When we say we are happy, what do we really mean? What really makes us happy? I've read a fair bit of Psychology and Philosophy, but this book has done more to explain the emotion of happiness and how someone can find out what kinds of things have a good chance of causing happiness than any book I've read before.
Stumbling on Happiness will also teach the reader a great deal about how the mind works generally, and does so in a charming, humorous manner.Daniel Gilbert is a Psychology professor at Harvard University and has won several teaching awards. His personable writing style provedes examples and anecdotes that illustrate his point very well and very entertainingly. Illustrations are taken from Sir Conan Doyle, Cicero, The Wizard of Oz and lots of Shakespeare, being the great examiner of humannature that he was.An example I found particularly apt and funny is the way Gilbert describes "prefeeling,"or the way we try something out in our imagination in order to come to a conclusion regarding whether or not we want to actally experience it. Most North Americans, Gilbert posits, don't have to actually chew a sauteed spider or fried grasshopper to have a pretty good idea if we would like to have them served to us. The thought of one of those appetizers is enough to keep many of us from trying them. Thus, Fear Factor.
This isn't pop Psychology, however. The extensive endnotes (I have been labeled a "geek" by PhD-holding historians because I really do read endnotes) cite dozens of psychological studies and articles, both classic and new. Gilbert's evidence busts commonsensical myths regarding long-term responses to traumatic episodes (the vast majority of us recover just fine), perceptions based on limited amounts of information and on generalizations (Californians aren't necessarily happier than Ohioans) and peculiarities of economic behavior (price increases and pay reductions evoke highly negative reactions, regardless of actual cumulative impacts).
Stumbling on Happiness my help the reader make better life choices, or just decide what to have for dinner. He or she will certainly understand the process of making those decisions much better than they did before.