EppsNet Archive: Happiness

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

12 Dec 2014 /

The notion that we have limited access to the workings of our minds is difficult to accept because, naturally, it is alien to our experience but it is true: You know far less about yourself than you feel you do.

 

A reliable way to make people believe in falsehoods is frequent repetition, because familiarity is not easily distinguished from truth.

 

It is the consistency of information that matters for a good story, not its completeness. Indeed, you will often find that knowing little makes it easier to fit everything you know into a coherent pattern.

 

The exaggerated faith in small samples is only one example of a more general illusion — we pay more attention to the content of messages than to information about their reliability, and as a result end up with a view of the world around us that is simpler and more coherent than the data justify.

 

Narrative fallacies arise inevitably from our continuous attempt to make sense of the world. The explanatory stories that people find compelling are simple; are concrete rather than abstract; assign a larger role to talent, stupidity, and intentions than to luck; and focus on a few striking events that happened rather than on the countless events that failed to happen.

 

Hindsight bias has pernicious effects on the evaluations of decision makers. It leads observers to assess the quality of a decision not be whether the process was sound but by whether its outcome was good or bad. . . . This outcome bias makes it almost impossible to evaluate a decision properly – in terms of the beliefs that were reasonable when the decision was made.

 

Stories of how businesses rise and fall strike a chord with readers by offering what the human mind needs: a simple message of triumph and failure that identifies clear causes and ignores the determinative power of luck and the inevitability of regression. These stories induce and maintain an illusion of understanding, imparting lessons of little enduring value to readers who are all too anxious to believe them.

 

For some of our most important beliefs we have no evidence at all, except that people we love and trust hold those beliefs.

 

Confidence is a feeling, which reflects the coherence of the information and the cognitive ease of processing it. It is wise to take admissions of uncertainty seriously, but declarations of high confidence mainly tell you that an individual has constructed a coherent story in his mind, not necessarily that the story is true.

 

We know that people can maintain an unshakable faith in any proposition, however absurd, when they are sustained by a community of like-minded believers.

 

The idea that the future is unpredictable is undermined every day by the ease with which the past is explained. . . Everything makes sense in hindsight . . . And we cannot suppress the powerful intuition that what makes sense in hindsight was predictable yesterday. The illusion that we understand the past fosters overconfidence in our ability to predict the future.

 

[Philip Tetlock, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania] interviewed 284 people who made their living “commenting or offering advice on political and economic trends. . . . In all, Tetlock gathered more than 80,000 predictions. . . . Respondents were asked to rate the probabilities of three alternative outcomes in every case: the persistence of the status quo, more of something such as political freedom or economic growth, or less of that thing.

The results were devastating. The experts performed worse than they would have if they had simply assigned equal probabilities to each of the three potential outcomes. In other words, people who spend their time, and earn their living, studying a particular topic produce poorer predictions than dart-throwing monkeys who would have distributed their choices evenly over the options. Even in the region they knew best, experts were not significantly better than nonspecialists.

 

Rehearse the mantra that will get you significantly closer to economic reality: you win a few, you lose a few.

 

Nothing in life is as important as you think it is when you are thinking about it.

 

During the last 10 years we have learned many new facts about happiness. But we have also learned that the word happiness does not have a simple meaning and should not be used as if it does. Sometimes scientific progress leaves us more puzzled than we were before.


Can You See the Real Me, Doctor?

8 Aug 2014 /

I decided to get off meds for a while . . .

Fluoxetine (Prozac), an SSRI

Things That Are the Same

  • I start every morning thinking about how great it would be to just stay in bed the rest of the day. Repeatedly hitting the snooze alarm — does life get any better than that?
  • I live in fear of negative judgment.
  • I dread being around other people. (May be just a restatement of #2).

Things That Are Different

  • I don’t feel like I’m in as much of a fog all the time.
  • I feel sadder, angrier, happier, more scared, more alive for better or worse.

