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Engineering Happiness

Engineering Happiness: A New Approach for Building a Joyful Life

Manel Baucells
Rakesh Sarin
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: 1
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    Engineering Happiness
    Book Description:

    Manel Baucells and Rakesh Sarin have been conducting ground-breaking research on happiness for more than a decade, and in this book they distill their provocative findings into a lively, accessible guide for a wide audience of readers. Integrating their own research with the latest thinking in the behavioral and social sciences-including management science, psychology, and economics-they offer a new approach to the puzzle of happiness. Woven throughout with wisdom from the world's religions and literatures,Engineering Happinesshas something to offer everyone-regardless of background, profession, or aspiration-who wants to better understand, control, and attain a more joyful life. • Shows how a few major principles can explain how happiness works and why it is so elusive • Demonstrates how the essence of attaining happiness is choice • Explores how to avoid happiness traps • Tells how to recognize happiness triggers in everyday life

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95142-6
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. PREFACE: Engineers on Happiness
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. INTRODUCTION: The Science of Happiness
    (pp. 1-8)

    Who among us has not dreamed of winning the lottery or coming into great wealth, thus ensuring a life of carefree bliss and never-ending happiness for the rest of our days? After all, if we just had that bottomless bank account, all of our worries and insecurities would fade into the distance like the runway beneath our new Gulfstream G650 private jet. Does happiness really work that way? Can it be bought, despite what the old cliché says? Here’s the story of one man who lived the dream, and his answer is a resounding “No.”

    Andrew Jackson Whittaker Jr. grew...


    • CHAPTER 1 Measuring Happiness
      (pp. 11-26)

      As with matter and energy, our understanding of happiness increases with the discovery of more and more precise measurement instruments. The great milestones of science, such as deciphering the motion of heavenly bodies, all began with the measurement of the object being studied. Without measurement, it is not possible to advance our understanding of the complex dynamics of the happiness seismogram.

      There are at least seven ways to measure happiness. Each one helps to create a picture of what makes people happy. Let’s see how these seven measurement devices work and the main findings each provides.

      The primary strategy for...

    • CHAPTER 2 Defining Happiness
      (pp. 27-44)

      We believe it is possible to defi ne happiness in mathematical terms. In the same way that energy is measured in calories, happiness can in principle be measured in what we call happydons. The building blocks we use to defi ne happiness are emotions, feelings, and states of mind.

      Happiness is composed of the momentary feeling we all have when things are going our way, when the weather is beautiful, or when our favorite team just won the big game. And unhappiness is composed of the unpleasant feeling we all have when we get a bad grade or catch flu....


    • CHAPTER 3 The First Law of Happiness: Relative Comparison
      (pp. 47-58)

      Happiness and unhappiness are colorful experiences: think of each emotion on the map of feelings and emotions as a particular type of flower, which, together with many other flowers, forms a diverse garden. Because a particular feeling can have several levels of intensity, we can think that any given type of flower having different shades of color. All of our different emotions, each with multiple levels of intensity, will fill in the map of emotions.

      Our inner life is like a butterfly that moves from flower to flower in this garden of inner states. Where it goes or where it...

    • CHAPTER 4 The Second Law of Happiness: Motion of Expectation
      (pp. 59-70)

      Expectations play a key role in the laws of happiness. But what determines our expectations? We have argued that what others have influences our expectations. But social comparison is just one of three main factors that influence expectations. What is the second main factor? Here is one simple but powerful experiment. Take three glasses. Fill one glass with hot water (not hot enough to hurt your hand), one with ice water (take the ice out before you begin), and one with water that is room temperature. Next, put one finger of your right hand in the hot water and one...

    • CHAPTER 5 The Third Law of Happiness: Aversion to Loss
      (pp. 71-77)

      Let’s imagine a game. Toss a coin in the air. If the coin lands on tails, you lose ten dollars; but, if the coin lands on heads, you win some amount of money. What is the minimum amount that you would have to win for you to play the game? The odds of the coin landing on heads or tails are equal, so it would be fair to suggest that you should stand to win the same amount that you could lose, ten dollars. But in this case, most of us don’t want to play fair. In fact, most people...

