Stumbling on Happiness Book Summary - Stumbling on Happiness Book explained in key points
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Stumbling on Happiness summary

Daniel Gilbert

The psychology of thinking about the future

4 (149 ratings)
22 mins

Brief summary

Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert is a psychology book that explores why we struggle to predict what will make us happy. Using research and anecdotes, it explains how our brains work to create a portrait of what truly makes us happy.

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    Stumbling on Happiness
    Summary of 13 key ideas

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    Key idea 1 of 13

    Our minds are capable of filling in missing details without us knowing about it.

    Though we’re not aware of it, everybody’s field of vision contains a blind spot, a place where the eye cannot see images. Yet, when you look at a photograph or someone’s face, you don’t see a big black mark where your blind spot is; you seem to see the whole image.

    This is because your brain fills in the missing details automatically. It instantly scans the area around the blind spot and fills in what it thinks should be there. The mind effectively invents a portion of your vision without you knowing about it.

    This example shows the immense capability of the mind to fill in missing details and transform our perception of reality. We assume that what we see is a true reflection of the world, and yet it isn’t: it’s partly the construction of our mind.

    But the brain’s ability to fill in details goes far beyond adjusting our vision: it also influences how we remember past events. When we remember the past, we can’t possibly accurately recall everything that’s happened; there is just too much information to store. Therefore, what our minds do is store only key details and emotions.

    For example, if you’ve had a bad dining experience at a restaurant, when you think back to the evening in question, you might remember being angered by a rude waiter or drinking corked wine. But along with these key details, your brain will fill in the surrounding picture as best it can with what it assumes should be there. For instance, it may insert the detail that the rude waiter had a mischievous grin as he served the spoiled wine. This, of course, was not really the case. As with the blind spot, our brains fill in these details so quickly that we don’t even know it’s happening.

    So, although we consider our memories and our vision as accurate representations of facts, they are in fact a mixture of reality and imagination.

    Our minds are capable of filling in missing details without us knowing about it.

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    What is Stumbling on Happiness about?

    Stumbling on Happiness (2007) explains how our brains make us think about the future. It employs accessible language and everyday examples to help us understand complex theories from psychology, neuroscience and philosophy.

    Stumbling on Happiness helps answer the question: why do we make decisions that leave us unhappy? By showing how our brains work, it aims to help us imagine our futures in new ways, ways that could leave us happier.

    Stumbling on Happiness Review

    Stumbling on Happiness (2006) is a captivating exploration of why happiness eludes us and how we can find it. Check out the reasons this book is worth reading:

    • Offers fascinating insights into our misconceptions about what makes us happy, challenging common assumptions and providing a fresh perspective.
    • Backed by scientific research and studies, it presents compelling evidence that will make you question your beliefs about happiness.
    • Engages readers with humor and relatable anecdotes, making the complex concept of happiness accessible and enjoyable to explore.

    Who should read Stumbling on Happiness?

    • Students of psychology
    • Anyone interested in how our imagination works
    • Anyone interested in knowing how we predict the future

    About the Author

    Daniel Gilbert is a Professor of Psychology at Harvard University who has won numerous awards for his teaching and research. In addition to the international bestseller Stumbling on Happiness, his essays and writing have appeared in many publications including the New York Times and TIME.

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    Stumbling on Happiness FAQs 

    What is the main message of Stumbling on Happiness?

    Stumbling on Happiness explores why we struggle to predict and achieve happiness.

    How long does it take to read Stumbling on Happiness?

    The estimated reading time for Stumbling on Happiness is a few hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Stumbling on Happiness a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Stumbling on Happiness is worth reading for its insights into the complexities of human happiness.

    Who is the author of Stumbling on Happiness?

    The author of Stumbling on Happiness is Daniel Gilbert.

    What to read after Stumbling on Happiness?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Stumbling on Happiness, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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    • The 80/20 Principle by Richard Koch
    • Thinking in Bets by Annie Duke
    • The Blank Slate by Steven Pinker
    • Making Sense by Sam Harris
    • The Book by Alan W. Watts
    • The 5 AM Club by Robin Sharma
    • God Is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens