Stumbling on Happiness

One cannot divine nor forecast the conditions that will make happiness; one only stumbles upon them by chance, in a lucky hour, at the world’s end somewhere, and holds fast to the days, as to fortune or fame. Willa Cather, “Le Lavandou,” 1902

Stumbling on Happiness é um dos livros que o Atila (biólogo, pesquisador e alguma coisa) recomendou e usou como fonte para um dos Nerdologias.

Por conta disso, eu realmente esperava um ótimo livro e mesmo assim ele me surpreendeu. O engraçado esse livro é que ele tem titulo de auto-ajuda, o que torna muito dificil recomendar ele para as pessoas: "cara você tem que ler esse livro! Ele é o livro de um psiquiatra sobre o porque erramos ao tentar prever o nosso futuro" <--- Soa como qualquer outro livro de auto-ajuda.

Mas esse livro é diferente, ele não é um guia para nada. Ele é na verdade uma compilação de artigos sobre como o nosso cerébro funciona, principalmente a parte da imaginação.

Researchers have discovered that when people find it easy to imagine an event, they overestimate the likelihood that it will actually occur. Because most of us get so much more practice imagining good than bad events, we tend to overestimate the likelihood that good events will actually happen to us, which leads us to be unrealistically optimistic about our futures.

O livro disserta sobre o fato de ao tomar decisões que influenciam nosso futuro, nós normalmente falhamos em imaginar como nos sentiremos nele. Ao não gastarmos o nosso dinheiro agora para podermos por exemplo nos aposentar numa ilha paradisíaca, falhamos em imaginar todos os detalhes: como vai ser o dia a dia? Como é a ilha? Como é a casa?

Essa falha se dá por conta de como o cerébro funciona.

We have a large frontal lobe so that we can look into the future, we look into the future so that we can make predictions about it, we make predictions about it so that we can control it—but why do we want to control it at all? Why not just let the future unfold as it will and experience it as it does? Why not be here now and there then? There are two answers to this question, one of which is surprisingly right and the other of which is surprisingly wrong. [...] important reason why our brains insist on simulating the future even when we’d rather be here now, enjoying a goldfish moment, is that our brains want to control the experiences we are about to have.

Os estudos citados no livro são muito interessantes e ajudam a entender mais vários aspectos de nós seres humanos. Por que achamos que somos tão "especiais" sendo que somos iguais a todo mundo em praticamente tudo("The bottom line is this: The brain and the eye may have a contractual relationship in which the brain has agreed to believe what the eye sees, but in return the eye has agreed to look for what the brain wants."), por que com apenas um pedaço da informação somos capazes de entender todo o contexto em nossa volta.

This tendency to seek information about those who have done more poorly than we have is especially pronounced when the stakes are high. People with life-threatening illnesses such as cancer are particularly likely to compare themselves with those who are in worse shape, which explains why 96 percent of the cancer patients in one study claimed to be in better health than the average cancer patient. And if we can’t find people who are doing more poorly than we are, we may go out and create them.

Alias, o livro até ajuda a entender por que sempre achamos que o outro está errado, ou por que estamos sempre certos:

When Dartmouth and Princeton students see the same football game, both sets of students claim that the facts clearly show that the other school’s team was responsible for the unsportsmanlike conduct. When Democrats and Republicans see the same presidential debate on television, both sets of viewers claim that the facts clearly show that their candidate was the winner. When pro-Israeli and pro-Arab viewers see identical samples of Middle East news coverage, both proponents claim that the facts clearly show that the press was biased against their side. Alas, the only thing these facts clearly show is that people tend to see what they want to see.

[...]

Distorted views of reality are made possible by the fact that experiences are ambiguous—that is, they can be credibly viewed in many ways, some of which are more positive than others. To ensure that our views are credible, our brain accepts what our eye sees. To ensure that our views are positive, our eye looks for what our brain wants. The conspiracy between these two servants allows us to live at the fulcrum of stark reality and comforting illusion.

[...]

When we expose ourselves to favorable facts, notice and remember favorable facts, and hold favorable facts to a fairly low standard of proof, we are generally no more aware of our subterfuge than Osten was of his. We may refer to the processes by which the psychological immune system does its job as “tactics” or “strategies,” but these terms—with their inevitable connotations of planning and deliberation—should not cause us to think of people as manipulative schemers who are consciously trying to generate positive views of their own experience. On the contrary, research suggests that people are typically unaware of the reasons why they are doing what they are doing,1 but when asked for a reason, they readily supply one.

[...]

Ninety percent of motorists consider themselves to be safer-than-average drivers,29 and 94 percent of college professors consider themselves to be better-than-average teachers. Ironically, the bias toward seeing ourselves as better than average causes us to see ourselves as less biased than average too. As one research team concluded, “Most of us appear to believe that we are more athletic, intelligent, organized, ethical, logical, interesting, fair-minded, and healthy—not to mention more attractive—than the average person.”

O livro é muito complexo, mas o autor consegue levar o assunto de uma maneira "engraçada" e no ritmo certo. O autor te pega pela mão e te guia, não fazendo você tropeçar num bando de informação da qua você não estava preparado para entender.

O livro é um meio termo entre um livro técnico e um livro "normal", então se você está esperando um auto-ajuda babaca e de fácil leitura por causa do nome, você vai se arrepender amargamente de pegar esse livro.