At Any Rate, That Is Happiness

1 Apr 2014 /
Field of pumpkins at harvest time

Nothing happened. I did not expect anything to happen. I was something that lay under the sun and felt it, like the pumpkins, and I did not want to be anything more. I was entirely happy. Perhaps we feel like that when we die and become part of something entire, whether it is sun and air, or goodness and knowledge. At any rate, that is happiness: to be dissolved into something complete and great. When it comes to one, it comes as naturally as sleep.

— Willa Cather, My Antonia

Philip Seymour Hoffman, 1967-2014

2 Feb 2014 /
Philip Seymour Hoffman

Oscar-winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead Sunday of an apparent drug overdose at his Manhattan apartment.

Police responded to the 46-year-old’s apartment in the West Village shortly after 11 a.m., police sources told FoxNews.com.

A friend found his body in the apartment and phoned police. Hoffman was alone in his bathroom when he was discovered with a heroin-filled needle in his arm, law enforcement sources said.

I am really shocked to hear that. People are shooting up heroin first thing in the morning?! To me, a shot of heroin — like a nice, warm bath — is best enjoyed in the evening, to unwind after the travails of the day.

This is yet another blow to a theory that most Americans believe, which is that wealth is synonymous with happiness.

Philip Seymour Hoffman, he’s in every movie, it seems like. He’s a Top 1 Percent wage-earner for sure. We hate the Top 1 Percent! They’re so rich and smug and happy.

“Oh,” people think, “if only I had a lot of money and I could do anything I want. Then at last I could be happy too.”

Wrong. Not only would you not be happy, you’d be even less happy than you are now, because you’d no longer have lack of money to blame for your unhappiness.

Frankly, I’m surprised that more actors aren’t overdosing themselves on a daily basis. It’s such a minor art form. Someone writes things down for them to say and they say those things. Sometimes a bit of business is written down for them to perform while they say the things that were written down for them to say.

The adulation that actors receive is so wildly out of proportion to the triviality of what they do. Some, like Hoffman, have the limited amount of self-awareness required to recognize this, to their eternal detriment.

P.S. I just saw this:

Fearless in his choice of roles

The “fearless choice of roles” meme with reference to actors has always stuck in my craw.

“So let me get this straight . . . if I take this role, I’ll have to read the script, learn my lines and pick up a check? Nope, sorry. Too scary.”

RIP Philip Seymour Hoffman.


At the Drive-Thru

14 Sep 2013 /

“Hi, would you like to try our new [insert product name here]?”

“Do you think I’ll like it?”

“Uh, I don’t know.”

“Then why are you recommending it? Don’t you want me to be happy?”


Three grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love, and something to hope for. — Joseph Addison


Accurate Self-Perceptions Considered Harmful

3 Sep 2012 /

Consider a survey of nearly one million high school seniors. When asked to judge their ability to get along with others, 100 percent rated themselves as at least average, 60 percent rated themselves in the top 10 percent, and 25 percent considered themselves in the top 1 percent. And when asked about their leadership skills, only 2 percent assessed themselves as below average. Teachers aren’t any more realistic: 94 percent of college professors say they do above-average work.

The human brain is a better lawyer than scientist. A scientific brain would form hypotheses, test them against the evidence and reject the ones that don’t pass. The lawyer brain starts with a conclusion that it wants to be true, formulates supporting arguments and discounts evidence to the contrary.

Studies show that people with the most accurate self-perceptions tend to be moderately depressed, suffer from low self-esteem or both. An overly positive self-evaluation, on the other hand, helps our minds defend us against unhappiness andĀ inspires us to become what we think we are.


Customer Undertone at the Furniture Store

22 Jul 2012 /

If we spend enough money on home decorations, maybe we’ll finally have a chance to be happy . . .


Thoroughly Smug and Thoroughly Uncomfortable

3 Jul 2012 /

O generation of the thoroughly smug
   and thoroughly uncomfortable,
I have seen fishermen picnicking in the sun,
I have seen them with untidy families,
I have seen their smiles full of teeth
   and heard ungainly laughter.
And I am happier than you are,
And they were happier than I am;
And the fish swim in the lake
   and do not even own clothing.

— Ezra Pound, “Salutation”

Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes Divorcing

29 Jun 2012 /
Cruise jumps on the couch during the taping of...

“Kate has filed for divorce and Tom is deeply saddened and is concentrating on his three children,” said a statement from Cruise’s rep on Friday. “Please allow them their privacy.”

