Daniel Kahneman and his studies on happiness

Daniel Kahneman and his studies on happiness

Everybody talks about happiness . Books, conferences, coaching, mentoring … are some of the products that people can buy today in the supermarkets of happiness. Most of them are usually a compendium of nice phrases, motivating advice and framing aphorisms that can be motivating while you are reading them but lack practical use in the long run. The problem is that happiness is something so complex that it is very difficult to research.

Daniel Kahneman, one of the most influential psychologists of our time, reveals in the last chapters of the book that led him to win the Nobel Prize the current findings of science on well-being and happiness.

Kahnmeman and his idea of happiness

Basically, Kahneman’s studies reveal that there is no single concept of happiness . This psychologist tells us about the existence of two “I’s”: the “I that experiences” and the “I that remembers”. Both are of great importance for the way in which we value our happiness.

Although the experiencing self is responsible for recording the sensations we have of events as they happen, the remembering self is that it gives meaning to those experiences.

To illustrate both concepts, he gives the following example:

“A comment I heard from a member of the audience after a lecture illustrates the difficulty of distinguishing memories from experiences. He told how he was listening in ecstasy to a long symphony recorded on a disc that was scratched towards the end and produced an outrageous noise, and how that disastrous ending ruined the whole experience”.

But the experience was not really ruined, but only the memory of it . The spectator’s reality had been really pleasant for most of the time; however, the noise at the end made the general assessment of the experience for the spectator scandalous.

The “I” that pleasantly enjoyed the course of the symphony in the present moment is the “I that experiences”. On the other hand, the “I” that considered the experience as unpleasant is the “I that remembers.

The logics of memory

In this example, Kahneman shows the dilemma between direct experience and memory . Likewise, it shows how different these two systems of happiness that are satisfied with different elements are.

The “experiencing self” takes into account the day-to-day emotions of the present moment. How you’ve felt most of the day, the excitement of an encounter with someone you love, the comfort of a nap, or the release of endorphins from sports.

The “self that remembers” measures the overall satisfaction with our life. When someone asks us how we are doing, what about holidays, work or simply we take stock of our life . This is a storyteller who values specific experiences based on what we consider relevant in life.

Another example showing the difference between the two is the following:
Let’s imagine that on our next vacation we know that at the end of the vacation period all our photos will be destroyed, and we will be given an amnesia drug so that we won’t remember anything. Now, would you choose the same vacation?

If we think about it in terms of time, then we will get an answer. And if we think about it in terms of memories, we’ll get another answer. Why do we choose the vacation we do, is a problem that brings us back to a choice between the two selves.

Wellness has more than one time

As the reader can see, happiness is presented as a complex and problematic concept in the light of these studies . As Kahnemam says:

“In the last ten years we have learned many new things about happiness. But we have also learned that the word happiness does not have a unique meaning and should not be used as it is. Sometimes scientific progress leaves us more perplexed than we were before.

For this reason, this article does not contain advice, phrases or lessons on what makes our life more rewarding. Only relevant scientific findings that should make us more critical of authors who sell quick and easy solutions for living a life of satisfaction and happiness.

Bibliographic references:

  • Kahneman, Daniel. Think fast, think slow. Barcelona: Debate, 2012. ISBN-13: 978-8483068618.

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