Stumbling on Happiness
Stumbling on Happiness

Stumbling on Happiness

How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is To have a thankless child. Shakespeare, King Lear (Location 31)

The things we do when we expect our lives to continue are naturally and properly different than the things we might do if we expected them to end abruptly. (Location 40)

Tags: motivation, mortality

Note: Motivation changes with mortality. Similar to story in Sum.

We treat our future selves as though they were our children, spending most of the hours of most of our days constructing tomorrows that we hope will make them happy. (Location 43)

The human being is the only animal that thinks about the future. (Location 115)

Tags: humans

Squirrel brains run food-burying programs when the amount of sunlight that enters their regular squirrel eyes decreases by a critical amount. (Location 122)

Tags: future

Note: Animals don't think about the future. They are programmed to behave in certain ways.

Until a chimp weeps at the thought of growing old alone, or smiles as it contemplates its summer holiday, or turns down a toffee apple because it already looks too fat in shorts, I will stand by my version of The Sentence. (Location 125)

Tags: future, humans

To see is to experience the world as it is, to remember is to experience the world as it was, but to imagine–ah, to imagine is to experience the world as it isn’t and has never been, but as it might be. (Location 136)

Tags: vision, image, favorite

Note: To imagine is to see the world as it might be

The greatest achievement of the human brain is its ability to imagine objects and episodes that do not exist in the realm of the real, and it is this ability that allows us to think about the future. (Location 138)

Tags: brain, humans, image

Just as an abacus can put two and two together to produce four without having thoughts about arithmetic, so brains can add past to present to make future without ever thinking about any of them. (Location 147)

Rather than saying that such brains are predicting let’s say that they are nexting. (Location 159)

Small children cannot say what they want to be later because they don’t really understand what later means.7 So, like shrewd politicians, they ignore the question they are asked and answer the question they can. (Location 208)

The frontal lobe is the recent addition to the human brain that allows us to imagine the future. (Location 233)

What is the conceptual tie that binds anxiety and planning? Both, of course, are intimately connected to thinking about the future. (Location 273)

Be Here Now, whose central message was succinctly captured by the injunction of its title.23 The key to happiness, fulfilment and enlightenment, the ex-professor argued, was to stop thinking so much about the future. (Location 312)

lives. When people are asked to report how much they think about the past, present and future, they claim to think about the future the most. (Location 319)

Forestalling pleasure is an inventive technique for getting double the juice from half the fruit. (Location 336)

First, anticipating unpleasant events can minimize their impact. (Location 365)

Tags: stoicism

The fact is that human beings come into the world with a passion for control, they go out of the world the same way, and research suggests that if they lose their ability to control things at any point between their entrance and their exit, they become unhappy, helpless, hopeless and depressed. (Location 399)

Tags: control

Note: Humans need control

Apparently, gaining control can have a positive impact on one’s health and well-being, but losing control can be worse than never having had any at all. (Location 414)

Tags: control

Note: Having control is good for your health

People feel more certain that they will win a lottery if they can control the number on their tickets,44 and they feel more confident that they will win a dice toss if they can throw the dice themselves. (Location 418)

Other animals must experience an event in order to learn about its pleasures and pains, but our powers of foresight allow us to imagine that which has not yet happened and hence spare ourselves the hard lessons of experience. (Location 441)

Tags: humans, experience

We insist on steering our boats because we think we have a pretty good idea of where we should go, but the truth is that much of our steering is in vain–not because the boat won’t respond, and not because we can’t find our destination, but because the future is fundamentally different than it appears through the prospectiscope. (Location 448)

In each of these instances, an encounter with something in the world generates a roughly similar pattern of neural activity,7 and thus it makes sense that there is something common to our experiences of each–some conceptual coherence that has led human beings to group this hodgepodge of occurrences together in the same linguistic category for as long as anyone can remember. (Location 545)

Because emotional happiness is an experience, it can only be approximately defined by its antecedents and by its relation to other experiences. (Location 557)

Note: Emotional happiness is defined relative to other experiences

People want to be happy, and all the other things they want are typically meant to be means to that end. (Location 564)

