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The Happiness Hypothesis

Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom
Jonathan Haidt

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Overall an excellent book, in some ways the book I was wanting to write, but I don't think he has everything right, and also the coverage is very superficial, despite covering mainly a subset of my scope. Clearly I need to pare down my concept for a book-length treatment.

1: The divided self

This chapter seems not entirely coherent, though perhaps it is trying to convey the understanding that the mind is not really unified, and the self is an abstract user-interface. Using the split-brain it gets at the rationalizing thing, and the biggest part is introducing the “elephant and rider” metaphor for the conscious vs. Unconscious mind.

2: Changing your mind

It is your interpretations of events that cause unhappiness, not the events themselves. Epiphanies can be life-altering, but most fade in weeks or months. Change requires work. The holy trinity of meditation, cognitive/behaviorial therapy and Prozac. He strongly endorses the idea that worry/anxiety is the main barrier to happiness. There is variation in how anxious people are, but many more people come to therapy because they need to loosen up than because they need to worry more (negativity bias.) The fast primitive nature of the fear response. Left/right forebrain EEG difference correlates with happiness.

3: Reciprocity with a Vengance

The problem of altruism in evolution. Reciprocity, gratitude and vengance. Gossip is overwhelmingly critical, and is predominantly about moral and social violations of others. As well as being a punishment to violators, gossip is also a way to learn norms. Salesmen exploit our instinct for reciprocity by giving “free gifts” or by making concessions.

4: The faults of others

It's fun to laugh at the hypocrisy of others, but of course, we hypocritical are too. We're pretty good judges of how others will behave, but we seem to feel that we are more virtuous, even though we do behave like everyone else. We see others as biased by their backgrounds, but our background only increases our insightfulness. Everyone else is biased. Pronin has also shown (not mentioned here) that we see others are being more conformist. The myth of pure evil. Perpetrators usually see themselves as victims. Evil acts are usually caused by threatened self-esteem or by idealism. What to do? Don't take it too seriously, it's all a game. Avoid being judgmental, shoulds, desires. Meditation. Finding fault with yourself is the key to overcoming hypocrisy. Imago, etc.

More Coming

books/happiness_hypothesis.txt · Last modified: 2010/09/07 10:23 by ram