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Dan Gilbert  

Psychologist; Happiness Expert

Dan Gilbert believes that, in our ardent, lifelong pursuit of happiness, most of us have the wrong map. In the same way that optical illusions fool our eyes -- and fool everyone's eyes in the same way -- Gilbert argues that our brains systematically misjudge what will make us happy. And these quirks in our cognition make humans very poor predictors of our own bliss.

The premise of his current research -- that our assumptions about what will make us happy are often wrong -- is supported with clinical research drawn from psychology and neuroscience. But his delivery is what sets him apart. His engaging -- and often hilarious -- style pokes fun at typical human behavior and invokes pop-culture references everyone can relate to. This winning style translates also to Gilbert's writing, which is lucid, approachable and laugh-out-loud funny. The immensely readable Stumbling on Happiness, published in 2006, became a New York Times bestseller and has been translated into 20 languages.

In fact, the title of his book could be drawn from his own life. At 19, he was a high school dropout with dreams of writing science fiction. When a creative writing class at his community college was full, he enrolled in the only available course: psychology. He found his passion there, earned a doctorate in social psychology in 1985 at Princeton, and has since won a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Phi Beta Kappa teaching prize for his work at Harvard. He has written essays and articles for The New York Times, Time and even Starbucks, while continuing his research into happiness at his Hedonic Psychology Laboratory.

"Gilbert's elbow-in-the-ribs social-science humor is actually funny. ... But underneath the goofball brilliance, [he] has a serious argument to make about why human beings are forever wrongly predicting what will make them happy."

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Speech Topics


HAPPINESS: WHAT YOUR MOTHER DIDN’T TELL YOU

Most of us think we know what would make us happy and that our only problem is getting it. But research in psychology, economics, and neuroscience shows that people are not very good at predicting what will make them happy, how happy it will make them, and how long that happiness will last. Is the problem that we can’t really imagine what our futures will hold? Is the problem that society lies to us about the true sources of human happiness? Yes, and yes again. Professor Gilbert will explain why, when it comes to finding happiness, we can’t always trust our imaginations—or our mothers.

HOW TO DO PRECISELY THE RIGHT THING AT ALL POSSIBLE TIMES

Floss daily, save for retirement, and don’t wear plaid pants before or after Labor Day. Most experts tell us what to decide but they don’t tell us how, and so the moment we face a novel decision—should I move to Cleveland or Anchorage? Marry Jennifer or Joanne? Become an architect or a pastry chef?—we’re lost. Is there any way to know how to do precisely the right thing at all possible times? In fact, there is a simple method for making decisions that most people find easy to understand and impossible to follow. New research in psychology, neuroscience, and behavioral economics explains why.

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