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The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom

4.1 of 5 stars 4.10  ·  rating details  ·  7,338 ratings  ·  583 reviews
Jonathan Haidt skillfully combines two genres-philosophical wisdom and scientific research-delighting the reader with surprising insights. He explains, for example, why we have such difficulty controlling ourselves and sticking to our plans; why no achievement brings lasting happiness, yet a few changes in your life can have profound effects, and why even confirmed atheist ...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published December 26th 2005 by Basic Books
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Chris
Jul 09, 2008 Chris rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Shelves: cognition
When pitching Jonathan Haidt's "Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom" to friends, I often find myself explaining away the title -- no, it's not another self-help book and yes, it's about more than just plastering a silly smile on your face. With that said, the title is appropriate; Haidt is chiefly concerned with what's responsible for making humans happy.

The title fails, however, to convey the breadth and depth of Haidt's search, which touches on philosophy, psychology,
...more
Richard
Mar 03, 2012 Richard rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Richard by: Cognitive Science Reading & Discussion Group
As I was reading the first few chapters, I put this book on my “to buy” list, but my enthusiasm ebbed as I finished the book, and my natural inclination not to buy books I never expect to re-read has taken over.

But it’s still a book I think I can recommend: it has plenty of interesting and thoughtful points to make, a few that are confusing and disconcerting, as well as some advice towards the front of the book.


The early chapters have a bit of a “self-help” feel that dissipates further into the
...more
Trevor
First of all there is a tone to this book that I thought from the beginning was really going to be a problem for me. I guess that is the tone of self-help books. All the same, this book was much more interesting and much more challenging (at least, to me) than most other self-help books I’ve read. I actually found parts of this book quite confronting.

The parts of this book that I liked the most were those where he was discussing his elephant and rider metaphor. Essentially, he believes that we a
...more
Cheryl
I enjoyed this a lot, but it's so rich, and so concise (fifty of those pages are unimportant addendum), that I want to discuss it with others. And I've needed time to think about how to write this review.

It is good science, written by a psychology professor who is a Jewish atheist. He just wants us to think about universal axioms from a balanced perspective. We who are atheists can't deny that religion and spirituality are important to lots of people, so we need to explore that. He does most of
...more
Kate Savage
I could probably give this book two stars if I hadn't just got my fill of evo-psy smarm from Steven Pinker. Haidt's got the same penchant to 1) explain away the cultural status quo as a natural consequence of biological human nature; 2) present all of his ideas as scientific consensus, when there are very few non-controversial conclusions in positive psychology (it's fine for him to stick with his theory, but his disinterest in bringing up these disagreements leaves me very distrustful of him); ...more
Orton Family Foundation
I’ve often marveled at how seemingly rational people can forgo reason when engaged in public debate over a land use issue. A few years back I was involved in a community meeting about a new village scale project being proposed for the center of a small Vermont town. Even faced with a plethora of facts, figures and testimonials to the contrary, many people held fast to their belief that the project—designed to mimic the design and spacing of the clustered houses already in the village center—woul ...more
Michael Johnston
Finished reading this last night. Two things first - 1) the book is not really about ancient wisdom. It's primarily about current research/thinking in the field of Psychology on emotional happiness. 2) The first third of the book is among the most depressing things I have ever read. The book starts by focusing on the view that humans have virtually no control over our own ability to be happy (or miserable). It's genetic - we are born with an innate predisposition towards personal happiness or mi ...more
Jenny
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Payam
I love this book. I truly do! It is a combination of the three subjects I think about most: psychology, philosophy, and religion.

In the Happiness Hypothesis the (humble) author brings together theories of the past, the theories of religion, and updates them with understandings from psychology. In many ways, he either adjusts traditional thinking with science or he validates traditional thinking with science. It is an excellent approach that must have taken the author a long time to put together
...more
Karson
The short conclusion at the end of this book was really good. I wish the rest of the book stuck to the author's concise summary a little bit better. In some of Haidt's best advice within the whole book he says, "Just as plants need sun, water, and good soil to thrive, people need love, work, and a connection to something larger." He adds, "You have to get the conditions right, and then wait." There are a lot of other good insights in the book, but I find them to be burried in piles of other not ...more
Nyamka Ganni
If you are in passionate love and want to celebrate your passion, read poetry. If your ardor has calmed and you want to understand your evolving relationship, read psychology. But if you have just ended a relationship and would like to believe you are better off without love, read philosophy. and if you are unsure about what category falls for you, just read this book! :D
Julie
I've been slogging away at this book for nearly a month, which is unusual for me. Usually, if I stall on a book (as I did with three other books I started reading over the month of February), I simply put it down with a note that it's been partially read. But The Happiness Hypothesis was so compelling that I kept coming back after putting it down and letting my mind digest the material. It's a book that's designed to be read slowly.

