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THE

HAPPINESS
HYPOTHESIS
J ona t ha n Hai dt t eaches psychol ogy at the Uni versi ty
Vi rgi ni a Thi s i s hi s fi rst book for t he general reader
A L S O BY J ONAT HAN HAI DT
Flourishing: Positive Psychology and the Live Well-Lived
( c o - e d i t o r )
THE
HAPPINESS
HYPOTHESIS
JONATHAN HAIDT
Putting Ancient Wisdom
and Philosophy to the
Test of Modern Science
a r r o w b o o k s
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Pr i nt ed i n t he UK b y C P I B o o k ma r q u e , Cr o y d o n, C RO 4 T D
f o r J a y n e
i
i
t
Contents
Introduction: Too Muck Wisdom
1 T h e Di vi ded Sel f
2 Cha ng i ng Your Mi nd
3 Reci pr oci t y wi th a Ve ng e a nc e
4 Th e Faul t s of Ot her s
5 The Pur s ui t of Ha ppi ne s s
6 Love a nd At t a c hme nt s
7 Th e Us e s of Adversi t y
8 Th e Fel i ci ty of Vi rt ue
9 Di vi ni t y Wi t h or Wi t hout Go d
1 0 Ha p p i ne s s C o me s f r om Be t we e n
1 1 Conc l us i on: On Ba l a nc e
Acknowledgments
Notes
References
Index
vi i
Introduction:
Too Much Wisdom
W H A T SHOULD I DO, how s houl d I live, a nd whom s houl d I b e c o me ? Ma ny
of us as k s uch ques t i ons , and, moder n life bei ng what i t is, we don' t have t o
go f ar t o f i nd ans wer s . Wi s dom i s now so c he a p and abundant t hat i t f l oods
over us f r om cal endar pages , t ea bags, bot t l e ca ps , a nd ma s s e- mai l mes -
s a ges f orwarded by wel l - meani ng f ri ends . We are i n a way like r es i dent s of
J or ge Lui s Borges ' s Library of Babelan i nf i ni te library whos e bo o ks con-
tain every pos s i bl e stri ng of l etters and, t heref ore, s omewher e an expl ana-
t i on of why t he l i brary exi s t s a nd how t o us e it. But Bor ges ' s l i br ar i ans
s us pe c t that they will never f i nd that book ami d the mi l es of nons e ns e .
Ou r pr os pect s ar e bet t er. Few of our pot ent i al s our c es of wi s d o m ar e
nons ens e, and many are enti rel y true. Yet, b e c a u s e our library i s a l s o e f f e c -
tively i nf i ni t eno one per s on can ever r ead mor e t han a tiny f r a c t i o nwe
f a c e t he paradox of a bunda nc e : Qua nt i t y unde r mi ne s t he qual i t y of our en-
ga ge me nt . Wi t h s uc h a vas t and wonder f ul library s pr ead out be f or e us , we
of t en s ki m books or r ead j us t the revi ews. We mi ght al ready have e nc oun-
t ered t he Gr eat es t I dea, t he i nsi ght that woul d have t r ans f or med us had we
s avor ed it, t aken i t to heart , and worked i t i nt o our l i ves.
Thi s i s a book about t en Gr eat I deas . Ea c h chapt er i s an a t t e mpt t o savor
one i dea that has be e n di s covered by several of t he world' s ci vi l i zat i ons t o
ques t i on i t i n light of wha t we now know f r om s ci ent i f i c r es ear ch, a n d t o ex-
tract f rom i t t he l es s ons that still appl y to our moder n lives.
ix
Introduction: Too Much Wisdom x
I am a s oci al ps ychol ogi s t . I do e x pe r i me nt s to try to f i gur e out one cor-
ner of hu ma n s oci al l i fe, a nd my cor ner i s moral i t y a nd t he mor al emot i ons .
I am al s o a t eacher . I t ea ch a l ar ge i nt r oduct or y ps yc hol ogy c l a s s at t he
Uni versi t y of Vi rgi ni a i n whi ch I try to expl ai n t he ent i r e f i el d of ps ychol ogy
i n t went y-f our l ect ur es . I have to pr e s e nt a t hous a nd r es ear ch f i ndi ngs on
ever yt hi ng f r om t he s t r uc t ur e of t he r et i na t o t he wor ki ngs of l ove, a nd
t hen ho p e t hat my s t ud e nt s will u n d e r s t a n d a nd r e me mb e r i t al l . As I
s t r uggl ed wi t h t hi s c ha l l enge i n my f i rst year of t ea chi ng, I real i zed that
several i deas kept recurri ng a c r os s l ect ur es , a nd that of t en t he s e i deas had
been s t at ed el oquent l y by pas t t hi nker s . To s umma r i z e t he i dea t hat our
emot i ons , our r eact i ons t o event s , a nd s o me ment a l i l l nes s es ar e c a us e d by
t he ment al f i l t ers t hr ough whi ch we l ook at t he worl d, I c oul d not say i t any
mor e conci s el y t han S ha ke s pe a r e : " The r e i s not hi ng ei t her good or bad, but
t hi nki ng ma ke s i t so. "
1
I be ga n t o us e s uc h quot a t i ons t o hel p my s t udent s
r e me mb e r t he bi g i de a s i n ps ychol ogy, a nd I be g a n t o wo nd e r j us t how
ma ny s uc h i dea s t here wer e.
To f i nd out , I read dozens of wor ks of a nc i ent wi s dom, mos t l y f rom t he
world' s three great zones of cl as s i cal t hought : Indi a (for e xa mpl e , t he Upa n-
i s hads , t he Bhagavad Gi t a, t he s ayi ngs of t he Buddha ) , Chi na ( t he Anal ect s
of Co nf uc i us , t he Ta o t e Chi ng, t he wri t i ngs of Me ng Tz u a nd ot her phi l os-
opher s ) , a nd t he cul t ur es of t he Me di t e r r a ne a n ( t he Ol d a nd Ne w Tes t a-
ment s , t he Gr e e k a nd Ro ma n phi l os opher s , t he Koran) . I al s o r ead a variety
of ot her works of phi l os ophy a nd l i t erat ure f r om t he l ast fi ve hundr ed years.
Every t i me I f ound a ps ychol ogi cal c l a i ma s t a t ement a bout hu ma n nat ure
or t he worki ngs of t he mi nd or he a r t I wr ot e i t down. Whe ne ve r I f ound
an i dea e xpr e s s e d i n s ever al p l a c e s a nd t i me s I c o ns i de r e d i t a pos s i bl e
Gr eat Idea. But rat her t han mec ha ni c a l l y l i st i ng t he t op t en al l -t i me mos t
wi des pr ea d ps ychol ogi cal i deas of huma nk i nd , I de c i de d t hat c ohe r e nc e
wa s mor e i mpor t ant t han f requency. I wa nt e d t o wri te a bout a s et of i deas
that woul d fi t together, bui l d upon e a c h other, and tell a story about how
huma n bei ngs c a n f i nd ha ppi nes s a nd me a ni ng i n li fe.
Hel pi ng peopl e f i nd ha ppi nes s a nd me a ni ng i s preci s el y t he goal of t he
new fi el d of posi t i ve psychol ogy,
2
a f i el d i n whi ch I have be e n act i ve,
3
so
this book i s i n a way a bout t he ori gi ns of pos i t i ve ps ychol ogy i n anci ent wi s-
do m and t he appl i cat i ons of pos i t i ve ps ychol ogy today. Mo s t of t he r es ear ch
Introduction: Too Much Wisdom xi
I will cover was done by s ci ent i s t s who woul d not cons i der t he ms e l ve s pos i -
tive ps ychol ogi s t s . None t he l e s s , I have dr awn on t en anci ent i de a s a nd a
great variety of mode r n r es ear ch f i ndi ngs t o tell t he bes t story I c a n a bout
t he c a us e s of huma n f l ouri s hi ng, and t he obs t a c l e s t o wel l bei ng t hat we
pl a c e i n our own pat hs .
The story begi ns with an account of how t he huma n mi nd works . No t a
full account , of cour s e, j us t two anci ent t rut hs t hat mus t be unde r s t ood be-
f or e you can t ake advant age of moder n ps ychol ogy t o i mprove your l i f e. The
first truth i s t he f oundat i onal i dea of this book: Th e mi nd i s di vi ded i nt o part s
that s ome t i me s conf l i ct . Li ke a rider on t he back of an el ephant , t he con-
s ci ous , reas oni ng part of t he mi nd has only l i mi t ed control of what t he el e-
phant does . Nowa da ys , we know t he c a us e s of t hes e di vi si ons, a nd a f ew
ways t o hel p t he rider and t he el ephant work bet t er as a t eam. T h e s e c o nd
i dea i s Shakes pear e' s , about how "thi nki ng ma ke s i t s o. " (Or, as Bu d d ha
4
sai d,
"Our l i fe i s t he creat i on of our mi nd. " ) But we c a n i mprove this a nc i ent i dea
t oday by expl ai ni ng why mo s t peopl e' s mi nds have a bi as t owa r d s e e i ng
threats and engagi ng i n us el es s worry. We can al s o do s omet hi ng t o c ha ng e
this bi as by us i ng t hree t echni ques that i ncr eas e happi nes s , one a nc i e nt and
two very new.
The s econd s t ep i n t he story i s t o gi ve an a c c ount of our s oci al l i ve s
agai n, not a c ompl e t e account , j us t two truths, wi del y known but not suf -
f i ci ent l y a ppr e c i a t e d. On e i s t he Go l d e n Rul e . Reci pr oci t y i s t he mo s t
i mport ant tool for getti ng al ong with peopl e, and I'll s how you how you can
us e i t to sol ve pr obl ems i n your own life and avoi d bei ng expl oi t ed by t hos e
who us e reci proci ty agai ns t you. However, reci proci t y i s mor e than j us t a tool.
It i s al s o a cl ue about who we huma ns are and what we need, a cl ue t hat will
be i mport ant for under s t andi ng t he end of t he l arger story. The s e c o nd truth
i n thi s part of t he story i s that we are all, by nat ure, hypocri t es, a nd t hi s i s
why i t i s so hard for us to fol l ow t he Gol de n Rul e faithfully. Recent ps ycho-
logical r es ear ch has uncover ed t he ment al me c ha ni s ms that ma ke us s o good
at s eei ng t he sl i ghtest s pe c k i n our nei ghbor' s eye, and s o bad at s e e i ng t he
l og i n our own. If you know what your mi nd i s up to, and why you so easi l y
s ee t he worl d t hrough a di st ort i ng l ens of good a nd evil, you can t ake s t e ps t o
r educ e your s el f -ri ght eous nes s . \ o u can t hereby-reduce t he f r equency of con-
fl i cts wi th ot hers who are equal l y convi nced pf thei r ri ght eous nes s .
Introduction: Too Much Wisdom xii
At thi s poi nt i n t he story, we' ll be r eady t o as k: Whe r e doe s ha ppi nes s
c o me f r o m? The r e ar e s ever al di f f e r e nt " ha p p i ne s s hy p o t he s e s . " On e i s
that ha ppi ne s s c o me s f r om get t i ng what you want , but we all know ( and re-
s ear ch c onf i r ms ) t hat s uc h ha ppi ne s s i s s hort -l i ved. A mor e pr omi s i ng hy-
pot hes i s i s t hat ha ppi ne s s c o me s f r om wi t hi n a nd ca nnot be obt ai ned by
maki ng t he worl d c onf or m t o your des i r es . Thi s i dea wa s wi de s pr e a d i n t he
a nc i e nt wor l d: B u d d h a i n I ndi a a n d t he S t o i c p hi l o s o p he r s i n a nc i e nt
Gr e e c e and Ro me all c o uns e l e d p e o p l e t o br ea k thei r e mot i ona l at t ach-
me nt s t o pe opl e and event s , whi ch ar e al ways unpr edi c t a bl e and uncon-
trol l abl e, and t o cul t i vat e i ns t ead an a t t i t ude of a c c e pt a nc e . Thi s anci ent
i dea des er ves r es pect , a nd i t i s cert ai nl y t r ue t hat c ha ng i ng your mi nd i s
us ual l y a mor e ef f ect i ve r e s po ns e t o f r us t r at i on t han i s c ha ng i ng t he worl d.
