Daniel Todd Gilbert is Professor of Psychology at Harvard University. He is a social psychologist who is known for his research (with Timothy Wilson of the University of Virginia) on affective forecasting, with a special emphasis on cognitive biases such as the impact bias.
He is the author of the international bestseller Stumbling on Happiness, which has been translated into more than 25 languages and which won the 2007 Royal Society Prizes for Science Books. As reviewed by Reed Business Information, Stumbling on Happiness is not a self-help book, but instead mounting a scientific explanation of the limitations of the human imagination and how it steers us in inappropriate directions in our search for happiness, Daniel Todd Gilbert draws on psychology, cognitive neuroscience, philosophy and behavioral economics to argue that, just as we err in remembering the past, so we err in imagining the future. “Our desire to control is so powerful, and the feeling of being in control so rewarding, that people often act as though they can control the uncontrollable,” Gilbert writes, as he reveals how ill-equipped we are to properly preview the future, let alone control it. Unfortunately, he claims, neither personal experience nor cultural wisdom compensates for imagination’s shortcomings.
In concluding chapters, he discusses the transmission of inaccurate beliefs from one person’s mind to another, providing salient examples of universal assumptions about human happiness such as the joys of money and of having children. He concludes with the provocative recommendation that, rather than imagination, we should rely on others as surrogates for our future experience. Gilbert’s playful tone and use of commonplace examples render a potentially academic topic accessible and educational.