Week 11, Option 1: Synthetic Happiness

In the Ted Talk video, Dan Gilbert discusses with the audience about his discovery on people actually faking their happiness as well as why people do it. In his lecture he gave examples to the audience about a former musician, jail inmate, and politician that claimed that they were filled with happiness because of a certain event that happened to them. He points out the words that they used and claimed that they cannot possibly be happy after what happened to them. With the musician, for example, he was a former drummer of the Beatles. The drummer was left behind by his own group mates and since then he claimed that he is happier than ever and was happy to have been left behind by them.

Another example that Gilbert brought was his research on the level of happiness between someone who won the lottery and someone who was diagnosed and paraplegic. Most people would assume that the person who won the lottery would be happier than the paraplegic, but results show that each of them had an equal level of happiness. My reaction before the results were shown was that I thought the lottery winner would be less happy than the paraplegic because of the horror stories I have read about lottery winners. I was surprised to see that they have similar levels in happiness.

With the topic of ‘Synthetic Happiness’ I feel that many people have faked their own happiness for many reasons, including myself. Synthetic happiness occurs because we do not want to worry the people we love and we would want them to believe that everything is going alright with our lives. I believe that another reason that people fake their own happiness is so that they can they convince themselves that they are happy and not sad, angry, or any other emotion that they are feeling at that moment.



  1. kljaustin · April 20, 2015

    I think it’s kind of sad that some humans have to manufacture our own happiness. I’ve definitely done it, but I feel like I can tell the difference between true happiness and synthetic happiness. Or maybe I can’t and I just don’t know it. After my first “major” breakup in high school, I definitely felt like I was better off. I didn’t get to hang out with my ex’s friends and I should have been much lonelier, but I didn’t feel that way. That could be one time I convinced myself that I was happier than I actually was.
    I thought that the experiment with the Monet prints was very interesting. People didn’t get what they wanted, but they made do with what they were given. Or maybe they were convincing themselves that they liked what they had more than they really did.
    Gilbert also points out that freedom to choose is the enemy of synthetic happiness and the friend of natural happiness. This makes me wonder if people who live in North Korea or under similar oppressive regimes are happy because they are synthesizing happiness. I realize that brainwashing plays a factor, but maybe synthetic happiness also does.


  2. Pingback: Week 11 Student Blog Spotlight: Topics – Emotion & Motivation | Dr. MacFarlane's General Psychology Blog

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