Daniel Gilbert (psychologist)

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Daniel Gilbert
Daniel Todd Gilbert.jpg
Born Daniel Todd Gilbert
(1957-11-05) November 5, 1957 (age 57)
Occupation Professor, non-fiction writer
Nationality American
Alma mater University of Colorado (BA)
Princeton University (PhD)
Period 1983–present
Genre social psychology
Notable works Stumbling on Happiness (2006)
Spouse Marilynn Oliphant
Relatives Shona Gilbert

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 short, non-fiction television series on PBS, and given three popular TED talks.


At the age of 19, Gilbert was a high school dropout who wanted to be a science fiction writer. In an attempt to improve his writing skills, he took a bus to the local community college to enroll in a creative writing class. When he was told that the creative writing class was full, he signed up for the only class that was still open: Introduction to Psychology.[1] Gilbert eventually received a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from University of Colorado Denver in 1981 and a Ph.D. in social psychology from Princeton University's Department of Psychology in 1985. From 1985 to 1996, he was a faculty member at the University of Texas at Austin. Since 1996, he has been a faculty member at Harvard University.

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


Gilbert's 2006 book, Stumbling on Happiness, 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, The 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"[2] which aired on PBS in January, 2010 and won several Telly Awards.

His has given three popular TED talks, including one of the 20 most-viewed talks of all time (as of December 2013).[3]

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[4] by toppling a 30-foot 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.

Awards and distinctions[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.


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