, everything comes down to perceptions, especially our subjective happiness.

This book is a real eye opener if you've not done much thinking about the mind's propensity to perceive and weigh bits and pieces of e...more
Matthew Ng
This is an interesting book that built upon the ideas from Daniel Kahneman's "Thinking fast and slow", with specific applications onto the topic of happiness.

The idea that human uses his imagination when deciding on matters involving happiness is refreshing. People generally want to be happy and would do all things to be in that state of mind. So, when they encounter the problem of future happiness, they imagine how is it like and decide (or invest) their current resources as stakes to achieve...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
upon finishing... 4 92 Aug 05, 2013 04:39AM  
  • The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want
  • The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom
  • Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment
  • Finding Flow: The Psychology Of Engagement With Everyday Life
  • The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less
  • Why We Make Mistakes: How We Look Without Seeing, Forget Things in Seconds, and Are All Pretty Sure We Are Way Above Average
  • Strangers to Ourselves: Discovering the Adaptive Unconscious
  • The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home
  • The Optimism Bias: A Tour of the Irrationally Positive Brain
  • The Invisible Gorilla: And Other Ways Our Intuitions Deceive Us
  • Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life's Most Important Skill
  • A Mind of its Own: How Your Brain Distorts and Deceives
  • Happier: Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment
  • The Art of Choosing
  • Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior
  • Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships
  • Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts
  • How We Decide
32049
Daniel Gilbert is the Harvard College Professor of Psychology at Harvard University. His research with Tim Wilson on "affective forecasting" investigates how and how well people can make predictions about the emotional impact of future events.

Dan has won numerous awards for his teaching and research—from the Guggenheim Fellowship to the American Psychological Association's Distinguished Scientific...more
More about Daniel Gilbert...
The Handbook of Social Psychology A Short Story Psychology Pawn To Infinity Introducing Psychology

Share This Book

“My friends tell me that I have a tendency to point out problems without offering solutions, but they never tell me what I should do about it.” 44 likes
“The fact that we often judge the pleasure of an experience by its ending can cause us to make some curious choices.” 35 likes
More quotes…