The dictionary tells us that to prefer is ‘to choose or want one thing rather than another because it would be more pleasant’, which is to say that the pursuit of happiness is built into the very definition of desire. (Location 566)

As Sigmund Freud wrote: (Location 570)

This endeavour has two sides, a positive and a negative aim. It aims, on the one hand, at an absence of pain and displeasure, and, on the other, at the experiencing of strong feelings of pleasure. (Location 574)

When the word happy is followed by the words that or about, speakers are usually trying to tell us that we ought to take the word happy as an indication not of their feelings but rather of their stances. (Location 634)

When we say we are happy about or happy that, we are merely noting that something is a potential source of pleasurable feeling, or a past source of pleasurable feeling, or that we realize it ought to be a source of pleasurable feeling but that it sure doesn’t feel that way at the moment. (Location 641)

Squishing Language The nice things about this language-squishing hypothesis are (a) it suggests that everyone everywhere has the same subjective experience when they receive a birthday cake even if they describe that experience differently, which makes the world a rather simple place to live and bake; and (b) it allows us to go on believing that despite what they say about themselves, Lori and Reba aren’t really happy after all, and thus we are perfectly justified in preferring our lives to theirs. (Location 789)

Tags: language, happiness

Studies such as these demonstrate that once we have an experience, we cannot simply set it aside and see the world as we would have seen it had the experience never happened. (Location 820)

Tags: experience

Note: Having an experience changes your view of the world forever more

Experience stretching is a bizarre phrase but not a bizarre idea. We often say of others who claim to be happy despite circumstances that we believe should preclude it that ‘they only think they’re happy because they don’t know what they’re missing’. Okay, sure, but that’s the point. Not knowing what we’re missing can mean that we are truly happy under circumstances that would not allow us to be happy once we have experienced the missing thing. (Location 846)

Tags: happiness, favorite

It does not mean that those who don’t know what they’re missing are less happy than those who have it. (Location 849)

impoverished experiential background (Location 857)

Doesn’t it make better sense to say that by learning to enjoy cigars I changed my experiential background and inadvertently ruined all future experiences that do not include them? (Location 859)

What we can say is that all claims of happiness are claims from someone’s point of view–from the perspective of a single human being whose unique collection of past experiences serves as a context, a lens, a background for her evaluation of her current experience. (Location 875)

‘What should I do?’ question before the ‘What is it?’ question.1 Experiments have demonstrated that the moment we encounter an object, our brains instantly analyse just a few of its key features and then use the presence or absence of these features to make one very fast and very simple decision: ‘Is this object an important thing to which I ought to respond right now?’ (Location 930)

The word experience comes from the Latin experientia, meaning ‘to try’, whereas the word aware comes from the Greek horan, meaning ‘to see’. Experience implies participation in an event, whereas awareness implies observation of an event. (Location 989)

Some people seem to be keenly aware of their moods and feelings, and may even have a novelist’s gift for describing their every shade and flavour. (Location 1029)

The nature of subjective experience suggests there will never be a happyometer–a perfectly reliable instrument that allows an observer to measure with complete accuracy the characteristics of another person’s subjective experience so that the measurement can be taken, recorded and compared with another. (Location 1069)

The fundamental problem in the science of experience is that if either the language-squishing hypothesis or the experience-stretching hypothesis is correct, then every one of us may have a different mapping of what we experience onto what we say–and because subjective experiences can be shared only by saying, the true nature of those experiences can never be perfectly measured. (Location 1148)

In other words, if the experience and description scales are calibrated a bit differently for every person who uses them, then it is impossible for scientists to compare the claims of two people. (Location 1150)

As Plato asked, ‘Are these things good for any other reason except that they end in pleasure, and get rid of and avert pain? Are you looking to any other standard but pleasure and pain when you call them good?’ (Location 1179)

The best way to understand this particular shortcoming of imagination (the faculty that allows us to see the future) is to understand the shortcomings of memory (the faculty that allows us to see the past) and perception (the faculty that allows us to see the present). (Location 1242)

