“The only thing…that can destroy [the human race] and doom us are our own decisions.”
In theory, multiplying the odds of you succeeding by the value of that success is a simple strategy that will always lead you to a good decision.
“Our brains were evolved for a very different world…a world in which people lived in very small groups, rarely met anybody who was terrible different from themselves, had rather short lives in which there were few choices and the highest priority was to eat and mate today.”
However, two human fallibilities – erring in calculating odds and value – can distort your decision-making process. If a lottery contains 10 tickets and you hold one, your chance of winning is 10%. If one person holds the remaining nine tickets, your odds of winning remains the same at 10%, but your ability to view the other person’s chances of winning distorts your perception of your own odds.
“If we’re not here in 10,000 years, it’s going to be because we could not take advantage of the gift given to us by a young [Bernoulli] in 1738.”
Your perceptions of your odds can become distorted by relying on memory to estimate your chances of success. For example, the higher your exposure to an event, the more readily it comes to mind. Thus, you overestimate the number of deaths caused by tornadoes and fireworks, which feature heavily in the media, but vastly underestimate deaths from seldom reported drownings and asthma attacks.
You may often miscalculate value by basing their estimations on comparisons. Comparisons alter your perceptions of value. For example, you may prefer a job that pays a higher salary with each passing year over three years than one that pays less each passing year, even if you are aware that you will make more money over the three years in the latter job.
Poor decision making may result in your own downfall and that of humankind.
We must make ourselves be aware to the fact that we overrate “present pleasures” and underrate “future pain.”
TED Conferences LLC
Psychologist & Author
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 islucid, 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, Timeand even Starbucks, while continuing his research into happiness at his Hedonic Psychology Laboratory.