However, I will pr es ent evi denc e t hat t hi s s e c o nd vers i on of t he ha ppi ne s s
hypot hes i s i s wr ong. Re c e nt r e s e a r c h s ho ws t hat t her e a r e s o me t hi ngs
wort h stri vi ng for; t here ar e ext ernal c ondi t i ons of l i fe that c a n ma ke you
l ast i ngl y happi er. On e of t he s e c ondi t i ons i s r e l a t e d ne s s t he bonds we
f orm, a nd need t o f or m, wi t h ot her s . I'll pr e s e nt r es ea r c h s howi ng wher e
l ove c o me s f r om, why pa s s i ona t e l ove al ways cool s , and what ki nd of l ove i s
" t r ue" love. I'll s ugges t t hat t he ha p p i ne s s hypot hes i s of f er ed by Bu d d ha
a nd t he St oi c s s houl d be a me n d e d : Ha p p i n e s s c o me s f r om wi t hi n, a nd
ha ppi ne s s c o me s f r om wi t hout . We ne e d t he g ui da nc e of bot h anci ent wi s-
do m and mode r n s c i e nc e t o get t he b a l a nc e ri ght.
Th e next s t ep i n thi s story a bout f l our i s hi ng i s t o l ook at t he condi t i ons
of huma n growt h a nd de ve l opme nt . We' ve al l hear d t hat wha t does n' t kill
us ma ke s us st ronger, but that i s a da ng e r o us over s i mpl i f i cat i on. Ma ny of
t he t hi ngs t hat don' t kill you c a n d a ma g e you f or l i f e. Re c e nt r es ear ch on
" pos t t r aumat i c gr owt h" reveal s whe n a nd why pe opl e gr ow f r om adversi ty,
a nd what you c a n do t o pr epa r e your s el f f or t r a uma , or t o c o p e wi th i t af t er
t he f act . We have al s o all hear d r e pe a t e d ur gi ngs t o cul t i vat e vi rt ue i n our-
s el ves , be c a us e vi rt ue i s its own r ewar d, but t hat , t oo, i s an overs i mpl i f i -
cat i on. I'll s how how c o nc e p t s of vi r t ue a nd moral i t y ha ve c ha ng e d a nd
nar r owed over t he cent ur i es , a nd how a nc i e nt i deas a bout vi rt ue a nd moral
devel opment ma y hol d pr omi s e f or our own age. I'll al s o s how how pos i t i ve
ps ychol ogy i s begi nni ng t o del i ver on t hat pr omi s e by of f er i ng you a way t o
" di agnos e" and devel op your own s t r engt hs a nd vi rt ues.
Introduction: Too Much Wisdom xiii
Th e concl us i on of t he story i s t he ques t i on of me a ni ng: Why do s o me
pe opl e f i nd me a ni ng, pur pos e, and f ul f i l l ment i n l i fe, but ot her s do not ? I
begi n wi th t he cul t ural l y wi de s pr e a d i dea t hat t here i s a vert i cal , s pi r i t ual
di mens i on of huma n exi s t ence. Whe t he r i t i s cal l ed nobility, vi r t ue, or di-
vinity, and whet her or not Go d exi s t s , pe opl e s i mpl y do per cei ve s a c r e d-
ne s s , hol i nes s , or s o me i ne f f a bl e g o o d ne s s i n ot her s , a nd i n na t ur e . I'll
pr es ent my own r es ear ch on t he moral e mot i ons of di s gus t , el evat i on, a nd
a we t o expl ai n how t hi s verti cal di me ns i on wor ks , a nd why t he d i me ns i o n
i s s o i mpor t ant for under s t a ndi ng rel i gi ous f unda me nt a l i s m, t he pol i t i cal
c ul t ur e war, a nd t he h u ma n q ue s t f or me a ni ng . I'll a l s o c o n s i d e r wha t
peopl e me a n when t he y a s k , " Wha t i s t he me a ni ng of l i f e? " And I'll gi ve an
a ns we r t o t he ques t i on-an a ns wer that dr aws on anci ent i deas a b o ut hav-
i ng a pur pos e but that us e s very r ecent r es ear ch t o go beyond t he s e a nc i e nt
i deas , or any i dea s you are likely t o have e nc ount e r e d. In doi ng s o, I'll re-
vi s e t he ha ppi ne s s hypot hes i s one l ast t i me. I c oul d s t at e t hat f i nal ver s i on
her e i n a f ew wor ds , but 1 coul d not expl ai n i t i n thi s bri ef i nt r oduc t i on
wi t hout c he a pe ni ng it. Wor ds of wi s dom, t he me a ni ng of life, p e r ha p s even
t he a ns we r s ought by Borges ' s l i br ar i ans al l of t hes e ma y wa s h over us
every day, but t hey c a n do little f or us unl e s s we savor t hem, e ng a g e wi t h
t he m, ques t i on t he m, i mpr ove t hem, a nd c onne c t t hem t o our l i ves . Tha t
i s my goal i n thi s book.
1
The Divided Self
For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what
the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed
to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want.
S T . P A U L , G A L A T I A N S 5
: I
7 '
If Passion drives, let Reason hold the Reins.
B E N J A M I N F R A N K L I N ^
I F I R S T R O D E A M O R S E in 1 9 9 1 , in Gr eat Smoky Nat i onal Park, Nor t h Ca r -
olina. I'd been on ri des as a chi l d where s ome t eenager l ed the hor s e by a
short rope, but this was the first ti me i t was j us t me and a horse, no r ope. I
wasn' t a l one t he r e were ei ght ot her peopl e on ei ght ot her hor s es , and
one of the peopl e was a park r anger s o the ri de didn' t as k muc h of me.
Ther e was , however, one di f f i cul t moment . We were ri di ng al ong a pat h on
a s t eep hi l l si de, two by two, and my hors e was on the out s i de, wal ki ng
about t hree f eet f rom the edge. The n t he pat h t urned sharpl y t o t he l ef t ,
and my horse was headi ng strai ght for t he edge. I froze. I knew I ha d to
steer l eft, but there was anot her horse to my left and I didn' t want to cr as h
into it. I mi ght have cal l ed out for hel p, or s c r e a me d, " Look out ! " ; but
s ome part of me pref erred t he risk of goi ng over the edge t o the cer t ai nt y
of l ooki ng st upi d. So I j us t froze. I di d not hi ng at all duri ng the critical- five
1
2 ' I ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
s econds i n whi ch my hors e and t he hor s e t o my l ef t cal ml y t urned t o the
left by t hems el ves .
As my pani c s ubs i ded, I l aughed at my ri di cul ous fear. The horse knew
exactly what s he was doi ng. She' d wal ked this pat h a hundr ed t i mes, and
s he had no more i nterest i n t umbl i ng to her deat h than I had. S he didn' t
need me to tell her what to do, and, in f act , the f ew t i mes I tried to tell her
what to do s he didn' t much s e e m to care. I had gotten i t all so wrong be-
c a us e I had s pent the previ ous ten years dri vi ng cars , not hors es . Ca r s go
over edges unl es s you tell t hem not to.
Huma n thi nki ng depends on met aphor . "We under s t and new or compl ex
thi ngs in relation to thi ngs we al ready know.
3
For exampl e, it's hard to think
about life i n general , but once you appl y t he met aphor "l i fe i s a j ourney, "
the met aphor gui des you to s ome concl us i ons : You s houl d l earn the terrain,
pi ck a di recti on, f i nd s ome good travel i ng c ompa ni ons , and enj oy the trip,
be c a us e t here may be nothi ng at the end of the road. It's al so hard to think
about the mi nd, but once you pi ck a met a phor i t will gui de your thinking.
Thr oughout recorded history, peopl e have lived with and tried to control
ani mal s, and t hes e ani mal s ma de thei r way i nto anci ent met aphor s . Bud-
dha, for exampl e, compar ed the mi nd to a wild el ephant :
In days gone by this mind of mi ne used to stray wherever sel fi sh desire
or lust or pl easure would lead it. Today this mind does not stray and is
under the harmony of control, even as a wild el ephant is controlled by
the trainer.
4
Pl ato us ed a si mi l ar met aphor in whi ch t he sel f (or soul ) is a chari ot, and
the cal m, rational part of the mi nd hol ds the rei ns. Plato' s chari ot eer had to
control two horses:
The horse that is on the right, or nobler, si de is upright in f rame and well
jointed, with a high neck and a regal nose; . . . he is a lover of honor with
modesty and self-control; compani on to true glory, he needs no whip,
and is gui ded by verbal commands al one. The other horse is a crooked
great j umbl e of limbs . . . compani on to wild boasts and indecency, he is
The Divided Self 1 3
shaggy around t he ea r s dea f as a pos t a nd j us t barely yields to hor s e-
whi p and goad combi ned.
5
For Pl at o, s o me of t he emot i ons a nd pa s s i ons are good (for e x a mpl e , t he
love of honor) , a nd they hel p pul l t he sel f i n t he right di rect i on, but ot her s
are bad (for exa mpl e, t he appet i t es a nd l us t s ) . T h e goal of Pl at oni c e d uc a -
ti on wa s t o hel p t he char i ot eer gai n per f ect cont rol over t he t wo hor s e s . Si g-
mu nd Fr eud of f er ed us a rel at ed model 2 , 3 0 0 years l ater.
6
Fr eud s a i d t hat
t he mi nd i s di vi ded into t hr ee part s: t he e go ( t he c ons c i ous , rat i onal s el f ) ;
t he s upe r e g o ( t he c ons c i e nc e , a s o me t i me s t oo rigid c o mmi t me nt t o t he
rul es of s oci et y) ; a nd t he i d ( t he des i re for pl ea s ur e, lots of it, s oone r r at her
t han l at er ) . T h e me t a pho r I us e whe n I l e c t ur e on Fr e ud i s t o t hi nk of
the mi nd as a hor s e a nd buggy ( a Vi ctori an char i ot ) i n whi ch t he dr i ver ( t he
ego) s t ruggl es f ranti cal l y t o cont rol a hungry, l us t f ul , a nd di s obedi ent hor s e
( t he id) whi l e t he driver' s f at her ( t he s uper ego) si t s i n t he ba c k s c a t l ect ur -
ing t he driver on what he i s doi ng wrong. For Fr eud, t he goal of ps yc ho-
anal ys i s was t o e s c a p e this pi t i f ul s t at e by s t r engt heni ng t he ego, t hus gi vi ng
i t mor e cont rol over t he i d a nd mor e i nde pe nde nc e f r om t he s upe r e g o.
Freud, Plato, and Buddha all lived i n worl ds full of domes t i cat ed a ni ma l s .