As you learned in the previous chapters, the elaborate tapestry of our experience is not stored in memory–at least not in its entirety. Rather, it is compressed for storage by first being reduced to a few critical threads, such as a summary phrase (“Dinner was disappointing”) or a small set of key features (tough steak, corked wine, snotty waiter). Later, when we want to remember our experience, our brains quickly reweave the tapestry by fabricating–not by actually retrieving–the bulk of the information that we experience as a memory. (Location 1260)

volunteers in one study were shown a series of slides depicting a red car as it cruises toward a give way sign, turns right and then knocks over a pedestrian.5 After seeing the slides, some of the volunteers (the no-question group) were not asked any questions, and the remaining volunteers (the question group) were. (Location 1266)

The question these volunteers were asked was this: “Did another car pass the red car while it was stopped at the stop sign?” (Location 1268)

more than 90 percent of the volunteers in the no-question group did just that. But 80 percent of the volunteers in the question group pointed to the picture of the car approaching a stop sign. (Location 1272)

This general finding–that information acquired after an event alters memory of the event–has been replicated so many times in so many different laboratory and field settings that it has left most scientists convinced of two things. (Location 1276)

we generally cannot tell when we are doing this because filling in happens quickly and unconsciously. (Location 1278)

clever and economical strategy for remembering. The gist would serve as an instruction that enabled your brain to re-weave the tapestry of your experience and allow you to ‘remember’ reading the words you saw. (Location 1293)

‘The world as we know it is a construction, a finished product, almost–one might say–a manufactured article, to which the mind contributes as much by its moulding forms as the thing contributes by its stimuli.’ (Location 1368)

SILVER BLAZE HADN’T BEEN MISSING for long when Inspector Gregory and Colonel Ross identified the stranger who had sneaked into the stable and stolen the prize racehorse. But as usual, Sherlock Holmes was one step ahead of the police. The colonel turned to the great detective: (Location 1532)

‘To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.’ (Location 1535)

when people are asked to judge the similarity of two countries, they tend to look for the presence of similarities (of which East and West Germany had many–for example, their names) and ignore the absence of similarities. When they are asked to judge the dissimilarities of two countries, they tend to look for the presence of dissimilarities (of which East and West Germany had many–for example, their governments) and ignore the absence of dissimilarities. (Location 1597)

when we are selecting, we consider the positive attributes of our alternatives, and when we are rejecting, we consider the negative attributes. (Location 1606)

Of course, the logical way to select a holiday is to consider both the presence and the absence of positive and negative attributes, but that’s not what most of us do. (Location 1608)

we fail to consider how much imagination fills in, but we also fail to consider how much it leaves out. (Location 1620)

Tags: memory failure

Note: Our memories are poor at recalling events and our imagination fills in the blanks

We think that Californians are happier than Ohioans because we imagine California with so few details–and we make no allowance for the fact that the details we are failing to imagine could drastically alter the conclusions we draw. (Location 1659)

Tags: comparison

Just as objects that are near to us in space appear to be more detailed than those that are far away, so do events that are near to us in time.17 Whereas the near future is finely detailed, the far future is blurry and smooth. (Location 1682)

Note: The near future is finely detailed, but the far future is blurry

When we perceive a distant buffalo, our brains are aware of the fact that the buffalo looks smooth, vague and lacking in detail because it is far away, and they do not mistakenly conclude that the buffalo itself is smooth and vague But when we remember or imagine a temporally distant event, our brains seem to overlook the fact that details vanish with temporal distance, and they conclude instead that the distant events actually are as smooth and vague as we are imagining and remembering (Location 1694)

Well, here’s what we were thinking: when we said yes we were thinking about babysitting in terms of why instead of how, in terms of causes and consequences instead of execution, (Location 1701)

Perception, imagination and memory are remarkable abilities that have a good deal in common, but in at least one way, perception is the wisest of the triplets. (Location 1718)

The fact that we imagine the near and far futures with such different textures causes us to value them differently as well.24 Most of us would pay more to see a Broadway show tonight or to eat an apple pie this afternoon than we would if the same ticket and the same pie were to be delivered to us next month. (Location 1720)

