Measuring the unmeasurable: happiness research

Dan Gilbert doesn’t have an instruction manual that tells you how to be happy in four easy steps and one hard one. Nor is he the kind of thinker who needs Freud, Marx, and Modernism to explain the human condition.

Gilbert, the Director of Harvard’s Hedonic Psychology Laboratory, is a scientist who explores what philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, and behavioral economics have to teach us about how, and how well the human brain can imagine its own future, and about how, and how well it can predict which of those futures it will most enjoy.

Below he talks about a wide range of matters that include how we measure a person’s subjective emotional experience; the role of “positive hedonic experience“; science as an attempt to replace qualitative distinctions with quantitative distinctions; the role negative emotions play in our lives; the costs of variety; and the need to abandon the romantic notion that human unhappiness results from the loss of our primal innocence.

John Brockman JB

DANIEL GILBERT is he Harvard College Professor of Psychology at Harvard University and Director of Harvard’s Hedonic Psychology Laboratory.

He is the author of the recently published Stumbling on Happiness.