New Book Summary: Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert

Published 4 months ago • 1 min read

In Stumbling on Happiness, Daniel Gilbert explains why we consistently err in predicting what will make us happy. It's a funny and quirky foray into the field of happiness; more of a psychology book than self-help. While Gilbert does offer a clear suggestion for how to make better predictions, he does not seem to expect readers to take it.

As usual, the key takeaways are below, and you can find the full summary by clicking the link above.


  • Happiness is hard to measure, because it’s a subjective state.
    • People may use different words to describe the same feeling.
    • Even experiences by the same person at different times are hard to compare as our memories are faulty.
    • The best we can do is take the honest, real-time report of the attentive individual and remember that it’s imperfect.
  • The feeling of control makes us happy. But not for what it gets us, because our predictions are consistently wrong.
  • Our predictions of the future are consistently wrong because:
    • We predict the future by simulating an event in our mind and reacting to it (“pre-feeling”).
    • Pre-feeling is very inaccurate — we anchor too much on the present, we focus too much on some things and neglect others, and we have an optimism bias.
    • Our brains protect us from very bad events (but not mildly bad ones) by rationalising them; and we fail to account for this in our predictions.
  • We could make better predictions by asking others who are currently experiencing the future we are trying to predict how they feel.
  • However, we tend to disregard others’ advice and overestimate our own uniqueness.

You can find the full summary on

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