They wer e fami l i ar with t he struggl e to assert one' s will over a cr eat ur e mu c h
larger t han t he sel f . But as t he t went i et h cent ur y wor e on, car s r e p l a c e d
hor s es , a nd t echnol ogy gave peopl e ever mor e cont rol over t hei r phys i c a l
worlds. Whe n peopl e l ooked for met aphor s , they s a w t he mi nd as t he dri ver
of a car, or as a program r unni ng on a comput er. It be c a me pos s i bl e to f orget
all about Freud' s uncons ci ous , and j us t s t udy t he me c ha ni s ms of t hi nki ng and
deci si on maki ng. That ' s what soci al sci ent i st s di d i n t he last third of t he cen-
tury: Soci al psychol ogi st s cr eat ed "i nf ormat i on pr oces s i ng" theori es t o expl ai n
everythi ng f rom prej udi ce t o f ri endshi p. Ec onomi s t s cr eat ed "rati onal c hoi c e "
model s t o explain why peopl e do what they do. The soci al s ci ences we r e unit-
ing under t he i dea that peopl e are rational agent s who set goal s a nd pur s ue
t hem intelligently by us i ng t he i nf ormati on and r es our ces at their di s pos al .
But t hen, why do pe opl e keep doi ng s uc h s t upi d t hi ngs ? Why do t hey
fail t o cont rol t hems el ves a nd c ont i nue t o do what they know i s no t good
l or t h e m? I , f or one , c a n eas i l y mus t e r t he wi l l powe r t o i gnor e al l t he
4 ' I ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
des s er t s on the menu. But if des s er t is pl aced on t he t abl e, I can' t resi st it.
I can resol ve to f ocus on a task and not get up until it is done, yet s omehow
I f i nd mysel f wal ki ng into the ki t chen, or procras t i nat i ng in other ways. I
can resolve to wake up at 6: 00 A.M. to write; yet af t er I have shut off t he
al arm, my repeat ed c o mma nds t o mys el f t o get out of bed have no ef f ect ,
and I under s t and what Pl ato meant when he des cr i bed the bad horse as
" deaf as a pos t . " But i t was duri ng s ome larger life deci s i ons , about dati ng,
that I really began to gr as p the ext ent of my power l es s nes s . 1 woul d know
exactly what I shoul d do, yet, even as I was tel l i ng my f ri ends that I woul d
do it, a part of me was di ml y awar e that I wa s not goi ng to. Feel i ngs of
guilt, lust, or fear were of t en st ronger t han reasoni ng. ( On t he other hand,
I was qui t e good at l ect uri ng f r i ends i n si mi l ar si t uat i ons about what was
right for t hem. ) The Roman poet Ovi d capt ur ed my si tuati on perfectly. In
Metamorphoses, Me de a i s torn bet ween her love for J as on and her duty to
her father. S he l ament s :
I am dragged along by a strange new force. Desi re and reason are pulling
in different directions. I s ee the right way and approve it, but follow the
wrong.
7
Moder n theori es about rational choi ce and i nf ormat i on pr oces s i ng don' t
adequat el y explai n weaknes s of t he will. The ol der met aphor s about con-
trolling ani mal s work beauti ful l y. The i mage that I c a me up wi th for my-
sel f, as I marvel ed at my weaknes s , was that I was a rider on t he back of an
el ephant . I'm hol di ng t he rei ns i n my hands , and by pul l i ng one way or the
other I can tell the el ephant to turn, to st op, or to go. I can di rect thi ngs,
but only when the el ephant doesn' t have des i res of his own. Whe n the el e-
phant really want s to do s omet hi ng, I'm no ma t c h for hi m.
I have us ed this met aphor to gui de my own t hi nki ng for ten years, and
when I began to write this book I t hought the i mage of a rider on an el e-
phant woul d be us ef ul i n this first chapt er, on the di vi ded sel f. However,
the met aphor has t urned out to be us ef ul i n every chapt er of t he book. To
under s t and mos t i mport ant i deas i n psychol ogy, you need t o under s t and
how the mi nd i s di vi ded into par t s that s ome t i me s conf l i ct . We a s s ume
The Divided Self 1 5
t hat t here i s one per s on i n e a c h body, but i n s o me ways we ar e e a c h mor e
like a c ommi t t e e whos e me mb e r s have be e n t hrown t oget her t o do a j ob,
but who of t en f i nd t hems el ves wor ki ng at c r os s pur pos e s . Ou r mi n d s ar e
di vi ded i n f our ways. Th e f our t h i s t he mos t i mpor t ant , f or i t c o r r e s p o nd s
mos t cl os el y t o t he ri der a nd t he e l e pha nt ; but t he f i rst t hr ee a l s o con-
t ri but e t o our exper i ences of t empt at i on, we a kne s s , and i nternal c onf l i c t .
F I R S T D I V I S I O N : M I N D V S . B O D Y
We s o me t i me s s ay t hat t he body has a mi nd of its own, but t he F r e nc h
phi l os opher Mi c he l de Mont a i g ne went a s t e p f ur t her a nd s u g g e s t e d t hat
e a c h par t of t he body has its own e mot i ons a nd its own a ge nda . Mo n t a i g n e
was mos t f a s c i na t ed by t he i nde pe nde nc e of t he peni s :
We are right t o not e the l i cense and di s obedi ence of this me mbe r whi ch
t hrust s itself forward so i nopportunel y when we do not want i t to, and
whi ch so i nopportunel y l ets us down when we most need it. It i mperi -
ousl y cont es t s for authority with our will.
8
Mont a i g ne a l s o not ed t he ways i n whi c h our f aci al e xpr e s s i ons bet r ay
our s ecr et t hought s ; our hai r s t a nds on e nd; our hear t s r ace; our t ong ue s
fail t o s pea k; a nd our bowel s a nd anal s phi nc t er s under go " di l at i ons a nd
cont r act i ons pr oper t o [ t hems el ves ] , i nde pe nde nt of our wi s hes or e ve n op-
pos ed t o t he m. " S o me of t he s e ef f ec t s , we now know, ar e c a us e d by t he au-
t onomi c ner vous s y s t e mt he net wor k of ner ves that cont r ol s t he or ga ns
and gl ands of our bodi es , a net wor k t hat i s c ompl et el y i nde pe nde nt of vol-
unt ary or i nt ent i onal cont r ol . But t he l ast i t em on Mont a i gne' s l i s t t he
bowe l s r e f l e c t s t he oper at i on of a s e c ond brai n. Our i nt es t i nes a r e l i ned
by a vas t net wor k of mor e t han 100 mi l l i on neur ons ; t hes e ha ndl e all t he
c omput a t i ons ne e de d t o r un t he c he mi c a l ref i nery t hat pr o c e s s e s a nd ex-
t ract s nut r i ent s f r om f ood.
9
Thi s gut brai n i s l i ke a regi onal a dmi ni s t r a t i ve
cent er t hat ha ndl es s t uf f t he hea d brai n doe s not ne e d t o bot her wi t h. You
mi ght expect , t hen, that t hi s gut brai n t akes its or der s f r om t he he a d brai n
6 ' I ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
and does as i t i s told. But the gut brain pos s e s s e s a high degr ee of aut on-
omy, and i t cont i nues to f unct i on well even i f the vagus nerve, whi ch con-
nect s the two brai ns together, i s s evered.
The gut brain makes its i ndependence known i n many ways: It c a us e s ir-
ritable bowel syndrome when it " deci des " to f l us h out the i nt est i nes. It trig-
gers anxiety in t he head brain when it det ect s i nf ect i ons in the gut , l eadi ng
you to act i n more caut i ous ways that are appropri at e when you are s i ck.
1 0
And i t react s i n unexpect ed ways to anyt hi ng that af f ect s its mai n neuro-
transmi tters, s uch as acet yl chol i ne and s erot oni n. Henc e, many of the ini-
tial s i de ef f ect s of Prozac and other sel ect i ve serot oni n reupt ake i nhi bi tors
involve naus ea and changes i n bowel f unct i on. Tryi ng to i mprove t he work-
ings of the head brain can directly i nterf ere wi th t hos e of the gut brai n. The
i ndependenc e of the gut brai n, c ombi ne d wi t h the aut onomi c nat ur e of
changes to the geni tal s, probabl y cont ri but ed to anci ent Indi an t heori es i n
whi ch the abdomen cont ai ns the t hree l ower chakr as ener gy cent er s cor-
r es pondi ng t o t he col on/ anus , sexual or gans , and gut . The gut ehakra i s
even sai d to be the s our ce of gut f eel i ngs and i ntui ti ons, that is, i deas that
appear t o c ome from s omewher e out s i de one' s own mi nd. Whe n St . Paul
l ament ed the battl e of f l esh versus Spi ri t, he wa s surely referri ng to s ome of
the s a me divisions and f rust rat i ons that Mont a i gne experi enced.
S E C O N D D I V I S I O N : L E F T V S . R I G H T
A s econd division was di scovered by acci dent in the 1960s when a surgeon
began cut t i ng peopl e' s brai ns i n half. The s ur geon, J oe Bogen, had a good
reason for doi ng this: He was trying t o hel p peopl e whos e lives wer e de-
stroyed by f requent and mas s i ye epi l ept i c s ei zures . The huma n brai n has
two s epar at e hemi s pher es j oi ned by a l arge bundl e of nerves, t he cor pus
cal l os um. Sei zures al ways begi n at one s pot i n t he brain and s pr ead to the
s urroundi ng brain t i ssue. If a sei zure cr os s es over the cor pus cal l os um, it
can s pread t o the enti re brai n, caus i ng t he per s on t o l os e c ons c i ous nes s ,
fall down, and writhe uncontrollably. J us t as a military l eader mi ght blow
up a bri dge to prevent an enemy f rom cr os s i ng it, Bogen want ed to sever
the cor pus cal l os um t o prevent the sei zures f rom spreadi ng.
The Divided Self 1 7
At f i rst g l a nc e t hi s wa s an i ns a ne t act i c. T h e c o r pus c a l l o s u m i s t he
l argest s i ngl e bundl e of ner ves i n t he ent i r e body, s o i t mus t be doi ng s o me -
t hi ng i mpor t ant . I nde e d i t is: It al l ows t he t wo hal ves of t he br ai n t o c o m-
muni c a t e and c oor di na t e thei r activity. Yet r es ear ch on a ni ma l s f o u n d t hat ,
wi t hi n a f ew weeks of surgery, t he a ni ma l s we r e pret t y mu c h b a c k t o nor-
mal . So Boge n t ook a c ha nc e wi th hu ma n pat i ent s , a nd i t wor ked. T h e in-
t ensi t y of t he s ei zur es wa s greatl y r e duc e d.
But wa s t here real l y no l os s of abi l i t y? To f i nd out , t he s ur gi c a l t e a m
br ought i n a young ps ychol ogi s t , Mi c ha e l Ga zza ni ga , whos e j ob wa s t o l ook
for t he af t er - ef f ect s of thi s " s pl i t -brai n" surgery. Gazzani ga t ook a dv a nt a g e
of t he f act t hat t he brai n di vi des its pr oc e s s i ng of t he worl d i nt o its t wo
he mi s p he r e s l e f t a nd ri ght . Th e l ef t he mi s p he r e t a kes i n i nf o r ma t i o n
f r om t he right hal f of t he worl d ( t hat i s, i t r ecei ves ner ve t r a ns mi s s i o ns
f r om t he right ar m a nd l eg, t he right ear, a nd t he left hal f of e a c h r et i na,
whi ch r ecei ves light f r om t he right hal f of t he vi sual f i el d) a nd s e n d s out
c o mma n d s t o move t he l i mbs on t he right s i de of t he body. Th e ri ght hemi -
s pher e i s i n thi s r es pect t he left' s mi rror i ma ge, t aki ng i n i nf or ma t i on f r om
t he l ef t hal f of t he wor l d a nd cont rol l i ng move me nt on t he l eft s i de of t he
body. No bo dy knows why t he s i gnal s c r os s over i n t hi s way i n all vert e-
br at es ; t hey j us t do. But i n ot her r es pec t s , t he t wo he mi s phe r e s a r e s pe-
ci al i zed f or di f f er ent t as ks . T h e l eft he mi s phe r e i s s peci al i zed f or l a ng ua g e
pr oces s i ng a nd anal yt i cal t as ks . In vi s ual t as ks , i t i s bet t er at not i c i ng de-
tai l s. Th e right he mi s p he r e i s bet t er at pr oc e s s i ng pat t er ns i n s p a c e , in-
cl udi ng that al l -i mport ant pat t er n, t he f a c e . ( Thi s i s t he ori gi n of popul a r
and over s i mpl i f i ed i deas a bout art i st s be i ng " ri ght - brai ned" a nd s c i e nt i s t s
bei ng " l ef t - br ai ned" ) .
