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Dan Gilbert: Why are we happy? Why aren’t we happy?

Dan Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness , challenges the idea that we’ll be miserable if we don’t get what we want. Our “psychological immune system” lets us feel truly happy even when things don’t go as planned.

He believes that, in our ardent, lifelong pursuit of happiness, most of us have the wrong map. In the same way that optical illusions fool our eyes — and fool everyone’s eyes in the same way — Gilbert argues that our brains systematically misjudge what will make us happy. And these quirks in our cognition make humans very poor predictors of our own bliss.

The premise of his current research — that our assumptions about what will make us happy are often wrong — is supported with clinical research drawn from psychology and neuroscience. But his delivery is what sets him apart. His engaging — and often hilarious — style pokes fun at typical human behavior and invokes pop-culture references everyone can relate to. This winning style translates also to Gilbert’s writing, which is lucid, approachable and laugh-out-loud funny. The immensely readable Stumbling on Happiness published in 2006, became a New York Times bestseller and has been translated into 20 languages.

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