Daniel Gilbert (psychologist)

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Daniel Gilbert
BornDaniel Todd Gilbert
(1957-11-05) November 5, 1957 (age 63)
Ithaca, New York
OccupationEdgar Pierce Professor of Psychology, Harvard University
Alma materUniversity of Colorado (BA)
Princeton University (PhD)
GenreSocial psychology
Notable worksStumbling on Happiness (2006)
Notable awardsEarly Career Award (American Psychological Association)
William James Award (Association for Psychological Science)
SpouseMarilynn Oliphant

Daniel Todd Gilbert (born November 5, 1957) is an American social psychologist and writer. He is the Edgar Pierce Professor of Psychology at Harvard University and is known for his research with Timothy Wilson of the University of Virginia on affective forecasting. He is the author of the international bestseller Stumbling on Happiness, which has been translated into more than 30 languages and won the 2007 Royal Society Prizes for Science Books. He has also written essays for several newspapers and magazines, hosted a non-fiction television series on PBS, and given three popular TED talks.

Life and career[edit]

Gilbert received a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from University of Colorado Denver in 1981 and a PhD in social psychology from Princeton University in 1985. From 1985 to 1996, he was a faculty member at the University of Texas at Austin. Since 1996, he has worked at Harvard University where he is currently the Edgar Pierce Professor of Psychology.

He and his wife, Marilynn Oliphant, live in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Gilbert has one son and three grandchildren.


Gilbert's 2006 book, Stumbling on Happiness, as mentioned before, was a New York Times bestseller and has been translated into more than 30 languages. It won the 2007 Royal Society Prizes for Science Books and was included as one of fifty key books in psychology in 50 Psychology Classics (2006) by Tom Butler-Bowdon.

Gilbert's non-fiction essays have appeared in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Forbes, TIME, and others, and his short stories have appeared in Amazing Stories and Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, as well as other magazines and anthologies. He has been a guest on numerous television shows including 20/20, the Today Show, Charlie Rose, and The Colbert Report. He is the co-writer and host of the 6-hour NOVA television series "This Emotional Life"[1] which aired on PBS in January, 2010 and won several Telly Awards.

He has given three popular TED talks, including one of the 20 most-viewed talks of all time (as of December 2013).[2]

Beginning in 2013, Gilbert appeared in a series of Prudential Financial television commercials that used data visualization to get Americans to think about the importance of saving for their retirements. For example, in one advertisement, people were asked to put stickers on a time-line to indicate the age of the oldest person they knew to illustrate the recent increase in life expectancy. In another, Gilbert started a chain-reaction and set a Guinness World Record[3] by toppling a 30-foot (9 m) domino to illustrate the power of compound interest. In a third, people put magnets on walls marked "Past" and "Future" to illustrate the optimism bias.


  • Gilbert, Daniel (2006). Stumbling on Happiness. New York, NY: Knopf. ISBN 1-400-04266-6.
  • Fiske, Susan T.; Gilbert, Daniel T.; Lindzey, Gardner (2010). Handbook of Social Psychology (5th ed.). Hoboken, N.J: Wiley. ISBN 9780470137482.

Scholarly Articles[edit]

Gilbert has also collaborated with other scholars on articles published in academic journals like Psychological Science, Social Cognition, and Current Directions in Psychological Science.

"How Happy Was I, Anyway?' A Retrospective Impact Bias," Social Cognition (2003)[edit]

  • Gilbert wrote "'How Happy Was I, Anyway?' A Retrospective Impact Bias" with Timothy D. Wilson and Jay Meyers in Social Cognition in 2003. The article included the scholars' study that found that humans believe their futures have more of a direct effect on their emotions and mood than future events actually do.[4]

"The Least Likely of Times: How Remembering the Past Biases Forecasts of the Future," Psychological Science (2005)[edit]

  • In Psychological Science, Gilbert contributed to "The Least Likely of Times: How Remembering the Past Biases Forecasts of the Future" in 2005, which included studies that demonstrated that people rely on memories of past events when predicting and thinking about their futures. The study also concluded that people primarily rely on memorable but unique and atypical life events to make these sort of predictions about their futures.[5]

"Affective Forecasting: Knowing What to Want," Current Directions in Psychological Science (2005)[edit]

  • Gilbert co-authored "Affective Forecasting: Knowing What to Want" with Timothy D. Wilson in 2005 in Current Directions in Psychological Science. In this piece, the two scholars studied how humans make all life choices with a lens that leads them to consider how that decision would impact their future happiness. Gilbert and Wilson call this tendency to base decisions off of their impact on eventual feelings "affective forecasts." The study also took into account impact bias, or when people miscalculate how much or how little a future event will affect one's levels of happiness. However, the two could not definitively claim whether or not these affective forecasts had a positive impact on human lives in practice.[6]

"A Wrinkle in Time: Asymmetric Valuation of Past and Future Events," Psychological Science (2008)[edit]

  • In 2008, Gilbert co-authored "A Wrinkle in Time: Asymmetric Valuation of Past and Future Events" in Psychological Science, which included Gilbert's studies conducted with Eugene M. Caruso and Timothy D. Wilson that illustrated that humans value future events more than past events.[7]

Awards and honors[edit]

Gilbert has won numerous awards for his teaching, including the Harvard College Professorship and the Phi Beta Kappa Teaching Prize. He has also won awards for his research, including the American Psychological Association's Distinguished Scientific Award for an Early Career Contribution to Psychology. In 2008 he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Gilbert was awarded an honorary degree from Bates College, in Lewiston, Maine on May 29, 2016.[8] In 2019, he received the William James Fellow Award from the Association for Psychological Science for his contributions to social psychology.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "This Emotional LifePremieres on PBS early 2010". PBS. Archived from the original on October 11, 2009.
  2. ^ "The 20 most popular TED Talks, as of December 2013". 16 December 2013.
  3. ^ "Prudential Newsroom: Home". Archived from the original on 2015-07-22.
  4. ^ Wilson, Timothy D.; Meyers, Jay; Gilbert, Daniel T. (December 2003). ""How Happy Was I, Anyway?" A Retrospective Impact Bias". Social Cognition. 21 (6): 421–446. doi:10.1521/soco.21.6.421.28688. ISSN 0278-016X.
  5. ^ Morewedge, Carey K.; Gilbert, Daniel T.; Wilson, Timothy D. (2005-08-01). "The Least Likely of Times: How Remembering the Past Biases Forecasts of the Future". Psychological Science. 16 (8): 626–630. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9280.2005.01585.x. ISSN 0956-7976. PMID 16102065. S2CID 9589696.
  6. ^ Wilson, Timothy D.; Gilbert, Daniel T. (June 2005). "Affective Forecasting". Current Directions in Psychological Science. 14 (3): 131–134. doi:10.1111/j.0963-7214.2005.00355.x. ISSN 0963-7214. S2CID 18373805.
  7. ^ Caruso, Eugene M.; Gilbert, Daniel T.; Wilson, Timothy D. (August 2008). "A Wrinkle in Time". Psychological Science. 19 (8): 796–801. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9280.2008.02159.x. ISSN 0956-7976. PMID 18816287. S2CID 15365315.
  8. ^ "Civil Rights leader Rep. John Lewis to deliver 2016 Commencement address, joining honorands Lisa Genova '92, Daniel Gilbert and Robert Witt '62". www.bates.edu. Retrieved 2016-05-20.
  9. ^ "2019 William James Fellow Award Goes to Phelps, Gilbert, Nadel, Werker". Observer. 31 (9): 11. 2018-10-31.

External links[edit]