A TED Talk A Day, Day 64:

Note: The next 2 weeks worth of talks will be centred around happiness. I marked a playlist of these talks a few years ago and it’s time to finally watch it.

  1. In 2 million years, the human brain has tripled in mass, from homo habilis to homo sapiens. One of the reasons for this is the growth of the frontal lobe, especially the pre-frontal cortex.
  2. The pre-frontal cortex is like a “simulator”,  and allows us to have simulate experiences before we actually have them.
  3. If asked to pick whether we’d like to be lottery winners or paraplegics, the answer would seem obvious. But the fact is, a year after either incidents, actually lottery winners and paraplegics are equally happy with their lives.
  4. Impact bias: The tendency to overestimate the hedonic impact of future events. We tend to believe that different outcomes are more different than they really are, but this is almost always get this wrong. This applies to every from elections, to romance, to weight loss.
  5. Happiness can be synthesised. We have a kind of “psychological immune system” — a set of cognitive processes that help us change our view of the world so that we can feel better about the world we find ourselves.
  6.  We think “synthetic happiness” (what we make when we don’t get what we want) is not as great as “natural happiness” (when we get what we want).
  7. In an experiment which measured how much people liked a lineup of paintings before and after they owned one, both normal people and anterograde amnesiacs were shown to change their preferences in favour of the paintings they owned, while simultaneously changing their preferences against the painting they did not own.
  8. Choices impacts happiness: Students given a choice to keep two photographic prints they did were ultimately happier with what they had when they were not given the option to change their minds than if they were.
  9. Our longings are constantly overblown. We should have preferences, but not to the point where we exceed the boundaries of prudence.
  10. “We have the capacity to manufacture the commodity that we are constantly chasing when we choose experience.”

Suggested action step: I will be look at my own longings and desires with greater perspective, and not always select the path of more options.