Stumbling on Happiness

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Stumbling on Happiness
Stumbling on Happiness.jpg
Softcover edition
Author Daniel Gilbert
Country United States
Language English
Subject Psychology
Genre Non-fiction
Publisher Knopf
Publication date
Media type Print, e-book, audiobook
ISBN 1-4000-4266-6
OCLC 61362165
158 22
LC Class BF575.H27 G55 2006

Stumbling on Happiness is a non-fiction book by Daniel Gilbert. It was published in the United States and Canada in 2006 by Knopf, and has been translated into more than 30 languages. It is a New York Times bestseller.


Gilbert's central thesis is that, through perception and cognitive biases, people imagine the future poorly, in particular what will make them happy. He argues that imagination fails in three ways:[1]

  1. Imagination tends to add and remove details, but people do not realize that key details may be fabricated or missing from the imagined scenario.
  2. Imagined futures (and pasts) are more like the present than they actually will be (or were).
  3. Imagination fails to realize that things will feel different once they actually happen—most notably, the psychological immune system will make bad things feel not so bad as they are imagined to feel.

The advice Gilbert offers is to use other people's experiences to predict the future, instead of imagining it. It is surprising how similar people are in much of their experiences, he says. He does not expect too many people to heed this advice, as our culture, accompanied by various thinking tendencies, is against this method of decision making.

Also, Gilbert covers the topic of 'filling in' or the frequent use of patterns, by the mind, to connect events which we do actually recall with other events we expect or anticipate fit into the expected experience. This 'filling in' is also used by our eyes and optic nerves to remove our blind spot or scotoma, and instead substitute what our mind expects to be present in the blind spot.

The book is written for the layperson, generally avoiding abstruse terminology and explaining common quirks of reasoning through simple experiments that exploited them.


In 2007, the book was awarded the Royal Society Prizes for Science Books general prize for the best science writing for a non-specialist audience.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ (Gilbert 2006, pp. 224–228)


External links[edit]