Any brain that does the filling-in trick is bound to do the leaving-out trick as well, and thus the futures we imagine contain some details that our brains invented and lack some details that our brains ignored. (Location 1742)

Tags: memory, brain

In other words, when scientists make erroneous predictions, they almost always err by predicting that the future will be too much like the present. (Location 1780)

Tags: predicitions

when brains plug holes in their conceptualizations of yesterday and tomorrow, they tend to use a material called today. (Location 1784)

When middle-aged people are asked to remember what they thought about premarital sex, how they felt about political issues or how much alcohol they drank when they were in college, their memories are influenced by how they think, feel and drink now. (Location 1791)

people misremember their own pasts by recalling that they once thought, did and said what they now think, do and say. (Location 1795)

If the past is a wall with some holes, the future is a hole with no walls. Memory uses the filling-in trick, but imagination is the filling-in trick, and if the present lightly colours our remembered pasts, it thoroughly infuses our imagined futures. (Location 1810)

More simply said, most of us have a tough time imagining a tomorrow that is terribly different from today, and we find it particularly difficult to imagine that we will ever think, want or feel differently than we do now. (Location 1812)

Tags: predicitions, imagination

Note: We are bad at predicting the future

The point here is that we generally do not sit down with a sheet of paper and start logically listing the pros and cons of the future events we are contemplating, but rather, we contemplate them by simulating those events in our imaginations and then noting our emotional reactions to that simulation. (Location 1895)

The visual experience that results from a flow of information that originates in the world is called vision; the visual experience that results from a flow of information that originates in memory is called mental imagery; and while both kinds of experience are produced in the visual cortex, it takes a great deal of vodka before we mix them up.24 One of the hallmarks of a visual experience is that we can almost always tell whether it is the product of a real or an imagined object. But not so with emotional experience. The emotional experience that results from a flow of information that originates in the world is called feeling; the emotional experience that results from a flow of information that originates in memory is called prefeeling; and mixing them up is one of the world’s most popular sports. (Location 1934)

Tags: emotions

We cannot feel good about an imaginary future when we are busy feeling bad about an actual present. (Location 1965)

It is only natural that we should imagine the future and then consider how doing so makes us feel, but because our brains are hell-bent on responding to current events, we mistakenly conclude that we will feel tomorrow as we feel today. (Location 1972)

Like the sponge, we think we are thinking outside the box only because we can’t see how big the box really is. (Location 1979)

We assume that what we feel as we imagine the future is what we’ll feel when we get there, but in fact, what we feel as we imagine the future is often a response to what’s happening in the present. (Location 1982)

Tags: future

Our extraordinary talent for creating mental images of concrete objects is one of the reasons why we function so effectively in the physical world. (Location 1996)

Time is not an object but an abstraction, hence it does not lend itself to imagery, which is why filmmakers are forced to represent the passage of time with contrivances that involve visible objects, such as calendar leaves blowing in the wind or clocks spinning at warp speed. (Location 2002)

When people need to reason about something abstract, they tend to imagine something concrete that the abstract thing is like and then reason about that instead.2 For most of us, space is the concrete thing that time is like. (Location 2006)

When we draw a time line, those of us who speak English put the past on the left, those of us who speak Arabic put the past on the rights,4 and those of us who speak Mandarin put the past on the bottom. (Location 2012)

Reasoning by metaphor is an ingenious technique that allows us to remedy our weaknesses by capitalizing on our strengths–using things we can visualize to think, talk and reason about things we can’t. (Location 2017)

Tags: visualisation, metaphor

Researchers studied this experience by inviting volunteers to come to the laboratory for a snack once a week for several weeks.7 They asked some of the volunteers (choosers) to choose all their snacks in advance, and–just as you did–the choosers usually opted for a healthy dose of variety. Next, the researchers asked a new group of volunteers to come to the lab once a week for several weeks. They fed some of these volunteers their favourite snack every time (no-variety group), and they fed other volunteers their favourite snack on most occasions and their second-favourite snack on others (variety group). When they measured the volunteers’ satisfaction over the course of the study, they found that volunteers in the no-variety group were more satisfied than were volunteers in the variety group. In other words, variety made people less happy, not more. (Location 2037)