I discovered this book through Switch, by Chip and Dan Heath, wh
...more
Jan Rice
If I hadn't read Daniel Kahneman's Thinking, Fast and Slow, first, I may not have been able to get into The Happiness Hypothesis. Although they mine some of the same territory, The Happiness Hypothesis is an ordinary book. Kahneman's book, on the other hand, is a land mine. I think he wrote it using the knowledge that was his subject matter, giving it its penetrating power. Haidt, on the other hand, comes across as attempting to "convert" the reader, which can set up some resistance. Also, while ...more
Gabrielle
Just Finished This One

Now I realize this is just IMHO, but this book is quite possibly the BEST book on happiness I have ever read. It's not just the "I'm Okay, You're Okay," or 'don't have the luxury of a negative thought' mentality. Neither of those approaches have ever worked for me - and honestly, most of the time I feel that the people who write books like those mentioned have never actually struggled with more than a day or two of the blues.

This book does a terrific job of arguing for natu
...more
Michael
Don’t be put off by the title! It sounds wishy-washy, but it’s not. Haidt’s claims are specific and empirical, and are backed-up with citations to published studies.

The Happiness Hypothesis serves two functions: (1) it’s a psychology professor’s introduction to his chosen subfield (“positive psychology”), which aims to help people “find happiness and meaning” (Kindle Loc. 132); and (2) it explores the continued applicability of (mostly ancient and/or religious) philosophical and moral ideas, in
...more
Ed
Dec 04, 2007 Ed rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: evelyn, anna
Claire thinks this is the best book I have put her way in recent years and now has about six of her friends reading it. I seem to get good feedback from others I have suggested it to. Basically Jon Haidt (who I have had email correspondance with about the link between his work and mine) looks at what thinkers over the last 3000 years have said about what makes us happy and then applied modern neuro-science and the emerging study of positive psychology to see what light it throws on ancient wisdo ...more
Kurtbg
What is happiness? What makes a person happy?

This is a medium-weight book that remains balanced by combining religious and philosophical ideas with the neuroscience and biology of the captain of all our lives - the brain. (See Swab's We our are Brain.

The chapters tackle different viewpoints and provides viewpoints on what makes an individual and collection of individuals happy - or happier.

The author likens the brain as consisting of two parts, a driver and an elephant, which is depicted on the
...more
Lisa
Aug 21, 2014 Lisa rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Haidt, a UVa professor, systematically explores what conditions make for a happy life. A little too wordy, especially at first, Haidt cites studies and the research of others to back up his ideas. Most of Haidt's hypothesis rang true to me as I listened to his explanations, although some ideas seem counter intuitive at first.
Overall interesting and worth reading! If you are in the depths of depression, this book may not be your lifesaver. However if you ponder the concepts listed, you may be ab
...more
Yazeed
No review would do this book justice. This is simply one of the most enlightening and thought-provoking books I've read in a very long while. Worth every hour spent reading and thinking. That's all I can say.
Jackie
Subjective rating alert*: This is a lovely book that repeated information from all of the other lovely books I've read on the psychology of happiness.

*as if there's some other form lololololol
Nithya Nagarathinam

This book starts off as great. It neatly draws from the ancient philosophy and extrapolates the relevance of ancient wisdom to modern life. For example, the elephant-rider analogy, for which it gets one star. But somewhere in the middle, it loses itself in theological arguments. The scope of the book is so broad that the title becomes misleading.

The book gets another star for the valuable insights into human psychology, morality and life in general that lie interspersed in between elaborate dig
...more
Pittayut Panswasdi
- ชื้อหนังสือพาลให้นึกถึง self-help สาม้ญทั่วไป ไม่ใช่ครับ เข้าใจตรงกันนะ
- แต่เรามองว่ามันเป็นหนังสือในอุดมคติของนักจิตวิทยาสมัยใหม่ที่จะพยายามทำความเข้าใจ "จิตใจ" ของมนุษย์เราผ่านสามแง่มุม คือทางด้านชีววิทยา (พวกฟังก์ชันต่างๆของร่างกาย สมอง ฮอร์โมน พันธุกรรมรวมไปถึงทฤษฏีวิวัฒนาการ), ทางด้านสังคมวัฒนธรรมรวมไปถึงมิติทางด้านจิตวิทยาที่ศึกษากลไกต่างๆของจิตใจมนุษย์ซึ่งลุง Haidth ผํูเขียนเอง มีฐานทางด้านปรัชญา จิตวิทยาเชิงบวก และจิตวิทยาวัฒนธรรมมาก่อน จึงเป็นที่มาของการนำทฤษฏี สมมติฐาน หรือ myth เกี่
...more
Khuyen
THE MOST PERSONALLY INFLUENTIAL BOOK I'VE EVER READ. LIKE ENLIGHTENMENT.

