WSBG reviews Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert


This is a good book for a book group to read because it provides so much fodder for discussion.51crtfekp9l_sl500_aa240_

It’s about how what we think makes us happy really doesn’t. Mostly because humans are not very good at imagining the future when we rely on our own imaginations to do so. (Because we base our imagined future too much on what we feel in the present.)

We are, however, amazingly good at rationalizing, which means we can pretty much decide to be happy pretty much whenever we want to if only we understand ourselves better.

We also have an uncanny ability to remember dramatic events and generalize them so we believe them to be typical. (That’s why we are convinced we always pick the slowest moving line at the checkout stand.)

There are so many interesting things in this book, including some that are really useful, like helping you understand why you don’t order what you really want when you are dining with others and why we can’t think of the name of one song while another is playing.

We generally enjoyed reading the book, although we had a couple of quibbles. We got a little annoyed with the author’s unrelenting attempts at humor (what Darcy so accurately labeled his “preciousness”). And we think he made a mistake by asserting that humans are the only species that predict the future.

In that case, Reba wants to know why chimpanzees store up rocks to throw at humans?

When will humans learn? Every time they claim that some behavior (e.g., tool making, language) is unique to their species, somebody discovers an exception.

So I think I’ve finally got it:  Humans are the only species constantly searching for a unique trait that distinguishes them from all other species.


2 responses

  1. Chimps do a much better job of predicting the future than people do. Those rocks will rarely go to waste. And I’m not even sure that humans are the only species constantly searching for a unique trait that distinguishes them from all other species. If cats could talk, I think we might get an earful.

    In the interest of giving humans some distinction, may I suggest that humans are the only species worth the effort of collecting a bunch of nicely throwable rocks? Especially tourists.

  2. By george, i think you’ve got it! No other species could possibly cause as much offense as humans!