Among life’s cruellest truths is this one: wonderful things are especially wonderful the first time they happen, but their wonderfulness wanes with repetition. (Location 2046)

When we have an experience–hearing a particular sonata, making love with a particular person, watching the sun set from a particular window of a particular room–on successive occasions, we quickly begin to adapt to it, and the experience yields less pleasure each time. Psychologists call this habituation, economists call it declining marginal utility, and the rest of us call it marriage. (Location 2048)

But human beings have discovered two devices that allow them to combat this tendency: variety and time. (Location 2051)

One way to beat habituation is to increase the variety of one’s experiences (‘Hey, honey, I have a kinky idea–let’s watch the sun set from the kitchen this time’).9 Another way to beat habituation is to increase the amount of time that separates repetitions of the experience. (Location 2052)

The point here is that time and variety are two ways to avoid habituation, and if you have one, then you don’t need the other. (Location 2057)

In fact when episodes are sufficiently separated in time, variety is not only unnecessary–it can actually be costly. (Location 2058)

Tags: variety

episode. The problem is that when we reason by metaphor and think of a dozen successive meals in a dozen successive months as though they were a dozen dishes arranged on a long table in front of us, we mistakenly treat sequential alternatives as though they were simultaneous alternatives. (Location 2086)

strange. If you asked a child to count upward from zero and another child to count downward from a million, you could be pretty sure that when they finally got exhausted, gave up and went off in search of eggs to throw at your garage door, they would have reached very different numbers. Starting points matter because we often end up close to where we started. (Location 2132)

Because we naturally use our present feelings as a starting point when we attempt to predict our future feelings, we expect our future to feel a bit more like our present than it actually will. (Location 2151)

Tags: future

Note: Our present feelings influence what we think the future will look like.

Comparing with the Past (Location 2164)

The human brain is not particularly sensitive to the absolute magnitude of stimulation, but it is extraordinarily sensitive to differences and changes–that is, to the relative magnitude of stimulation. (Location 2165)

Tags: favorite

Note: We notice changes rather than absolute values

Our sensitivity to relative rather than absolute magnitudes is not limited to physical properties such as weight, brightness or volume. It extends to subjective properties, such as value, goodness and worth as well. (Location 2172)

Tags: perception, favorite

Because it is so much easier for me to remember the past than to generate new possibilities, I will tend to compare the present with the past even when I ought to be comparing it with the possible. (Location 2199)

Because it is easier to compare a holiday package’s price with its former price than with the price of other things one might buy, we end up preferring bad deals that have become decent deals to great deals that were once amazing deals. (Location 2209)

Comparing and Presentism (Location 2263)

The facts are these: (a) value is determined by the comparison of one thing with another; (b) there is more than one kind of comparison we can make in any given instance; and (c) we may value something more highly when we make one kind of comparison than when we make a different kind of comparison. (Location 2265)

Tags: comparison

Note: We value things by comparing them to other things

Our mistake was not in touring Paris with a couple of dull homies but in failing to realize that the comparison we were making in the present (‘Lisa and Walter are so much nicer than the waiter at Le Grand Colbert’) is not the comparison we would be making in the future (‘Lisa and Walter aren’t nearly as nice as Rebecca and Dan’). (Location 2289)

When we start shopping for a new pair of sunglasses, we naturally contrast the hip, stylish ones in the store with the old, outdated ones that are sitting on our noses. So we buy the new ones and stick the old ones in a drawer. But after just a few days of wearing our new sunglasses we stop comparing them with the old pair, and–well, what do you know? The delight that the comparison produced evaporates. (Location 2292)