Ga z z a ni ga us e d t he brai n' s di vi si on of l abor t o pr es ent i nf or ma t i on t o
e a c h hal f of t he brai n separat el y. He a s ke d pat i ent s t o s t ar e at a s pot on a
s cr een, and t hen f l a s hed a word or a pi ct ur e of an obj ect j us t t o t he ri ght of
t he s pot , or j us t t o t he l eft, s o qui ckl y t hat t here wa s not e noug h t i me f or
t he pat i ent t o move her gaze. If a pi ct ur e of a hat wa s f l a s he d j us t t o t he
right of t he s pot , t he i ma ge woul d regi s t er on t he l ef t hal f of e a c h ret i na
( af t er t he i ma ge had pa s s e d t hrough t he c or ne a a nd been i nver t ed) , whi c h
t hen s ent its neural i nf or mat i on ba c k t o t he vi sual pr oc es s i ng a r e a s i n t he
l eft hemi s pher e. Ga z z a ni ga woul d t hen as k, " Wha t di d you s e e ? " B e c a u s e
8 ' I ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
t he l ef t he mi s phe r e has f ul l l a ng ua g e c a pa bi l i t i es , t he pat i ent woul d
qui ckl y and easily say, "A hat . " If t he i mage of t he hat was f l as hed to t he
l eft of the spot, however, the i mage was s ent back only to t he right hemi -
sphere, whi ch does not control s pe e c h. Whe n Gazzani ga as ked, " What di d
you s ee?" , the pati ent, r es pondi ng f r om t he l eft hemi s pher e, sai d, " Not h-
ing. " But when Gazzani ga as ked t he pat i ent to us e her left hand to poi nt to
t he correct i mage on a card s howi ng several i mages , s he woul d poi nt to the
hat. Al though the right hemi s pher e had i ndeed s een the hat, i t did not re-
port verbally on what i t had s een be c a us e i t di d not have a c c e s s to t he lan-
guage cent ers in the left hemi s pher e. It was as if a s epar at e i ntel l i gence
was t rapped i n the right hemi s pher e, its onl y out put devi ce t he left hand.
1 1
Whe n Gazzani ga f l as hed di f f er ent pi c t ur e s t o t he t wo he mi s phe r e s ,
thi ngs grew weirder. On one occas i on he f l a s he d a pi ct ure of a chi cken
cl aw on the right, and a pi ct ure of a hous e and a car covered in s now on
the l ef t . The pat i ent was t hen s hown an array of pi ct ur es and a s ked t o
poi nt t o t he one that " goes wi t h" what he had s een. Th e pat i ent ' s right
hand poi nt ed to a pi ct ure of a chi cken ( whi ch went with t he chi cken cl aw
the l eft hemi s pher e had s een) , but t he l ef t hand poi nt ed to a pi ct ure of a
shovel ( whi ch went wi th t he s now s c e ne pr e s e nt e d t o t he right hemi -
sphere) . When t he pat i ent was as ked t o expl ai n his two r es pons es , he did
not say, "I have no i dea why my l eft hand is poi nt i ng to a shovel ; it mus t be
s omet hi ng you s howed my right brai n. " I ns t ead, t he l ef t hemi s pher e in-
stantly ma de up a pl aus i bl e story. The pat i ent sai d, wi thout any hesi tati on,
" Oh, that' s easy. The chi cken cl aw goes wi th the chi cken, and you need a
shovel to cl ean out t he chi cken s hed. "
1 2
Thi s fi ndi ng, that peopl e will readi l y f abr i cat e reas ons to expl ai n their
own behavior, i s cal l ed " conf abul at i on. " Conf a bul a t i on i s so f r equent i n
work with split-brain pat i ent s and ot her peopl e s uf f er i ng brain da ma ge that
Gazzani ga refers t o the l anguage cent er s on t he l eft si de of t he brain as the
i nterpreter modul e, whos e j ob i s to gi ve a runni ng comment ar y on what-
ever the sel f i s doi ng, even t hough t he i nt erpret er modul e has no a c c e s s to
the real c a us es or mot i ves of the s el f ' s behavior. For exampl e, i f the word
"wal k" i s f l ashed to the right hemi s pher e, the pat i ent mi ght s t and up and
wal k away. When as ked why he i s get t i ng up, he mi ght say, "I' m goi ng to
The Divided Self 1 9
get a Co k e . " Th e i nt erpret er modul e i s good at ma ki ng up e xpl a na t i ons , but
not at knowi ng that i t ha s done so.
S c i e nc e has ma de even st ranger di s cover i es . I n s o me spl i t -brai n pat i ent s ,
or i n ot her s who have s uf f er ed d a ma g e t o t he c or pus c a l l os um, t he ri ght
he mi s phe r e s e e ms t o be acti vel y f i ght i ng wi th t he l ef t he mi s phe r e i n a con-
di t i on known as al i en ha nd s yndr ome. I n t he s e c a s e s , one hand, us ua l l y t he
l eft, act s of i ts own a c c or d and s e e ms t o have its own a genda . T h e al i en
ha nd ma y pi ck up a ri ngi ng phone, but t hen r e f us e t o pa s s the p h o n e t o t he
ot her hand or bri ng i t up t o an ear. The ha nd rej ect s choi ces t he pe r s o n has
j ust ma de , f or exampl e, by put t i ng back on t he rack a shi rt t hat t he ot her
hand has j us t pi cked out . I t gr abs t he wri st of t he ot her hand a nd tri es t o
s t op i t f r om execut i ng t he pers on' s c ons c i ous pl ans . S o me t i me s , t he al i en
hand act ual l y r eaches for t he person' s own ne c k and tri es t o s t r angl e hi m.
1 3
Th e s e dr amat i c s pl i t s of t he mi nd are c a u s e d by rare spl i ts of t he brai n.
Nor ma l pe opl e are not s pl i t -brai ned. Yet t he spl i t -brai n s t udi es we r e i mpor -
t ant i n ps ychol ogy b e c a u s e t hey s howed i n s uc h an eer i e way t hat t he mi nd
i s a conf eder at i on of modul e s c a pa bl e of wor ki ng i ndependent l y a n d even,
s o me t i me s , a t c r os s - pur pos e s . Spl i t - br ai n s t udi e s a r e i mpor t a nt f or t hi s
book be c a us e t hey s how i n s uc h a dr a ma t i c way t hat o ne of t he s e mo d u l e s
i s good at i nvent i ng c onvi nc i ng expl anat i ons f or your behavi or, e v e n whe n
i t ha s no knowl edge of t he c a us e s of your behavi or. Gazzani ga' s " i nt er pr et er
modul e " is, essent i al l y, t he rider. You'll c a t c h t he ri der c onf a bul a t i ng i n sev-
eral l ater chapt er s .
T H I R D D I V I S I O N : N E W V S . O L D
If you live i n a rel ati vel y new s ubur ba n ho us e , your ho me wa s pr oba bl y
bui l t i n l es s t han a year, a nd its r ooms we r e l ai d out by an a r c hi t e c t who
tri ed t o ma ke t he m f ul f i l l peopl e' s needs . T h e hous e s on my s t r eet , how-
ever, wer e all bui l t a r ound 1900, a nd s i nce t hen t hey have e x p a n d e d out
into thei r backyar ds . Por ches were ext ended, t hen enc l os ed, t he n t ur ned
i nt o ki t c he ns . Ext r a b e d r o o ms we r e bui l t a bo v e t he s e e x t e ns i o ns , t he n
ba t hr ooms wer e t acked on t o t hes e new r ooms . Th e brai n i n ve r t e br a t e s
10 ' I ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
has similarly expanded, but i n a f orward di rect i on. The brai n started of f
with j us t three rooms, or c l umps of neur ons : a hi ndbrai n ( connect ed to t he
spi nal col umn) , a mi dbrai n, and a f orebrai n ( connect ed to the sensory or-
gans at the front of the ani mal ) . Over t i me, as mor e compl ex bodi es and
behavi ors evol ved, the brai n kept bui l di ng out t he f ront , away f rom t he
spi nal col umn, expandi ng the f orebrai n mor e than any ot her part . The fore-
brain of the earl i est ma mma l s devel oped a new out er shel l , whi ch i ncl uded
the hypot hal amus ( speci al i zed t o coor di nat e basi c dri ves and mot i vat i ons) ,
the hi ppocampus ( speci al i zed for memor y) , and t he amygdal a ( speci al i zed
for emot i onal l earni ng and r es pondi ng) . The s e s t r uct ur es ar e s omet i mes
referred to as t he l i mbi c s ys t em ( f rom Lat i n limhus, " border" or "margi n")
bec a us e they wrap around the rest of t he brai n, f or mi ng a border.
As ma mma l s grew i n si ze and di versi f i ed i n behavi or (af ter t he. di nos aurs
bec a me exti nct), the r emodel i ng cont i nued. I n the mor e soci al ma mma l s ,
particularly a mong pri mat es , a new layer of neural t i s s ue devel oped and
s pread t o s urround t he old l i mbi c s ys t em. Thi s neocort ex ( Lat i n for "new
coveri ng") i s the gray mat t er charact eri s t i c of huma n brai ns. The front por-
tion of the neocort ex is parti cul arl y i nt erest i ng, for part s of it do not appear
t o be dedi cat ed t o s peci f i c t as ks ( s uch as movi ng a f i nger or pr oces s i ng
sound) . I ns t ead, i t i s avai l abl e to ma ke new as s oci at i ons and to engage i n
thinking, pl anni ng, and deci si on ma ki ngme nt a l pr oces s es that can f r ee
an organi sm f rom r es pondi ng only t o an i mmedi at e si t uat i on.
Thi s growth of the frontal cortex s e e ms like a promi s i ng expl anati on for
the divisions we experi ence i n our mi nds . Perhaps the frontal cortex i s the
seat of reason: It is Plato' s chari ot eer; it is St . Paul' s Spirit. And it has taken
over control , though not perfectly, f r om the more pri mi ti ve l i mbi c s ys t em
Plato' s bad horse, St . Paul' s f l es h. We can cal l thi s expl anat i on t he Pro-
met hean scri pt of human evol uti on, af t er t he charact er i n Gr e e k mythology
who stole fire f rom the gods and gave i t to humans . In this scri pt, our ances -
tors were mer e ani mal s governed by t he primitive emot i ons and drives of
the limbic syst em until they recei ved the divine gift of reason, i nstal l ed in
the newly expanded neocortex.
The Pr omet hean scri pt i s pl eas i ng i n that i t neatl y rai ses us above all
ot her ani mal s , j us t i f yi ng our s uper i or i t y by our rat i onal i t y At t he s a me
ti me, i t capt ur es our s ens e that we are not yet gods t hat t he fire of ratio-
The Divided Self 1 11
nality i s s o me ho w new t o us , a nd we have not yet f ul l y ma s t e r e d i t. T h e
Pr ome t he a n s cri pt al s o f i t s wel l wi th s o me i mpor t ant earl y f i ndi ngs a bout
I he rol es of t he l i mbi c s ys t em a nd t he f ront al cort ex. For e xa mpl e , whe n
s o me r egi ons of t he hypo t ha l a mus a r e s t i mul a t e d di r ect l y wi t h a s ma l l
el ect ri c cur r ent , rats, cat s , a nd ot her ma mma l s c a n be ma d e gl ut t onous , f e-
r oci ous , or hyper s exual , s ugges t i ng t hat t he l i mbi c s ys t em under l i es ma ny
of our bas i c ani mal i ns t i nct s .
