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Stumbling on Happiness

3.79  ·  Rating Details  ·  31,168 Ratings  ·  1,952 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 ca ...more
Paperback, 263 pages
Published March 20th 2007 by Vintage (first published January 1st 2006)
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Sep 18, 2007 Lena rated it really liked it
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
Feb 22, 2009 Trevor rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 28, 2016 Carmen rated it liked it
Recommends it for: People with NO psychology background
When we imagine future circumstances, we fill in details that won't really come to pass and leave out details that will. When we imagine future feelings, we find it impossible to ignore what we are feeling now and impossible to recognize how we will think about the things that happen later.

Forgive my rather "meh" response to this book. And it was a very bored response. But that isn't the book's fault, it's my fault.

If you have a background in psychology, a degree in psychology, or work in the fi
May 01, 2008 kareem rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 07, 2007 Inder rated it did not like it
Shelves: couldntfinish
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
May 05, 2007 Caitlin rated it liked it
Recommends it for: anyone except most moralists and libertarians... so... none of my friends. ;b
Shelves: american, psychology
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
May 27, 2015 Thomas rated it liked it
Note: the title reads Stumbling On Happiness, not Stumbling Onto Happiness. Thus, Daniel Gilbert's book does not go into self-help. Rather, it delineates the many errors we humans make when solidifying decisions and how our minds trick us into choosing things that might not lead us to happiness in the long run.

A few cool concepts stood out to me when reading Stumbling On Happiness: how we kind of suck at predicting our future emotions because our present state influences us so much, how certain
Oct 12, 2007 Foster rated it really liked it
Shelves: economics
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
May 31, 2012 Rebecca rated it liked it
Shelves: pop-science
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
May 13, 2008 Guy rated it liked it
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
Maggie Campbell
Aug 20, 2008 Maggie Campbell rated it really liked it
"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
Mar 25, 2008 Cjasper rated it liked it
Shelves: my-books
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
Apr 27, 2008 Scott rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 23, 2012 Ron rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
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
Nov 29, 2009 Jimmy rated it it was ok
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
Jun 15, 2009 Cheri rated it it was ok
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
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:
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
Dec 03, 2007 Eric rated it really liked it
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
Mar 15, 2009 Laura rated it really liked it
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
Sep 09, 2007 Alicia rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 16, 2015 K rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Dan Ariely fans
As others have pointed out, contrary to what might think, this is not a self-help book. Rather, it's a book about cognitive biases that interfere with our ability to understand and predict exactly what makes us happy. Gilbert is both informative and entertaining, and I enjoyed the book overall but found myself oddly reluctant to pick it up at times. Was it too dense with information? Was it missing a sense of a cohesive thesis statement? Or was it just timing on my part? I'm not sure whether it ...more
May 20, 2011 Froztwolf rated it it was amazing
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
May 29, 2008 Alana rated it liked it
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
Adam Ross
Jun 27, 2015 Adam Ross rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
A fascinating book that reveals how the human mind actively works against our own happiness. It turns out that what we think will make us happy is what actually makes us less happy, and the more we rationalize about what will make us happy, the less able we are to see what will actually make us happy. The book is an exploration in how the imagination fools us pretty much every time through mental trickery and how our projections into the future about our emotions are strongly deceptive. His solu ...more
Zhiyar Qadri
Oct 26, 2014 Zhiyar Qadri rated it it was amazing
one of the best Reads, great explanations of motives and reasons of our attitudes and behaivours when it comes to the pursuits of the ultimate mutual goal HAPPINESS. A beautiful insightfull science! looking forward to reread it and read other books by Daniel Gilbert
Jun 15, 2014 Cara rated it it was amazing
If I were to overthink this review I would probably give this book 4 stars, but apparently I will regret it less in hindsight if I go with my gut and give it 5...

I enjoyed this book, it's not overly complicated, maybe it's a bit patronising, but it's more just written in simple english, which is quite refreshing compared to many books which just like to throw in that bit of wankiness so the author sounds that bit more profound. This is no self help book, just a fascinating insight (backed with l
Aug 19, 2010 Jaclyn rated it really liked it
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
Dec 24, 2007 Huyen rated it it was amazing
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
This book is about how people naturally stink at predicting how they'll feel in the future as a result of things that will happen to them, either by their own volition or not. You think you know what'll make you happy or sad, and how much, and for how long, but chances are you're quite wrong. It's chock-full of interesting psychological experiments that demonstrate this phenomenon. This is a lot of fun if you're a psychology nerd, but it's also a repetition of a lot of stuff that's taught in Psy ...more
Apr 14, 2008 B. rated it really liked it
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
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“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.” 71 likes
“Our brain accepts what the eyes see and our eye looks for whatever our brain wants.” 56 likes
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