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Stumbling on Happiness

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  58,923 ratings  ·  2,948 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
Paperback, 263 pages
Published March 20th 2007 by Vintage (first published January 1st 2006)
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John Paz Don't hold back, tell us how you really feel.…moreDon't hold back, tell us how you really feel.(less)

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Average rating 3.82  · 
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 ·  58,923 ratings  ·  2,948 reviews

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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
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
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
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
Apr 11, 2008 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 29, 2007 rated it liked it
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
K.J. Charles
Not a self help book. This is really about how and why we find it so hard to predict how we're going to feel about things in the future. Which, of course, has huge implications for happiness: if we decide money will make us happy and devote our lives to making as much money as possible, things are unlikely to end as hoped. It's basically about decision-making, risk aversion, and blind spots in our predictive abilities (especially how hard it is to work things out from absences). Very interesting ...more
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
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
Mario Tomic
Jan 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is one of my favorite books on how the human brain works. It exposes all the weaknesses we have in our thinking process, helps break down things we consider "normal", and much much more. Very good material, highly recommended! ...more
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
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
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 than 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....
Maggie CO
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
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.
Timothy Urgest
Sep 02, 2020 rated it liked it
Content > presentation.

Read for class.
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
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
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
Jun 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
This book is written by a Harvard Psychologist and is a compilation of research on happiness. It is not a self-help--it's a very realist portrayal of happiness. The thesis is basically that we don't know what makes us happy because of a variety of tricks our brain and memory play on us. We make great plans about the future based on how we think we will feel about certain things, but we are usually wrong about how we would actually feel about those things. The book includes some fascinating studi ...more
Yousif Al Zeera
Aug 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, yz
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
Addie H
Jul 21, 2021 marked it as did-not-finish  ·  review of another edition
DNF 20%

Don't need this, I'm happy as a clam


(I don't think self-help books are my thing)

Sanjay Gautam
Jul 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shockingly Enlightening!
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
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
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
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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

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