1 4
Convers el y, whe n pe opl e s uf f er d a ma g e t o
t he f ront al cort ex, t hey s o me t i me s s how an i nc r e a s e i n s exual a nd a ggr es -
si ve behavi or b e c a u s e t he f ront al cor t ex pl ays an i mpor t ant rol e i n s up-
pr es s i ng or i nhi bi t i ng behavi oral i mpul s es .
The r e wa s recent l y s uc h a c a s e at t he Uni ver s i t y of Virginia' s ho s pi t a l .
1 5
A s c hool t e a c he r i n hi s f or t i es had, fai rl y s uddenl y, be g un t o vi si t pr os t i -
t ut es , s ur f chi l d por nogr aphy We b s i t es , a nd pr opos i t i on young gi r l s . He
was s oon ar r es t ed a nd convi ct ed of chi l d mol es t at i on. T h e day b e f o r e hi s
s e nt e nc i ng , he went t o t he hos pi t al e me r g e nc y r oom b e c a u s e he ha d a
poundi ng he a da c he a nd wa s exper i enci ng a c ons t a nt ur ge t o r ape hi s l and-
lady. ( Hi s wi f e ha d t hr own hi m out of t he h o u s e mo nt hs earl i er. ) Ev e n
whi l e he was t al ki ng t o t he doctor, he a s ke d pa s s i ng nur s e s t o s l e e p wi t h
hi m. A brai n s c a n f ound that an e nor mous t umor i n hi s frontal c or t e x wa s
s que e z i ng everyt hi ng el s e, pr event i ng t he f ront al cort ex f r om doi ng i t s j ob
of i nhi bi t i ng i na ppr opr i a t e beha vi or a nd t hi nki ng a b o u t c o n s e q u e n c e s .
( Who i n hi s right mi nd woul d put on s uc h a s how t he day bef or e hi s s en-
t e nc i ng ? ) Wh e n t he t umo r wa s r e mo v e d, t he hyper s exua l i t y v a n i s h e d .
Moreover, when t he t umor grew ba c k t he f ol l owi ng year, t he s y mp t o ms re-
t ur ne d; a nd whe n t he t umo r wa s r e move d a g a i n, t he s y mp t o ms d i s a p -
pear ed agai n.
There is, however, a f l aw i n t he Pr ome t he a n s cri pt : It a s s u me s t ha t rea-
son wa s i ns t al l ed i n t he f ront al cort ex but t hat emot i on s t ayed b e hi nd i n
t he l i mbi c s ys t em. In f act , t he frontal cort ex e na bl e d a great e x pa ns i on of
emot i onal i t y i n huma ns . Th e l ower thi rd of t he pref ront al cortex i s c a l l e d
I lie orbi t of ront al cort ex b e c a u s e i t i s t he part of t he brai n j us t a b o v e t he
eyes (orbit i s t he Lat i n t er m f or t he eye s ocket ) . Thi s regi on of t he cor t ex
has gr own es peci al l y l arge i n huma ns a nd ot her pr i ma t es and i s o n e of t he
mos t cons i s t ent l y act i ve a r e a s of t he brai n dur i ng emot i onal r e a c t i o ns .
1 6
T h e orbi t of ront al cort ex pl ays a cent ral rol e whe n you s i ze up t he r ewa r d
12 ' I ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
and puni s hment possi bi l i ti es of a s i t uat i on; the neur ons in this part of the
cort ex fi re wi l dl y when t here i s an i mme di a t e pos s i bi l i t y of pl eas ur e or
pai n, l oss or gai n.
1 7
Whe n you f eel yours el f drawn to a meal , a l ands cape,
or an attracti ve pers on, or repel l ed by a dead ani mal , a bad song, or a blind
dat e, your orbi t of ront al cortex i s wor ki ng hard to gi ve you an . emot i onal
f eel i ng of wanting to appr oach or to get away.
1 8
The orbi tof rontal cortex
theref ore appear s to be a better c a ndi da t e for the id, or for St . Paul' s f l esh,
t han for the s uper ego or the Spi ri t.
The i mpor t ance of the orbi tofrontal cortex for emot i on has been f urt her
de mons t r a t e d by r es ear ch on br ai n d a ma g e . Th e neur ol ogi s t Ant oni o
Da ma s i o has s t udi ed peopl e who, be c a us e of a st roke, tumor, or blow to
t he head, have l ost vari ous par t s of t hei r f ront al cor t ex. I n t he 1990s ,
Da ma s i o f ound that when cert ai n part s of the orbi tofrontal cort ex are dam-
aged, pat i ent s l ose mos t of thei r emot i onal lives. The y report that when
they ought to feel emot i on, they f eel not hi ng, and s t udi es of their aut o-
nomi c react i ons ( s uch as t hose us ed i n lie det ect or t es t s ) conf i r m that they
l ack the normal f l as hes of bodi l y react i on that the rest of us experi ence
when observi ng s cenes of horror or beauty. Yet their reas oni ng and logical
abi l i t i es are i nt act . The y per f or m nor mal l y on t es t s of i nt el l i gence and
knowl edge of soci al rul es and moral pr i nci pl es .
1 9
So what ha ppens when t hes e pe opl e go out into t he worl d? Now that
they are f ree of the di st ract i ons of emot i on, do they b e c o me hyperl ogi cal ,
abl e to s ee through the haze of f eel i ngs that bl i nds the rest of us to t he
pat h of per f ect rationality? J us t t he oppos i t e. They f i nd t hems el ves unabl e
t o make s i mpl e deci s i ons or t o s et goal s , and their lives fall apart . Whe n
they look out at the world and thi nk, " Wha t s houl d I do now? " they s ee
dozens of choi ces but l ack i mmedi a t e i nternal f eel i ngs of like or di sl i ke.
They mus t exami ne the pros and c ons of every c hoi c e wi th thei r reason-
ing, but i n the a bs e nc e of f eel i ng they s ee little r eas on to pi ck one or t he
other. Whe n t he rest of us l ook out at t he worl d, our emot i onal brai ns
have i nstantl y and aut omat i cal l y a ppr a i s ed t he pos s i bi l i t i es . On e possi bi l -
ity usual l y j ump s out at us as the obvi ous bes t one. We need onl y us e rea-
s on t o wei gh t he pr os a nd c o ns whe n t wo or t hr ee pos s i bi l i t i es s e e m
equal l y good.
The Divided Self 1 13
Hu ma n rati onal i ty d e p e nd s cri ti cal l y on s ophi s t i c a t ed emot i onal i t y. I t i s
onl y b e c a u s e our emot i onal br ai ns wor ks s o wel l t hat our r e a s o ni ng c a n
wor k a t al l . Pl at o' s i ma g e of r e a s on a s c ha r i ot e e r cont r ol l i ng t he d u mb
I l eas t s of pa s s i on ma y over s t at e not onl y t he wi s dom but al s o t he p o we r of
t he chari ot eer. T h e me t a phor of a ri der on an e l e pha nt f i t s Da ma s i o' s f i nd-
i ngs mor e cl osel y: Re a s on a nd emot i on mus t bot h work t oget her t o c r e a t e
i ntel l i gent behavi or, but e mot i on ( a maj or part of t he el epha nt ) d o e s mos t
of t he work. Whe n t he neocor t ex c a me al ong, i t ma d e t he ri der po s s i bl e ,
but i t ma d e t he el epha nt mu c h smart er, too. ^
F O U R T H D I V I S I O N :
C O N T R O L L E D V S . A U T O M A T I C
I n t he 1990s , whi l e I wa s devel opi ng t he el ephant / r i der me t a phor f or my-
s el f , t he f i el d of s oci al ps yc hol ogy wa s c o mi n g t o a s i mi l ar vi ew of t he
mi nd. Af t er its l ong i nf at uat i on wi th i nf or mat i on pr oc e s s i ng mo d e l s a nd
c o mput e r me t a phor s , ps ychol ogi s t s be g a n t o real i ze t hat t here a r e real l y
t wo pr oc e s s i ng s ys t e ms at wor k i n t he mi nd at all t i mes : c ont r ol l ed pro-
c e s s e s a nd a ut oma t i c pr oc e s s e s .
S u p p o s e you vol unt eer ed t o be a s ubj ect i n t he f ol l owi ng e x p e r i me nt .
2 0
Fi rst , t he exper i ment er ha nds you s o me wor d pr o bl e ms and t el l s y o u t o
c o me a nd get her whe n you ar e f i ni s hed. T h e word pr obl e ms ar e e a s y: J u s t
uns c r a mbl e s et s of f i ve wor ds a nd ma ke s e nt e nc e s us i ng f our of t h e m. For
exa mpl e, " t hey her bot her s e e us ual l y" b e c o me s ei t her " t hey us ua l l y s e e
her" or " t hey us ual l y bot her her. " A f e w mi nut e s later, when you ha ve f i n-
i shed t he t es t , you go out t o t he hal l way as i ns t r uct ed. Th e e x pe r i me nt e r i s
there, but she' s e ng a g e d i n a conver s at i on wi th s o me o ne a nd isn' t ma k i ng
eye c ont a c t wi th you. Wha t do you s uppo s e you' ll do? Wel l , i f hal f t he s en-
t e nc e s you u ns c r a mb l e d c ont a i ne d wor ds r el a t ed t o r u d e n e s s ( s u c f i a s
bother, br azen, aggres s i vel y) , you will pr obabl y i nt errupt t he e x pe r i me nt e r
wi thi n a mi nut e or t wo t o say, "Hey, I' m f i ni s hed. Wha t s houl d 1 do n o w? "
Hut i f you uns c r a mbl e d s e nt e nc e s i n whi ch t he r ude wor ds wer e s wa p p e d
with wor ds rel at ed t o pol i t enes s ("they her respect s ee us ual l y" ) , t he o d d s
14 ' I ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
are you'll j us t sit there meekl y and wai t until t he exper i ment er acknowl -
edges yout en mi nut es from now.
Li kewi s e, expos ur e t o words rel at ed t o t he el derl y ma ke s peopl e wal k
more slowly; words rel ated t o pr of es s or s ma ke peopl e s mar t er at the ga me
of Trivial Pur s ui t ; a nd wor ds r el at ed t o s oc c e r hool i gans ma k e pe opl e
dumber.
2 1
And t hes e ef f ect s don' t even depend on your cons ci ous l y read-
ing the words ; the s a me ef f ect s can oc c ur when the words are pres ent ed
subliminally, that is, f l as hed on a s cr een f or j us t a f ew hundr edt hs of a sec-
ond, too f ast for your cons ci ous mi nd t o regi ster t hem. But s ome part of
the mi nd does s ee the words, and i t s et s i n mot i on behavi ors that psychol -
ogi sts can meas ur e.