Again the press release asking for privacy. ATTENTION EVERYONE! A LITTLE PRIVACY PLEASE!

If not for the press release, who would know or care about this? I’ve got my own problems, thank you.

And it’s another blow to the theory, believed by many, that having a lot of money, free time and famous friends is a guaranteed ticket to happiness. No one’s life is a fairy tale, no matter what it looks like . . .


Jessica Hagy: The Six Enemies of Greatness (and Happiness)

Posted by on 11 Jun 2012

May all beings be well, may all beings be happy, may all beings be free from suffering.


Unhappiness is Good for You

24 Oct 2011 /

As a society, we are not actually all that interested in happiness. If we were, people would stop relocating for jobs, people would stop eating french fries, and people would stop scheduling their kids for activities that happen close to dinnertime. If anything, I think people are focused on hiding the fact that they desperately want more money and more passion in their lives even though it’s not fashionable to admit it.


I Am the 99 Percent

23 Oct 2011 /
I am the 99 percent

But I’m not clear on what constitutes a win with regard to the Top 1 Percent?

What if we take away everything they have and leave them with nothing? Then the Top 2 Percent roll up to become the Top 1 Percent and we’d have to stage another round of protests against them, right?

Why can’t we just count our blessings and enjoy what we have?

You think you’d be happier with a lot of money? You wouldn’t. Where’s the evidence?

The guy making a million a year wants to make 2 million a year. The guy making 2 million wants to make 10 million. The guy making 10 million is in jail for trying to steal an extra 10 million.

As Epictetus used to say, “None of these objects that men admire and set their hearts on is of any use to those who get them, though those who have never chanced to have them get the impression, that if only these things were theirs their cup of blessings would be full, and then, when they get them, the sun scorches them and the sea tosses them no less, and they feel the same boredom and the same desire for what they have not got.”


A Labyrinth of Illusion and Doubt

26 Sep 2011 /
Sanctus Labyrinthus

Indeed, you will see that the whole history of the spirit of religion is only the history of the errors of the human mind, which, placed in a world that it does not comprehend, endeavors nevertheless to solve the enigma; and which, beholding with astonishment this mysterious and visible prodigy, imagines causes, supposes reasons, builds systems; then, finding one defective, destroys it for another not less so; hates the error that it abandons, misconceives the one that it embraces, rejects the truth that it is seeking, composes chimeras of discordant beings; and thus, while always dreaming of wisdom and happiness, wanders blindly in a labyrinth of illusion and doubt.


A Man with a Grievance

7 Aug 2011 /

I wanted to be unhappy by myself. I wanted to grieve for Papa. That man suffered a lot. Even more than my poor mother who had to watch him suffer. For she had seven children to worry about as well, and children are a duty. Whereas a broken-hearted man with a grievance is only a liability, a nuisance. And he knows it too.

— Joyce Cary, The Horse’s Mouth

Belief and Vodka Both Wear Off

27 Jul 2011 /

“I want to believe. And I want others to believe.”

“Why?”

“I want them to be happy.”

“Let them drink a little vodka then. That’s better than a make-believe.”

“The vodka wears off. It’s wearing off even now.”

“So does belief.”

— Graham Greene, Monsignor Quixote

She was a girl who knew how to be happy even when she was sad. And that’s important — you know? — Marilyn Monroe


HW at the Movies: Hall Pass

17 Feb 2011 /

Are you kidding?! I’d rather take a shower with my mom than watch this crap.

Only an idiot who knows nothing about life thinks that being married or unmarried has anything to do with happiness.

You’ll be just as miserable either way, albeit for different reasons.


Count No Man Happy

22 Jan 2011 /

People of Thebes, my countrymen, look on Oedipus.
He solved the famous riddle with his brilliance,
He rose to power, a man beyond all power.
Who could behold his greatness without envy?
Now what a black sea of terror has overwhelmed him.
Now as we keep our watch and wait the final day,
Count no man happy till he dies, free of pain at last.

— Sophocles, Oedipus the King

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