Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Disability doesn't usually cause unhappiness

Harvard researcher Daniel Gilbert explained his research on happiness in The New York Times Science Section April 22, and confirmed what people in the disability community have long known -- human beings are resilient and cope quite well with life events that they think will be devastating.

"The truth is, bad things don’t affect us as profoundly as we expect them to," Gilbert says. "That’s true of good things, too. We adapt very quickly to either. So the good news is that going blind is not going to make you as unhappy as you think it will. The bad news is that winning the lottery will not make you as happy as you expect."

Humans have inaccurate and flawed ideas about how devastated they will be when something bad happens to them, he said.

"Few of us can accurately gauge how we will feel tomorrow or next week," he explains. "People have remarkable talent for finding ways to soften the impact of negative events. Thus they mistakenly expect such blows to be much more devastating than they turn out to be."

Gilbert’s book Stumbling on Happiness was a New York Times paperback best seller for 23 weeks and won the 2007 Royal Society Prize for Science Books.