Accor di ng t o J ohn Bargh, t he pi one e r i n thi s r es ear ch, t hes e experi -
ment s show that mos t mental pr oc es s es ha ppen aut omat i cal l y, wi t hout the
need for c ons c i ous at t ent i on or cont r ol . Mo s t a ut oma t i c pr oc e s s e s ar e
compl et el y uncons ci ous , al t hough s ome of t hem s how a part of t hems el ves
t o cons ci ous nes s ; for exampl e, we are awar e of the " s t r eam of cons ci ous -
nes s "
2 2
that s e e ms t o f l ow on by, f ol l owi ng its own rul es of as s oci at i on,
wi thout any f eel i ng of effort or di rect i on f r om the sel f. Bargh cont ras t s au-
t omat i c pr oc e s s e s wi th cont r ol l ed p r o c e s s e s , t he ki nd of t hi nki ng that
takes s ome ef f ort , that pr oceeds i n s t eps and that al ways pl ays out on t he
cent er s t age of cons ci ous nes s . For exampl e, at what t i me woul d you need
to leave your hous e to cat ch a 6: 26 fl i ght to London? That ' s s omet hi ng you
have to think about consci ousl y, first choos i ng a me a ns of transport to the
airport and then cons i deri ng rus h-hour t raf f i c, weather, and the st ri ct ness
of the s hoe pol i ce at the airport. You can' t depart on a hunch. But i f you
drive to the airport, al mos t everythi ng you do on the way will be aut omat i c:
breat hi ng, bl i nki ng, s hi f t i ng i n your s eat , daydr eami ng, keepi ng enough
di s t ance bet ween you and the car i n front of you, even s cowl i ng and curs-
ing sl ower drivers.
Cont rol l ed proces s i ng i s l i mi t edwe can think cons ci ous l y about one
t hi ng at a t i me onl ybut a ut oma t i c p r o c e s s e s run i n paral l el and can
handl e many t asks at once. If the mi nd per f or ms hundr eds of operat i ons
each s econd, all but one of t hem mus t be handl ed automati cal l y. So what
i s the rel ati onshi p bet ween cont rol l ed and aut omat i c pr oces s i ng? Is con-
trolled pr oces s i ng the wi se bos s , ki ng, or C E O handl i ng the mos t i mpor-
The Divided Self 1 5
l ant que s t i ons a nd s et t i ng pol i cy with f ores i ght f or t he dumbe r a u t o ma t i c
p r o c e s s e s t o carry out ? No , t hat woul d br i ng us ri ght b a c k t o t he Pr o-
me t he a n s cri pt a nd di vi ne r eas on. To di s pel t he Pr ome t he a n s cr i pt o nc e
and for all, i t will hel p t o go ba c k i n t i me a nd l ook at why we ha ve t he s e
I wo pr oc e s s e s , why we have a s mal l ri der a nd a l arge el ephant .
Whe n t he first c l umps of neur ons wer e f or mi ng t he first brai ns mo r e t ha n
6 0 0 mi l l i on years ago, t hes e c l ump s mus t have conf er r ed s o me a dva nt a ge on
I he or ga ni s ms that ha d t hem be c a us e brai ns have prol i f erat ed ever s i nc e .
Drains are adapt i ve be c a us e they i nt egrat e i nf ormat i on f rom vari ous pa r t s of
I he ani mal ' s body t o r es pond qui ckl y and aut omat i cal l y t o t hreat s a nd oppor -
tuni ti es i n t he envi ronment . By t he t i me we r each 3 mi l l i on years ago, t he
Eart h wa s ful l of ani mal s with extraordi nari l y s ophi s t i cat ed a ut oma t i c abi l i -
ties, a mo ng t hem bi rds that coul d navi gat e by star pos i t i ons , ant s t hat c o ul d
cooper at e t o fight wars a nd run f ungus f ar ms , a nd several Speci es of ho m-
inids that had begun t o ma ke tool s. Ma ny of t hes e cr eat ur es p o s s e s s e d sys-
t ems of c ommuni c a t i on, but none of t hem had devel oped l anguage.
Cont r ol l ed pr oc e s s i ng r equi r es l anguage. You c a n have bi t s a nd p i e c e s of
t hought t hrough i ma ges , but t o pl an s ome t hi ng c ompl e x, t o wei gh t he pr os
and c ons of di f f er ent pat hs , or t o anal yze t he c a u s e s of pas t s u c c e s s e s a nd
f ai l ures , you ne e d wor ds . No bo dy knows how l ong ago huma n be i ng s de-
vel oped l anguage, but mos t e s t i ma t e s r ange f r om ar ound 2 mi l l i on ye a r s
ago, whe n homi ni d brai ns b e c a me muc h bi gger, t o as recent l y as 4 0 , 0 0 0
years ago, t he t i me of cave pai nt i ngs a nd ot her ar t i f act s that reveal unmi s -
takabl y mode r n hu ma n mi nds .
2 3
Whi chever end of that r ange you f avor,
l anguage, r ea s oni ng, and c o ns c i o us pl a nni ng arri ved i n t he mo s t r e c e nt
eye-bl i nk of evol ut i on. The y ar e like new s of t war e, Ri der vers i on 1. 0. T h e
l anguage par t s work wel l , but t here ar e still a lot of bugs i n t he r e a s o ni ng
; md pl a nni ng programs , .
2 4
Aut oma t i c pr oc e s s e s , on t he ot her ha nd, ha v e
been t hrough t hous a nds of pr oduc t cycl es and ar e nearl y per f ect . Thi s di f -
f er ence i n mat uri t y bet ween a ut oma t i c a nd cont r ol l ed pr oc e s s e s he l p s ex-
pl ai n why we have i nexpens i ve c omput e r s t hat c a n sol ve l ogi c, ma t h, a nd
c he s s pr o bl e ms bet t er t han any hu ma n bei ngs c a n ( mos t of us s t r ug g l e
with t he s e t as ks ) , but none of our robot s , no ma t t er how costly, c a n wa l k
through t he woods as wel l as t he aver age si x-year-ol d chi l d ( our pe r c e pt ua l
and mot or s ys t ems ar e s upe r b) .
1 6 ' I ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
Evol uti on never l ooks ahead. It can' t pl an the hes t way to travel f rom
poi nt A to poi nt B. Inst ead, s mal l c ha nges to exi sti ng f or ms ari se (by ge-
net i c mut at i on) , and s pr ead wi t hi n a popul at i on to t he ext ent that they
hel p or gani s ms r es pond more ef f ect i vel y t o current condi t i ons . When lan-
guage evol ved, t he huma n brai n was not r eengi neer ed t o hand over t he
rei ns of power to the rider ( cons ci ous verbal thi nki ng). Thi ngs were al ready
worki ng pretty well, and l i ngui sti c ability s pread to t he ext ent that it hel ped
the el ephant do s omet hi ng i mport ant in a better way. The rider evolved to
serve to the ele-phant. But what ever its origin, once we had it, l anguage was
a powerf ul tool that coul d be us e d i n new ways, and evol uti on then se-
l ected t hos e i ndi vi dual s who got the bes t us e out of it.
One us e of l anguage i s that i t partially f reed humans f rom "st i mul us con-
trol." Behavi ori sts s uch as B. F. Ski nner were abl e to expl ai n much of the
behavior of ani mal s as a set of connect i ons bet ween st i mul i and res pons es .
S ome of t hes e connect i ons are i nnat e, s uch as when the sight or smel l of an
ani mal ' s natural f ood triggers hunger and eat i ng. Ot he r connect i ons are
l earned, as demons t r at ed by Ivan Pavlov's dogs, who sal i vated at the s ound
of a bell that had earlier a nnounc ed the arrival of f ood. The behavi ori sts s aw
ani mal s as sl aves to their envi ronment s and l earni ng hi stori es who blindly
respond to the reward propert i es of what ever they encount er. The behavior-
ists thought that peopl e were no di f f erent f rom other ani mal s . In this view,
St. Paul's l ament coul d be res t at ed as: " My f l esh i s under s t i mul us control . "
It i s no acci dent that we find t he carnal pl eas ures so rewardi ng. Our brai ns,
like rat br ai ns , are wi red so t hat f ood and sex gi ve us l i ttl e bur s t s of
dopami ne, the neurot ransmi t t er that i s the brain's way of maki ng us enj oy
the activities that are good for t he survival of our genes .
2 5
Plato' s " bad" horse
plays an i mportant role i n pul l i ng us toward t hese thi ngs, whi ch hel ped our
ancest ors survive and s uc c eed i n becomi ng our ances t or s .
But the behaviorists were not exactly right about peopl e. The controlled
system allows peopl e to think about long-term goals and thereby es cape the
tyranny of the here-and-now, the aut omat i c triggering of temptati on by the
sight of t empt i ng obj ects. Peopl e can i magi ne alternatives that are not visu-
ally present; they can wei gh l ong-term heal th risks agai nst present pl easures,
and they can learn in conversati on about which choi ces will bring s ucces s
The Divided Self 1 7
and prest i ge. Unf ortunatel y, t he behavi ori sts wer e not entirely wr ong a bout
peopl e, either. For al t hough t he control l ed s ys t em does not c onf or m t o be-
haviorist pri nci pl es, i t al s o has relatively little power t o c a us e behavi or. T h e
aut omat i c s ys t em wa s s ha ped by natural s el ect i on t o trigger qui c k a nd reli-
abl e act i on, and i t i ncl udes part s of t he brai n that ma ke us feel pl e a s ur e and
pai n ( s uch as the orbi tof rontal cortex) and that trigger survi val -rel ated mot i -
vati ons ( s uch as the hypot hal amus ) . The aut omat i c s ys t em has its f i nger on
I he dopa mi ne r el eas e but t on. The cont rol l ed s ys t em, i n cont r as t , i s bet t er
s een as an advisor. It's a rider pl aced on t he el ephant ' s ba c k to hel p t he el e-
phant ma ke better choi ces . Th e rider can s ee f art her i nto t he f ut ur e, a nd t he
rider can l earn val uabl e i nf ormat i on by tal ki ng to ot her ri ders or by r eadi ng
maps , but the ri der cannot order t he el ephant ar ound agai nst its wi l l . I be-
lieve t he Scot t i s h phi l os opher Davi d Hu me was cl oser t o t he truth t han was
I' lato when he sai d, " Rea s on is, and ought only t o be t he sl ave of t he pa s s i ons ,
and can never pret end t o any ot her of f i ce t han t o serve and obey t he m. "
2 6
In s um, t he rider i s an advi sor or servant ; not a king, pr es i dent , or chari o-
teer with a f i rm grip on t he rei ns. The ri der i s Gazzani ga' s i nt erpret er modul e ;
i l i s cons ci ous , cont rol l ed t hought . The el ephant , i n cont ras t , i s everyt hi ng
el se. Th e el ephant i ncl udes t he gut f eel i ngs , vi s ceral r eact i ons , e mot i ons ,
and i nt ui t i ons that compr i s e muc h' o f t he a ut oma t i c s ys t em. T h e el ephant
and t he ri der ea c h have their own i nt el l i gence, and when they wor k t oget her
well they enabl e t he uni que bri l l i ance of huma n bei ngs. But t hey don' t al-
ways work together well. He r e are t hree qui rks of daily life that i l l us t rat e the
s omet i mes compl ex rel at i onshi p bet ween t he r i der and t he el ephant .
F A I L U R E S O F S E L F C O N T R O L
I magi ne that i t i s 1970 and you are a four-year-ol d chi l d i n an exper i ment be-
ing c onduc t e d by Wal t er Mi s c he l at St anf or d University. \ o u are br ought into
a room at your pres chool wher e a ni ce ma n gi ves you toys a nd pl ays wi t h you
for a whi l e. The n t he ma n as ks you, first, whet her you like ma r s hma l l ows
(you do) , and, t hen, whet her you' d r at her have t hi s pl at e her e wi t h one
ma r s hma l l ow or t hat pl a t e t her e wi t h t wo ma r s hma l l o ws ( t hat o ne , of
1 8 ' I ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
course). Then the man tells you that he has to go out of the room for a little
while, and i f you can wait until he c ome s back, you can have the two marsh-
mallows. If you don' t want to wait, you can ring this bell here, and he'll c ome
right back and give you the plate wi th one; but if you do that, you can' t have
the two. The man leaves. You stare at the mars hmal l ows . You salivate. You
want. You fight your wanti ng. If you are like most four-year-ol ds, you can
hold out for only a f ew mi nutes. The n you ring the bell.
