Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert - Book Report

Essay by eidUniversity, Bachelor'sB, March 2009

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In Stumbling on Happiness, Daniel Gilbet explores the concept of happiness through a scientific and psychological standpoint, and shows us how our perceptions of happiness is distorted. Gilbert begins his argument by making the claim that "the human being is the only animal that thinks about the future." Indeed, when ordinary animals such as squirrels seem to plan for the future by saving food for the winter, for example, they are merely "nexting" or predicting a future event in accordance to their reflex and instinctive tendencies. On the other hand, when humans plan for the future, they are able to imagine it due to the existence of the frontal lobe in their brains. So why do humans construct imaginary futures? Gilbert claims that imagining about a pleasant future event can be pleasurable, while imagining an unpleasant event can minimize its negative impact. As humans, we come into the world with a desire for control.

Imaginging the future allows us to control or change what is about to happen to us.

Gilbert makes the case that happiness is a subjective feeling and it is therefore not possible to define or compare the levels of happiness between two people. To an outsider, Lori and Reba, the conjoined twins, may look sad and unhappy, but they are in fact happy in their situation. But surely, we can compare our own levels of happiness? Gilbert claims otherwise and claims that our own memories are very inaccurate and therefore, we cannot depend on our memory to compare our happiness. It is possible that people can be mistaken about what they feel and this is evident when Gilbert describes a study in which subjects had misinterpreted their feeling of fear for sexual arousal. People can also experience something without being aware of it, as is...