    • CHAPTER 6 The Fourth Law of Happiness: Diminishing Sensitivity
      (pp. 78-95)

      Compare the emotion of winning ten thousand dollars from a call-in radio show with the emotion of winning one hundred thousand dollars from the lottery. If what we have said before is true—that happiness associated with gains is a straight line of reality minus expectations—then the lottery ticket is supposed to give you ten times more happydons than the call-in radio prize does. Is this correct? Intuitively, we see that we will be happier with the lottery windfall, but not ten times as much. In other words, there is diminishing sensitivity to gains.

      Happiness or unhappiness cannot be...

    • CHAPTER 7 The Fifth Law of Happiness: Satiation
      (pp. 96-110)

      The four laws that we have introduced are very useful to understand the formation of habits and the incremental strategies required to maximize happiness. But we are still missing one essential element to understand that there is more to life than just habits. This element, the spice of life, is variety. Variety, as we will argue, will be a consequence of the fifth law of happiness.

      Suppose you just got back from a weeklong holiday in the Bahamas, where you spent the days relaxing on a beautiful beach sipping colorful cocktails. When the vacation ends, you return home and dive...

    • CHAPTER 8 The Sixth Law of Happiness: Presentism
      (pp. 111-124)

      You pull out the crumpled lottery ticket from your pocket and anxiously compare your ticket to the winning numbers. Your heart is pounding as you see that one number after another matches the winning numbers. You triple check until your mind fully grasps the fact that you have indeed won a million-dollar jackpot. You are in shock, but within a few minutes you are giddy with joy.

      Now, stop jumping up and down and hugging complete strangers, and ask, “How happy will I be a year from now?” You will probably expect to be extremely happy. After all, your life...


    • CHAPTER 9 The Treasure of Happiness: Basic Goods
      (pp. 127-137)

      In 1978, researchers at the University of Connecticut presented a group of adults with a list of twenty-four big-ticket consumer items such as cars, houses, and swimming pools. First the research subjects were asked how many of these items they already possessed and then they were asked the following question: “When you think of the good life—the life you’d like to have—which of the things on the list, if any, are part of the good life as far as you are personally concerned?”¹

      There were no big surprises in the results, which showed that people thought that they...

    • CHAPTER 10 Cumulative Comparison
      (pp. 138-154)

      A traveler came upon a group of three hard-at-work stonemasons. He asked each in turn what he was doing. The first said, “I am sanding down this block of marble.” The second said, “I am preparing a foundation.” The third said, “I am building a cathedral.” It is the third mason who saw his work as a task that would stay. As construction on the cathedral progresses, his happiness will continue to increase.

      Carol Ryff of the University of Wisconsin distinguishes between “hedonic well-being,” which are our feelings and mood in general, and “eudaimonic well-being,” which involves having a purpose...

    • CHAPTER 11 Reframing
      (pp. 155-179)

      Imagine you are stuck in traffic. No one is moving, and as you look out the window you see several agitated drivers. There is an accident ahead and it will take some time to clear the way. You feel tension building in your muscles and clouding your mind, but instead you imagine that you are sitting on a giant ball about eight thousand miles of diameter that is spinning at about sixty-seven thousand miles per hour. You realize you are on an awesome Disneyland ride and a smile breaks out on your face.

      That is reframing.

      Of course, the fact...

    • CHAPTER 12 Living within the Laws of Happiness
      (pp. 180-193)

      Think of the myriad of activities one could engage in, or the thousands of products one could buy. How do these possibilities translate into emotions, feelings, and ultimately happiness?

      We postulate that happiness is the sum total of positive and negative moment-happiness. A pleasant emotion leads to positive momenthappiness (a flirting glance from an attractive man or woman, or eating ice cream on a hot day), while a negative emotion (getting reprimanded by the boss) leads to a negative moment-happiness. We have proposed a set of general laws that govern most emotions. Based on these laws, we have constructed our...

    • CHAPTER 13 Building a Happier Life
      (pp. 194-206)

      Benjamin Franklin decided at a young age that he must cultivate virtue. He proceeded to design a plan in which he would practice each virtue (for example, temperance) every day for one week. He would make a note when he fell short and, he hoped, with practice, over time the incidences of infractions would diminish.

      We use an analogous approach but with a focus on improving happiness. You must first realize that a happier life is achoice, something in your hands. Carefully examine your life and determine which factors are important to you. Most people want a job they...

  9. NOTES
    (pp. 207-224)
  10. INDEX
    (pp. 225-233)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 234-234)