Now let's j ump ahead t o 1985. Mi s chel has mai l ed your parent s a ques -
ti onnai re as ki ng t hem to report on your personality, your ability to delay
grati fi cati on and deal with f rust rat i on, and your per f or mance on your col-
l ege ent rance exams ( t he Schol as t i c Apt i t ude Test ) . Your par ent s return t he
quest i onnai re. Mi s chel di scovers t hat the number of s e c onds you wai ted t o
ring the bell i n 1970 predi ct s not onl y what your parent s say about you as a
t eenager but al s o the l i kel i hood that you were admi t t ed to a top university.
Chi l dren who were abl e t o over come s t i mul us control and del ay gratifica-
tion for a f ew extra mi nut es i n 1970 were bet t er abl e to resi st t empt at i on as
t eenagers, t o f ocus on their s t udi es , and t o control t hems el ves when thi ngs
didn' t go the way they want ed.
2 7
What was their secret ? A large part of it was s t rat egyt he ways that chil-
dren used their l i mi ted mental control to shi ft attenti on. In later st udi es,
Mi s chel di s covered that t he s uc c e s s f ul chi l dren were t hos e who l ooked
away from the t empt at i on or were abl e to thi nk about other enj oyabl e activ-
i t i es.
2 8
The s e t hi nki ng skills are an a s pec t of emot i onal i nt el l i gencean
ability to unders t and and regul ate one' s own feel i ngs and des i r es .
2 9
An emo-
tionally intelligent person has a ski lled rider who knows how to distract and
coax the el ephant wi thout havi ng to engage in a direct cont es t of wills.
It's hard f or t he cont r ol l ed s ys t e m t o beat t he a ut oma t i c s ys t em by
wi l l power al one; like a tired mus c l e ,
3 0
t he f ormer s oon wear s down and
caves in, but the latter runs aut omat i cal l y, effortl essl y, and endl essl y. Onc e
you unders t and the power of s t i mul us control , you can us e i t to your ad-
vant age by changi ng the sti mul i i n your envi ronment and avoi di ng undesi r-
abl e ones ; or, i f that' s not pos s i bl e , by f i l l i ng your c o ns c i o us ne s s wi th
thoughts about their l es s t empt i ng as pect s . Buddhi s m, for exampl e, i n an
effort to break peopl e' s carnal a t t a chment to their own ( and others' ) f l esh,
devel oped met hods of medi t at i ng on decayi ng cor ps es .
3 1
By choos i ng t o
The Divided Self 1 19
s i are at s ome t hi ng t hat revol t s t he a ut oma t i c s ys t em, t he ri der c a n begi n
t o c ha ng e what t he el ephant will want i n t he f ut ur e.
M E N T A L I N T R U S I O N S
Kdgar Al l an Poe under s t ood t he di vi ded mi nd. In The Imp of the Perverse,
I'oe's protagoni st carri es out t he perf ect murder, i nheri ts t he dea d man' s es-
tate, and lives for years i n heal t hy enj oyment of his ill-gotten gai ns. Whe ne v e r
t hought s of t he mur der appear on t he f ri nges of hi s cons ci ous nes s , he mur -
murs to hi msel f , "I am s af e. " All i s well until t he day he r emodel s hi s ma nt r a
t o "I am s a f e ye s i f I be not fool enough t o ma ke open conf es s i on. " Wi t h
that thought, he c o me s undone. He tries t o s uppr es s t he thought of c onf e s s -
ing, but t he harder he tries, the mor e i nsi st ent t he t hought be c ome s . He pan-
ics, he starts runni ng, peopl e start chas i ng hi m, he bl acks out, and, whe n he
returns to his s ens es , he i s told that he has ma de a full conf es s i on.
[ love t hi s story, f or its title above all el s e. Whe ne ve r I am on a cl i f f , a
r oof t op, or a hi gh bal cony, t he i mp of t he pe r ve r s e whi s pe r s i n my ear,
" J ump. " It's not a c o mma nd , it's j us t a word that pops i nt o my c o ns c i o us -
nes s . Whe n I' m at a di nner part y si t t i ng next t o s o me o ne I r es pect , t he i mp
works har d t o s ugges t t he mos t i nappr opr i at e t hi ngs I coul d pos s i bl y say.
Who or what i s t he i mp? Da n Wegner, one of t he mos t per ver s e a nd cr e-
at i ve s oci al ps ychol ogi s t s , has dr agged t he i mp i nt o t he l ab a nd ma d e i t
c onf e s s t o bei ng an a s pe c t of a ut oma t i c pr oces s i ng.
In Wegner' s s t udi es , par t i ci pant s are a s ked t o try hardyiot t o t hi nk a bout
s omet hi ng, s uch as a whi t e bear, or f ood, or a s t ereot ype. Thi s i s har d to do.
Mor e i mpor t ant , t he mo me nt one s t ops tryi ng t o s uppr e s s a t hought , t he
t hought c o me s f l oodi ng i n a nd b e c o me s even har der t o bani s h. I n ot her
words, Wegner cr eat es mi nor obs es s i ons i n hi s l ab by i ns t r uct i ng pe o pl e not
t o obs es s . Wegner expl ai ns thi s ef f ect as an "i roni c pr oc e s s " of me nt a l con-
l i ol . - Whe n cont r ol l ed pr oces s i ng tries t o i nf l uence t hought ( " Don' t t hi nk
nbout a whi t e bear! " ) , i t s et s up an expl i ci t goal . And whenever one p ur s ue s
a goal , a part of t he mi nd aut omat i cal l y moni t or s pr ogr es s , so t hat i t c a n or-
der correct i ons or know when s uc c e s s ha s been achi eved. Whe n that goal i s
mi act i on i n t he worl d ( s uch as arriving at t he ai rport on t i me) , t hi s f e e d b a c k
2 0 ' I ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
syst em works well. But when t he goal i s ment al , i t backf i res. Aut omat i c pro-
ces s es conti nual l y check: " Am I not t hi nki ng about a whi t e bear ? " As t he act
of moni tori ng for the a bs enc e of the t hought i nt roduces the thought, the
person mus t try even harder to divert cons ci ous nes s . Aut omat i c and con-
trolled proces s es end up worki ng at cros s pur pos es , firing each other up to
ever greater exerti ons. But becaus e cont rol l ed pr oces s es tire quickly, even-
tually the i nexhausti bl e aut omat i c pr oc es s es run unoppos ed, conj uri ng up
herds of white bears. Thus , the at t empt to remove an unpl eas ant thought
can guarant ee it a pl ace on your f requent -pl ay list of mental rumi nat i ons.
Now, back to me at that dinner party. My si mpl e thought "don't make a fool
of yoursel f ' triggers aut omat i c pr oc es s es l ooki ng for si gns of f ool i shness. I
know that it would be stupid to c omment on that mol e on his f orehead, or to
say "I love you, " or to scream obsceni ti es. And up in cons ci ous nes s , I become
aware of three thoughts: comment on the mol e, say "I love you, " or s cream ob-
sceni ti es. The s e are not commands , j ust i deas that pop into my head. Freud
based much of his theory of psychoanal ysi s on such mental intrusions and
free associ ati ons, and he f ound they of t en have sexual or aggressi ve content.
But Wegner's research offers a si mpl er and more i nnocent explanation: Auto-
matic processes generate t housands of thoughts and i mages every day, often
through random associ ati on. The ones that get s t uck are the ones that partic-
ularly shock us, the ones we try to s uppr es s or deny. The reason we suppress
them i s not that we know, deep down, that they're true (al though s ome may
be), but that they are scary or s hamef ul . Yet once we have tried and failed to
suppress them, they can become the sorts of obsessi ve thoughts that make us
believe in Freudi an notions of a dark and evil uncons ci ous mi nd.
T H E D I F F I C U L T Y O F
W I N N I N G A N A R G U M E N T
Cons i der the fol l owi ng story:
J ul i e and Mark are si ster and brother. They are traveling t oget her i n
France on s ummer vacation from col l ege. One night they are staying
alone in a cabin near the beach. They deci de that it would be interesting
The Divided Self 1 21
and f un if they tried maki ng love. At the very l east, it woul d be a new ex- .
peri ence for each of t hem. J ul i e i s al ready taki ng birth control pi l l s, but
Mark us es a condom, too, j us t to be s af e. They both enj oy maki ng l ove,
but deci de not to do it agai n. They keep that night as a speci al s ecr et ,
whi ch makes t hem f eel even cl oser t o each other.
Do you thi nk i t i s a c c e pt a bl e f or t wo c ons e nt i ng adul t s , who h a p p e n t o
be s i bl i ngs , t o ma ke l ove? I f you are like mos t pe opl e i n my s t udi e s ,
3 3
you
i mme di a t e l y a ns we r e d no. Bu t how woul d you j us t i f y t hat j u d g me n t ?
Peopl e of t en r each fi rst f or t he a r gument t hat i nc e s t uous s ex l e a ds t o of f -
s pr i ng t hat s uf f e r genet i c abnor mal i t i es . Wh e n I poi nt out that t he s i bl i ngs
us e d two f or ms of bi rth cont rol , however, no one s ays , " Oh, wel l , i n t hat
r us e it's okay. " I ns t ead, pe opl e begi n s ea r c hi ng f or ot her a r g ume nt s , f or ex-
umpl e, "It' s goi ng t o har m thei r r el at i ons hi p. " Wh e n I r e s pond t hat i n t hi s
r us e t he sex has ma d e t he rel at i ons hi p st ronger, pe opl e j us t s c r a t c h t hei r
heads , f r own, a nd say, "I know it's wrong, I' m j us t havi ng a hard t i me ex-
pl ai ni ng why. "
The poi nt of t he s e s t udi es i s that moral j u d g me nt i s like a e s t he t i c j udg -
ment . Whe n you s e e a pai nt i ng, you us ual l y know i nst ant l y a nd a ut o ma t i -
cal l y whet her you l i ke it. I f s o me o ne a s ks you t o expl ai n your j u d g me n t ,
you c onf a bul a t e. You don' t really know why you thirrk s ome t hi ng i s be a ut i -
ful , but your i nt erpret er modul e ( t he ri der) i s ski l l ed at ma ki ng up r e a s o ns ,
us Gazzani ga f ound i n hi s spl i t -brai n s t udi es . You s ea r c h f or a pl a us i bl e rea-
son for l i ki ng t he pai nt i ng, a nd you l at ch on t o t he fi rst r ea s on t hat ma k e s
se ns e ( maybe s ome t hi ng vague about col or, or l i ght, or t he r ef l ect i on of t he
poi nt er i n t he cl own' s s hi ny nos e) . Mor al a r g ume nt s ar e mu c h t he s a me :
Two peopl e f eel st rongl y a bout an i s s ue, t hei r f eel i ngs c o me fi rst, a nd t hei r
r eas ons ar e i nvent ed on t he fly, t o throw at e a c h other. Wh e n you r e f ut e a
pers on' s a r g ume nt , d o e s s he gener al l y c ha ng e her mi nd a nd a g r e e wi t h
V<>u? Of c our s e not , be c a us e t he a r gume nt you de f e a t e d wa s not t he c a u s e
of her pos i t i on; i t wa s ma d e up af t er t he j u d g me nt wa s al r eady ma d e .
