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Stumbling on Happiness

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  45,983 ratings  ·  2,358 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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Aug 04, 2007 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 21, 2009 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
Aug 12, 2015 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
Amir Tesla
Aug 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: psychology, happiness
روزی روزگاری یک مرد با ریش های سفید یه زمین مسطح درست می کنه وسط آسمون که درون نسل بشر در مرکزیت همه چیز قرار داشت و از جمله خورشید به دورش می چرخیدن. همه خوب و خوش بودن دور هم تا اینکه علم فیزیک اومد و با تئوری هایی مثل بیگ بنگ و ذرات کوانتومی و سیاه چاله ها و ... همه چیز و انقد پیچیده کردن تا اینکه نتییجتا چندین سال بعد آدم دیگه نمی دونه کجای جهان هستی قرار داره.
علم روانشناسی هم با رو کردن خطاهایی که در غریضه و سیستم فکری و شناختی ما وجود داره به همین صورت مشکلایی رو مطرح کرده که قبلا وجود
Apr 11, 2008 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 03, 2007 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
Jun 17, 2011 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
Caitlin Krause
Apr 29, 2007 rated it liked it
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
Oct 12, 2007 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 10, 2015 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
Lubinka Dimitrova
A wickedly funny, deeply educating and eye-opening book. I'll continue to fool myself that I know what I'm doing, feeling, seeing and thinking, but thanks to this book, I hope that I'll increase the basic level of happiness to which all people seem to revert to eventually.

I immensely enjoyed the brilliant writing and the wit of the author, which definitely added to the pleasure of reading this book.

"Despite the third word in the title, this is not an instruction manual that will tell you anyth
May 13, 2008 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 11, 2008 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
Feb 21, 2008 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 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
May 27, 2009 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
Mar 25, 2008 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
Sep 09, 2007 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
Jun 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars. This was really good and not at all what I was expecting. This is not a self help book on how to find happiness. It is more of a study on why we are so bad at predicting what will make us happy. Very interesting read, definitely recommend if you are interested in psychology and how the brain works.
Yousif Al Zeera
Aug 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: yz, nonfiction
A great book by a great author. He may not authored so much but this book is remarkably insightful. I came to know about it through a TED talk by the same author.

The books sheds light, "social-sciencly" (read the 'not-in-dictionary' word as an adverb), on happiness. The main take is that biases creep in all of us and it is more often that not that we fail to know what will bring us more happiness. We always fail in our estimates/projections. But wait, there is a solution to it. And guess what? I
May 03, 2018 rated it did not like it
I suppose that being a textbook writer is the reason that this author writes as though he is completely oblivious of his audience. It reads like a psychology lecture by a pompous professor who is more amused by his own knowledge then in the passion and excitement of learning. And much like most college classes, even though there are a few laughs, it mostly just drags and drags....
Nov 29, 2009 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
Dec 22, 2007 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
Clif Hostetler
This study of how our minds work provides an interesting insight into the human condition. The book examines why we are not very good at achieving happiness even though we're very good at imagining scenarios of our future happiness. The book's narrative unfolds like a psychological detective story about the mystery of why there is so much pursuit of happiness but so little satisfaction at achieving happiness. After all, pursuit of happiness must be very important to us since it is one of the ina ...more
Dec 01, 2007 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
May 07, 2011 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
Mar 05, 2009 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
Zhiyar Qadri
Jun 18, 2014 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
May 27, 2008 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
Vy  Nguyen
Jul 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Let's start with what makes this a delightful read. First, it's a psychology book, but not a dry and boring one because the writing is conversational and very undergrad-friendly. Of course it's more like a conversation with a professor (in which he does most of the talking), but this professor is a witty guy and he can keep you amused for a long while on his educational topics. I'm one of those students who like to talk with old funny professors, so perhaps that's why I enjoy this book so much t ...more
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  • The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want
  • Happiness: The Science Behind Your Smile
  • The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less
  • The Liar in Your Life: The Way to Truthful Relationships
  • Strangers to Ourselves: Discovering the Adaptive Unconscious
  • Happier: Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment
  • Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life
  • Curious?: Discover the Missing Ingredient to a Fulfilling Life
  • Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth
  • The Hidden Brain: How Our Unconscious Minds Elect Presidents, Control Markets, Wage Wars, and Save Our Lives
  • A Mind of Its Own: How Your Brain Distorts and Deceives
  • How We Know What Isn't So: The Fallibility of Human Reason in Everyday Life
  • The Science of Happiness: How Our Brains Make Us Happy-and What We Can Do to Get Happier
  • Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts
  • Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior
  • The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home
  • Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention
  • The Invisible Gorilla: And Other Ways Our Intuitions Deceive Us
Daniel Todd Gilbert is an American social psychologist and writer. He is the Edgar Pierce Professor of Psychology at Harvard University, and is known for his research with Timothy Wilson of the University of Virginia on affective forecasting.
“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.” 82 likes
“Our brain accepts what the eyes see and our eye looks for whatever our brain wants.” 66 likes
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