The Futile Pursuit of Happiness

“The Futile Pursuit of Happiness” When it comes to predicting how something will make you feel in the future, you will most likely be wrong. In the book Discovering Pop Culture, edited by Anna Romasino, is the article “The Futile Pursuit of Happiness”. In the article, author Jon Gertner talks about how people think certain things bring them happiness but aren’t as fulfilling as they may think. Gertner gives examples by writing about four men that have been questioning how people predict what will make them happy and how they feel after it happens.

Among these men are a psychology professor Daniel Gilbert, psychologist Tim Wilson, economist George Loewenstein, and psychologist Daniel Kahneman. Gertner uses facts from scores of experiments from these men. He backs up his thoughts by returning to their theories. Gertner does a good Job relating his arguments back to his main idea. I agree with Gertner that it is difficult to figure out what exactly is going to make you happy. “Almost all actions are based on our predictions of the emotional consequences of events” (Gertner 34).

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This is how Gertner describes making the choice to purchase items, have children, buy a house or work. Gertner then explains that humans can understand big differences like how people “would rather be stuck in Montauk than in a Midtown elevator” (34). According to his research, people overestimate the intensity and how long their emotional reactions last to these choices. Gertner wrote that even though a new car would excite us, the excitement isn’t as much and doesn’t last as long as we thought it would.

Not only do people make the mistake of how much happiness they will gain, they also make mistakes in choosing which choice will make them happy. The psychologist, Gilbert, calls this mis-wanting. The example given is that you might want a new plasma television but over time it will become less appealing and much quicker than expected. Gilbert disagrees with the saying that you can’t always get what you want, he says that “you can’t always know’ (35). Even though things do make a difference in a persons happiness, they are overestimating by a good amount.

The article moves on to the term adaptation. Happiness is what motivates people to do things. “Our brains are not tying to be happy. Our brains are trying to regulate us” (37). People are unable to realize that they are adapting so they don’t connect hat with their decisions. People will adapt, but the point is that they dont realize that they will adapt. This goes back to people being unable to predict what will make them happy because they don’t realize that they can adapt to anything. People can also adapt to negative events no matter how much they think they can’t.

Gertner writes about an interview he had with Gilbert about the death of a friend. Gilbert says that he can relate to everyone else by thinking that he will never get over it and it will never get better. Even though he has feels this way, he remembers his esearch and how he will learn to adapt. Loewenstein’s research is about how people cannot predict how they will behave n certain situations. He explains that people act in a not state when they are anxious, brave or scared. On the other hand, people act in a cold state where they are calm and rational. This empathy gap in thought and behavior–we cannot seem to predict how we will behave in a hot state when we are in a cold state–affects happiness” (39). The experiment that Loewenstein did was to find out how many people would dance in front of an audience. When a certain amount of money was ffered in advance, people agreed to do it. When it came time to take the stage, people backed out. The experiment shows that people cannot predict how they will behave in a certain situation when they are in a cold state.

The authors purpose in the article is clear, he writes a thought and then backs it up with examples from his research and research from Gilbert, Loewenstein, Kahneman and Wilson. The information Gertner provides is persuasive because it’s his own research and conversations with the four men mentioned. He writes his experience and then goes back to how it relates with what Gilbert has claimed. The rticle also talks about some of the history in psychology in the subject giving a background on what the topic really is.

The author also gives examples that most people can relate to, like how eating a cheeseburger is really never going to be fully satisfying. Gertner goes back multiple times to his main point about how people cannot accurately predict their future feelings. I understood this article because it was easy to relate to. Everyone goes through a lot of the topics mentioned within the article. For example, losing a family member or buying something new. It was also helpful to get examples from a psychological erspective of what the article was explaining.

Most of the examples came from the conversations he had with Gilbert. I really enjoyed how the author asked questions in his writing, it shows that the facts might not be definite, but thats what psychology is, a science to be tested. The quotes from the four men were a great addition because it helped back up the authors ideas. At some points, Gertner writes a lot about the four men’s history. Most of it didn’t really fit in with the article or help prove any points, it seemed to Just fill space. Gertner successfully proved his point on how people are unable to accurately redict their emotions in the future.

He gave relatable examples and valid research information to back it up. The author informs people on how their decisions really make them feel and how they cannot make accurate predictions on how long it will last. Even though there was some unnecessary information included, Gertner still gets his point across. The article was interesting and easy to relate to making it easier to follow and understand. Gertner, Jon. The Futile Pursuit of Happiness. Discovering Pop Culture. Ed. Anna Tomasino. N. p. : Joseph Opiela, 2007. 33-44. Print.


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