Random notes before I have time to write a proper review.

Feeling of elevation aptly captured by Thomas Jefferson in defending fiction (and explaining so enthusiastically why he recommends books): they provide an experience in which we can depart from our profane self to something greater, and we yearn to be like that! And if that's a common theme in lots of adolescents then perhaps it's a stage in our bio development.

Meani
...more
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
And thus we move, logically, to The Happiness Hypothesis. Ben Tanaka, main character of Shortcomings, could use The Happiness Hypothesis. Ginger Pye and the rest of the Pye family apparently intuitively knew The Happiness Hypothesis.
Haidt looks at ancient wisdom and compares it to the result of the new science of positive psychology. Some of the things I learned from this book:

*Reciprocity is the best guide to life. This is the classic “Do unto others” thought.

*There are three effective ways t
...more
Nancy
The Happiness Hypothesis is a synthesis of information from positive psychology, social psychology, philosophy, biology and religion to explore what is most likely to make individuals lead satisfying, happy lives. Although the author makes it clear that he is an atheist, he should be given credit for his recognition of the strengths offered to individuals and communities by religion and his respectful treatment of the subject of religion.

This could have been a very dry book. The author consiste
...more
Lena Tumasyan
I picked up this book for a book club. I read it in hardcover, from the library. I liked this book, but it did take a while to read. It was more scientific then I thought it would be.

It was actually very interesting bc of the research and studies that were used, and that is one of the things I appreciated the most. That the information wasn't just opinion, it was BACKED-UP by science. I also liked that the author himself performed some of the studies in the book. It shows that he really cares a
...more
Julie
I am thankful for the lovely metaphor that Haidt uses to describe how brains work like a rider and elephant. Haidt describing the elephant as our ancestral, subconscious system that drives our most elemental impulses - the rider is our frontal cortex, the higher mental functions, good/bad, future consequences.

This is the paragraph I love:

"The image that I came up with for myself, as I marveled at my weakness, was that I was a rider on the back of an elephant. I'm holding the reins in my hands, a
...more
Bob Nichols
At the end of his book, Haidt says there are two ways we look at the meaning of life. One way looks at humans from the outside, where people are objects within a broader cosmic context. Meaning here is speculative, ranging from God-given hope and destiny to a mechanical and meaningless universe. The other way looks at humans from within, where people exist as subjects. Here, Haidt argues that science can establish some basic empirical truths.

Drawing on a wide variety of evidence, Haidt argues t
...more
Rubina
"What is the meaning of Life" is often deemed as the Holy Grail of question. While many books have been devoted to trying to answer this question, The Happiness Hypothesis, i think address it quite insightfully. Using the metaphor of a rider on an elephant, in which the rider represents the conscious mind and the elephant represents the unconscious mind, this struggle for control between our conscious (reasoned processes) and our nonconscious (implicit processes) minds explains why we have such ...more
Taka
A gold mine--

Imminently readable, full of wisdom both ancient and modern, and unbelievably edifying, this book deserves the highest of praises. Haidt manages to merge philosophy, psychology, sociology, and religious studies to present an irresistibly fascinating work of - for lack of a better term - philosophy, as it was understood in the ancient times. It's an incredible guide on how to live a happy life, and to do that, he marshalls everything from Socrates, the Bible, the Romans, the Chinese
...more
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Jonathan Haidt is the Thomas Cooley Professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University's Stern School of Business. He is the author of The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion and The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom. He lives in New York City.
More about Jonathan Haidt...
The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion Meaning in Life and Why It Matters

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“If you are in passionate love and want to celebrate your passion, read poetry. If your ardor has calmed and you want to understand your evolving relationship, read psychology. But if you have just ended a relationship and would like to believe you are better off without love, read philosophy.” 18 likes
“Happiness is not something that you can find, acquire, or achieve directly. You have to get the conditions right and then wait. Some of those conditions are within you, such as coherence among the parts and levels of your personality. Other conditions require relationships to things beyond you: Just as plants need sun, water, and good soil to thrive, people need love, work, and a connection to something larger. It is worth striving to get the right relationships between yourself and others, between yourself and your work, and between yourself and something larger thank yourself. If you get these relationships right, a sense of purpose and meaning will emerge.” 11 likes
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