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The Best of TED: Why are we happy?

By Brian | September 3, 2010 | Share on Facebook

Here’s another installment of my Best of TED series, in which I share talks from the Technology, Entertainment and Design conference that have struck me over the years as particularly insightful or fascinating.

Today’s installment represents the only time I’ve found two videos from the same presenter that struck me as worth discussing. Harvard psychologist, Dan Gilbert, discusses the concept of happiness, and uses the scientific method to examine how it is created and how long it lasts. Here’s a good way to summarize the talk:

We believe that synthetic happiness is not of the same quality as what we might call natural happiness. What are these terms? Natural happiness is what we get when we get what we wanted, and synthetic happiness is what we make when we don’t get what we wanted. And in our society, we have a strong belief that synthetic happiness is of an inferior kind.

He goes on to present situations where people don’t get what they want, but legitimately come away from the experience happier than they otherwise would have. And he proves that it’s real by testing the same theories on amnesiacs, and through the more traditional control groups.

If you feel like you’re constantly searching for happiness, give this a watch . . . and then go make some happiness of your own!

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