Browsing the new TED website I was led to this video of a 20 minute talk by Harvard psychologist Dan Gilbert. He explains some fascinating insights into happiness and what he calls “synthetic happiness”. That’s basically shorthand for the happiness we generate when we don’t get what we want. Apparently we’re surprsingly good at making it, so that both getting big things we want, or big things we don’t, have much less impact on our lives than we expect.
He also describes an experiment where subjects are given a choice of two pictures. In one group, they’re told they can change their minds over four days. The other group are told their choice is irreversible. Guess what: the one’s who don’t get the flexibility end up liking their pictures a lot more. An interesting sidebar on the value of freedom of choice.
For me, this supports the idea of obliquity: getting things in indirect ways. We seem to be less-than-expert at predicting what will make us happy… and probably therefore put ourselves through too many false hoops trying to bring it about. This thought has now triggered me to order Gilbert’s Stumbling on Happiness to find out more.
Now I’m off to the pub for a drink with Alex Kjerulf who I dare say will have views on all this…