It was only fitting that Daniel Gilbert’s speech on happiness was met with frequent laughter.
The Harvard psychology professor spoke to a packed Pick-Stager Concert Hall, presenting “Happiness: Four Things Your Mother Doesn’t Tell You” on Thursday night to students and community members. The talk stems from his 2006 book Stumbling on Happiness.
The event concluded the first Northwestern Symposium on Mind and Society. A panel discussion with Gilbert and members of Northwestern’s faculty was held earlier in the day. Throughout the evening, Gilbert kept the audience engaged with stories and jokes.
During his speech, Gilbert examined common misconceptions about ways to achieve happiness. He covered topics ranging from estimating future happiness (often incorrectly) to the happiness brought by marriage and children.
“For the first time in human history large populations have everything they want,” Gilbert said, explaining that the old method of assessing happiness was failing when those who have everything are still not happy.
Gilbert said people’s images of what will make them happy don’t often account for all of the details associated with these images, or they often compare happiness to how they are feeling now and not in the future.
Marriage, money and children also play a role in happiness, Gilbert said. Good marriages elevate happiness rates, as does money when it covers basic needs. Children, on the other hand, are a bit more complex, he said.
While child-less married couples have higher overall happiness levels than their parenting counterparts, children bring happiness that replaces other enjoyable things from couples’ lives pre-baby.
A question and answer segment followed Gilbert’s speech.