Why would we disagree about the fair value of my car? Because you would be thinking about the transaction as a potential gain (‘Compared with how I feel now, how happy will I be if I get this car?’) and I would be thinking about it as a potential loss (‘Compared with how I feel now, how happy will I be if I lose this car?’).35 I would want to be compensated for what I expected to be a powerful loss, but you would not want to compensate me because you would be expecting a less powerful gain. (Location 2305)

In short, the comparisons we make have a profound impact on our feelings, and when we fail to recognize that the comparisons we are making today are not the comparisons we will make tomorrow, we predictably underestimate how differently we will feel in the future. (Location 2315)

Tags: comparison, happiness

Because time is such a slippery concept, we tend to imagine the future as the present with a twist, thus our imagined tomorrows inevitably look like slightly twisted versions of today. (Location 2327)

For there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so. Shakespeare, Hamlet Prince of Denmark (Location 2336)

The fact is that negative events do affect us, but they generally don’t affect us as much or for as long as we expect them to.11 (Location 2377)

The only thing more difficult than finding a needle in a haystack is finding a needle in a needlestack. (Location 2390)

Disambiguating Objects (Location 2420)

Research shows that context, frequency and recency are especially important in this regard. (Location 2423)

Unlike rats and pigeons, then, we respond to meanings–and context, frequency and recency are three of the factors that determine which meaning we will infer when we encounter an ambiguous stimulus. (Location 2438)

dandier. Studies such as these suggest that people are quite adept at finding a positive way to view things once those things become their own. (Location 2493)

Note: We view things more positively once we own them

We cannot do without reality and we cannot do without illusion. Each serves a purpose, each imposes a limit on the influence of the other, and our experience of the world is the artful compromise that these tough competitors negotiate. (Location 2513)

In short, we derive support for our preferred conclusions by listening to the words that we put in the mouths of people who have already been preselected for their willingness to say what we want to hear. (Location 2595)

The bottom line is this: the brain and the eye may have a contractual relationship in which the brain has agreed to believe what the eye sees, but in return the eye has agreed to look for what the brain wants. (Location 2615)

Tags: eye, brain

We ask whether facts allow us to believe our favoured conclusions and whether they compel us to believe our disfavoured conclusions.51 Not surprisingly, disfavoured conclusions have a much tougher time meeting this more rigorous standard of proof. (Location 2670)

But studies also show that nine out of ten people are wrong. Indeed, in the long run, people of every age and in every walk of life seem to regret not having done things much more than they regret things they did, which is why the most popular regrets include not going to college, not grasping profitable business opportunities and not spending enough time with family and friends. (Location 2807)

we are more likely to look for and find a positive view of the things we’re stuck with than of the things we’re not. (Location 2876)

Apparently, inescapable circumstances trigger the psychological defences that enable us to achieve positive views of those circumstances, but we do not anticipate that this will happen. (Location 2898)

Most of us will pay a premium today for the opportunity to change our minds tomorrow, and sometimes it makes sense to do so. (Location 2910)

Explanation robs events of their emotional impact because it makes them seem likely and allows us to stop thinking about them. (Location 2983)

The poet John Keats noted that whereas great authors are ‘capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason’, the rest of us are ‘incapable of remaining content with half-knowledge’.39 Our relentless desire to explain everything that happens may well distinguish us from fruit flies, but it can also kill our buzz. (Location 3000)

We are more likely to generate a positive and credible view of an action than an inaction, of a painful experience than of an annoying experience, of an unpleasant situation that we cannot escape than of one we can. (Location 3008)

The processes by which we generate positive views are many: we pay more attention to favourable information, we surround ourselves with those who provide it and we accept it uncritically. These tendencies make it easy for us to explain unpleasant experiences in ways that exonerate us and make us feel better. (Location 3010)

Tags: positivity

Throughout this book, I’ve compared imagination to perception and memory, and I’ve tried to convince you that foresight is just as fallible as eyesight and hindsight. (Location 3016)

and we carefully time our monthly expenditures to ensure that we will once again be flat broke on all the dates that begin with a three. (Location 3054)

Remembering an experience feels a lot like opening a drawer and retrieving a story that was filed away on the day it was written, but as we’ve seen in previous chapters, that feeling is one of our brain’s most sophisticated illusions. (Location 3063)

Memory is not a dutiful scribe that keeps a complete transcript of our experiences, but a sophisticated editor that clips and saves key elements of an experience and then uses these elements to rewrite the story each time we ask to reread it. (Location 3065)

Tags: memory failure

Note: Human memory is flawed. We store key parts and fill in the blanks each time we recall a memory

Our mental dictionaries are organized more or less alphabetically, like Webster’s itself, hence we can’t easily “look up” a word in our memories by any letter except the first one. (Location 3081)

Tags: memory

The k-word puzzle works because we naturally (but incorrectly) assume that things that come easily to mind are things we have frequently encountered. (Location 3084)

The fact that the least likely experience is often the most likely memory can wreak havoc with our ability to predict future experiences. (Location 3108)

Similarly, awful train-missing incidents come quickly to mind not because they are common but because they are uncommon. But because we don’t recognize the real reasons why these awful episodes come quickly to mind, we mistakenly conclude that they are more common than they actually are. (Location 3121)

Because we tend to remember the best of times and the worst of times instead of the most likely of times, the wealth of experience that young people admire does not always pay clear dividends. (Location 3134)

among memory’s idiosyncrasies is its obsession with final scenes.8 Whether we hear a series of sounds, read a series of letters, see a series of pictures, smell a series of odours, or meet a series of people, we show a pronounced tendency to recall the items at the end of the series far better than the items at the beginning or in the middle. (Location 3152)

Tags: memory

Note: We tend to recall items at the end of a serious best - Ikea have a pleasurably ending with cheap food

Our memory for emotional episodes is overly influenced by unusual instances, closing moments and theories about how we must have felt way back then, all of which gravely compromise our ability to learn from our own experience. (Location 3286)

One of the benefits of being a social and linguistic animal is that we can capitalize on the experience of others rather than trying to figure everything out for ourselves. (Location 3304)

Economists explain that wealth has ‘declining marginal utility’, which is a fancy way of saying that it hurts to be hungry, cold, sick, tired and scared, but once you’ve bought your way out of these burdens, the rest of your money is an increasingly useless pile of paper. (Location 3389)

But it is also true that when people tell us about their current experiences (Location 3485)

they are providing us with the kind of report about their subjective state that is considered the gold standard of happiness measures. (Location 3487)

imagination’s first shortcoming is its tendency to fill in and leave out without telling us (which we explored in the section on realism). No one can imagine every feature and consequence of a future event, hence we must consider some and fail to consider others. (Location 3502)

Imagination’s second shortcoming is its tendency to project the present onto the future (which we explored in the section on presentism). (Location 3528)

Tags: brain

When imagination paints a picture of the future, many of the details are necessarily missing, and imagination solves this problem by filling in the gaps with details that it borrows from the present. (Location 3529)

Imagination’s third shortcoming is its failure to recognize that things will look different once they happen–in particular, that bad things will look a whole lot better (which we explored in the section on rationalization). (Location 3544)

Because we can feel our own emotions but must infer the emotions of others by watching their faces and listening to their voices, we often have the impression that others don’t experience the same intensity of emotion that we do, which is why we expect others to recognize our feelings even when we can’t recognize theirs. (Location 3629)

Our mythical belief in the variability and uniqueness of individuals is the main reason why we refuse to use others as surrogates. (Location 3636)

MOST OF US MAKE at least three important decisions in our lives: where to live, what to do and with whom to do it. We choose our towns and our neighbourhoods, we choose our jobs and our hobbies, we choose our spouses and our friends. (Location 3657)

Tags: newsletter, favorite

Wise choices are those that maximize our pleasure, not our dollars, and if we are to have any hope of choosing wisely, then we must correctly anticipate how much pleasure those dollars will buy us. (Location 3679)

For instance, people often value things more after they own them than before, they often value things more when they are imminent than distant, they are often hurt more by small losses than by large ones, they often imagine that the pain of losing something is greater than the pleasure of getting it, and so on–and on and on and on. The myriad phenomena with which (Location 3700)