I f you l i s t en cl os el y t o mor al a r g ume nt s , you c a n s o me t i me s he a r s o me -
t hi ng s ur pr i s i ng: t hat i t i s real l y t he e l e pha nt hol di ng t he , r e i ns , g ui d i ng
t he rider. I t i s t he e l e pha nt who de c i de s what i s good or ba d, be a ut i f ul or
ugly. Gu t f eel i ngs , i nt ui t i ons , a nd s na p j u d g me nt s ha ppe n c ons t a nt l y a nd
2 2 ' I ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
aut omat i cal l y ( as Ma l c ol m Gl adwel l des c r i bed i n Blink),
34
but onl y t he
rider can stri ng s ent enc es t oget her a nd cr eat e a r gume nt s t o give t o ot her
peopl e. I n moral ar gument s , the ri der goes beyond bei ng j us t an advi sor t o
the el ephant ; he be c ome s a lawyer, f i ght i ng i n the court of publ i c opi ni on
to per s uade ot hers of the el ephant ' s poi nt of view.
Thi s , then, i s our si t uat i on, l ament ed by St . Paul , Buddha , Ovi d, and so
many others. Our mi nds are l oose conf eder at i ons of part s, but we identify
with and pay too muc h at t ent i on t o one part : c ons c i ous verbal thinking.
We are like the proverbial dr unken man l ooki ng for his car keys under the
street light. ( "Di d you drop t hem her e? " a s ks t he cop. " No " says the man, "I
dropped t hem back there i n t he alley, but t he light i s bet t er over here. ") Be-
c a us e we can s ee only o n e little corner of t he mi nd' s vast operat i on, we are
s urpri s ed when urges , wi s hes , and t empt a t i ons e me r ge , s eemi ngl y f rom
nowhere. We ma ke pr onouncement s , vows , and res ol ut i ons , and t hen are
surpri sed by our own power l es s nes s to carry t hem out. We s ome t i me s fall
into the view that we are f i ghti ng with our uncons ci ous , our id, or our ani-
mal self. But really we are the whol e thi ng. We are the rider, and we are the
el ephant . Bot h have their st rengt hs and s peci al skills. The rest of thi s book
i s about how compl ex and partly cl uel es s cr eat ur es s uch as ours el ves can
get al ong with each other ( chapt ers 3 and 4) , f i nd happi nes s ( chapt ers 5
and 6), grow psychol ogi cal l y and moral l y ( chapt er s 7 and 8) , and f i nd pur-
pos e and meani ng i n our lives ( chapt ers 9 and 10). But first we have to fig-
ure out why t he el ephant i s s uch a pes s i mi s t .
Changing Your Mind
The whole universe is change and life itself is hut what you
deem it.
M A R C U S A U R E L I U S I
What we are today comes from our thoughts of yesterday, and
our present thoughts build our life of tomorrow: our life is the
creation of our mind.
B U D D H A
2
I HE MOST I MPORTANT I DEA in pop ps ychol ogy is cont ai ned in t he t wo quo-
t at i ons above: Event s i n t he worl d af f ect us onl y t hrough our i nt er pr et a-
ti ons of t hem, s o i f we ca n cont rol our i nt er pr et at i ons , we ca n cont r ol our
worl d. Th e bes t -s el l i ng s el f - hel p advi sor of all t i me, Da l e Ca r ne g i e , wr i t i ng
i n 1944, cal l ed t he l ast ei ght wor ds of t he Aur el i us quot e "ei ght wor ds t hat
ca n t r ans f or m your l i f e. "
3
Mo r e recentl y, on t el evi s i on a nd t he I nt er net ,
"Dr. Phi l " (Phi l Mc Gr a w) s t at ed as one of hi s t en " l aws of l i fe": " Th e r e i s
no real i ty, onl y pe r c e pt i o n. "
4
S e l f - he l p books a nd s e mi na r s s o me t i me s
s e e m t o cons i s t of l i ttl e mor e t han l ect ur i ng a nd hect or i ng p e o p l e unti l
I hey under s t and thi s i dea a nd its i mpl i cat i ons for thei r l i ves. It c a n be in-
s pi r i ng t o wa t c h: Of t e n a mo me nt c o me s whe n a pe r s on c o n s u me d by
years of r es ent ment , pai n, and anger real i zes that her f at her (for e x a mp l e )
2 3
2 4 'I'LL H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
didn't directly hurt her when he abandoned the family; all he did was move
out of the house. Hi s acti on was morally wrong, but the pai n came from
her reacti ons to the event, and if she can change those reacti ons, she can
leave behi nd twenty years of pai n and per haps even get to know her father.
The art of pop psychology is to devel op a met hod (beyond lecturing and
hectoring) that gui des peopl e to that realization.
This art is old. Cons i der Ani ci us Boet hi us , born to one of the most dis-
ti ngui shed Roman f ami l i es i n 4 8 0 CE, f our years af ter Rome fell to the
Got hs . Boethi us received the best educat i on available in his day and suc-
cessf ul l y purs ued careers i n phi l osophy and publ i c servi ce. He wrote or
transl ated dozens of works on mat h, s ci ence, logic, and theology, at the
s ame time rising to become consul of Rome (the highest el ect ed of f i ce) i n
510. He was wealthy, he married well, and hi s sons went on to become
cons ul s t hems el ves . But i n 523, at t he pe a k of his power and f ort une,
Boet hi us was accus ed of treason toward the Ostrogoth King Theodori e for
remai ni ng loyal to Rome and its Senat e. Conde mne d by the cowardly Sen-
ate he had tried to def end, Boet hi us was stri pped of his weal th and honor,
thrown into prison on a remote island, and execut ed in 524.
To take somethi ng "phi l osophi cal l y" mea ns to accept a great mi sf ortune
wi thout weepi ng or even suf f eri ng. We us e this term i n part becaus e of
the cal mnes s , self-control, and courage that three anci ent phi l os ophers
Socr at es , Seneca, and Boe t hi us s howe d whi l e they awai t ed their exe-
cuti ons. But in 'The Consolation of Philosophy, whi ch Boet hi us wrote while
i n pri son, he conf es s ed that at first he was anythi ng but phi l osophi cal .
He wept and wrote poems about weepi ng. He curs ed i nj usti ce, and old
age, and the Goddes s of Fortune, who had bl essed hi m and then aban-
doned him.
Then one night, while Boet hi us is wal l owi ng in his wret chednes s , the
maj esti c apparition of Lady Phi l osophy visits him and pr oceeds to chi de
him for his unphi l osophi cal behavior. Lady Phi l osophy then gui des Boe-
thius through reinterpretations that f ores hadow modern cognitive therapy
(descri bed below). She begi ns by aski ng Boet hi us to think about his rela-
tionship with the Godde s s of Fortune. Phi l osophy remi nds Boet hi us that
Fortune i s fickle, comi ng and goi ng as she pl eas es . Boet hi us took Fortune
Changing Your Mind 3 1
us his mi s t r es s , f ul l y a wa r e of her ways , a nd s he s t ayed wi th hi m f or a l ong
l i me. Wha t right has he now t o d e ma nd t hat s he be c ha i ne d t o hi s s i de ?
I ,ady Phi l os ophy pr e s e nt s Fort une' s de f e ns e :
Why shoul d I al one be depri ved of my ri ghts? The heavens are per mi t t ed
to grant bright days, then blot t hem out with dark ni ghts; the year ma y
decorat e the f ace of t he earth with fl owers and frui ts, then ma ke i t bar-
ren agai n with cl ouds a-nd frost; the s ea i s al l owed to invite t he sai l or
with fair weather, t hen terrify hi m wi th s t or ms . Shal l I, t hen, pe r mi t
man' s i nsati abl e cupi di ty to tie me down to a s a menes s that is al i en to
my habi t s?
5
Lady Phi l os ophy r e f r a me s c ha nge as nor mal and as t he right of For t une .
( " The whol e uni ver s e i s c ha ng e , " Aur el i us ha d s ai d. ) Boet hi us wa s f or t u-
nat e; now he i s not. Tha t i s no c a u s e for anger. Rat her, he s houl d be gr at e-
f ul that he enj oyed For t une for s o l ong, a nd he s houl d be c a l m n o w t hat
s he has l ef t hi m: " No ma n c a n ever be s e c ur e unti l he has b e e n f o r s a ke n by
For t une. "
6
La dy Phi l os ophy t ri es s everal ot her r e f r a mi ng t act i cs . S he po i nt s out
II i<it hi s wi f e, s ons , and f at her ar e e a c h dear er t o hi m t han hi s own l i f e, a nd
nil l our still live. S he hel ps hi m s ee that a dver s e f or t une i s mor e be ne f i c i a l
t han good f or t une; t he l atter onl y ma ke s me n gr eedy for mor e, but adver -
sity ma ke s t hem s t rong. And s he dr aws Boet hi us ' s i magi nat i on f ar up i nt o
I he heavens so t hat he c a n l ook down on t he Ear t h a nd s e e i t as a ti ny
s pec k on whi ch even ti ni er pe opl e pl ay out t hei r comi ca l and ul t i ma t el y in-
s i gni f i cant ambi t i ons . S h e get s hi m t o a dmi t t hat r i ches and f a me br i ng
anxi ety a nd avari ce, not p e a c e a nd ha ppi nes s . Af t er bei ng s hown t he s e ne w
per s pect i ves a nd havi ng hi s ol d a s s umpt i ons chal l enged, Boe t hi us i s f i nal l y
pr epar ed t o abs or b t he gr eat es t l es s on of all, t he l es s on Buddha a nd Aur e-
lius had t aught cent ur i es earl i er: " Not hi ng i s mi s er a bl e unl es s you t hi nk i t
so; a nd on t he ot her hand, not hi ng bri ngs ha ppi ne s s unl es s you ar e c ont e nt
with it. "
7
Whe n he t akes thi s l es s on t o hear t , Boet hi us f r ees hi ms e l f f r om
Ins ment al pri s on. He r egai ns hi s c o mpo s ur e , wri t es a book t hat ha s c o m-
l or l cd peopl e f or cent ur i es , a nd f a c e s hi s dea t h wi th dignity.
2 6 ' I ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
I don' t mean to i mpl y that The Consolation of Philosophy is j us t Roman
pop psychology, hut it does tell a story of f r eedom through i nsi ght that I
woul d like to quest i on. In the previ ous chapt er, I s ugges t ed that our di vi ded
self is like a rider on the back of an el ephant , and I sai d that we give far too
much i mport ance t o the r i der cons ci ous t hought . Lady Phi l osophy, like
the pop psychol ogy gurus of today, was worki ng with t he rider, gui di ng hi m
to a mo me nt of cogni t i ve i ns i ght a nd r ef r ami ng. Yet, i f you have ever
achi eved s uch dramat i c i nsi ghts i nto your own life and resol ved t o change
your ways or your outl ook, you probabl y f ound that, three mont hs later, you
were right back where you s t art ed. Epi pha ni e s can be l i f e-al teri ng,
8
but
most f ade i n days or weeks. The rider can' t j us t deci de t o c ha nge and then
order the el ephant t o go al ong. wi th t he program. Las t i ng change can c o me
only by retrai ni ng the el ephant , and that' s hard to do. Whe n pop psychol ogy
programs are s ucces s f ul i n hel pi ng peopl e, whi ch they s omet i mes are, they
s ucceed not becaus e of the initial mome nt of i nsi ght but be c a us e they find
ways t o al t er peopl e' s behavi or over t he f ol l owi ng mont hs . The y keep
peopl e involved with the program l ong enough to retrain the. el ephant . Thi s
chapt er i s about why the el ephant t ends toward worry and pes s i mi s m i n so
many peopl e, and about three tools that t he rider can us e to retrain it.
T H E L I K E - O - M E T E R
The mos t i mport ant words i n the el ephant ' s l anguage are "l i ke" and "dis-
like," or " appr oach" and "wi thdraw. " Even t he s i mpl es t ani mal mus t make
deci s i ons at every moment : Le f t or ri ght? Go or s t op? Eat or don' t eat ? An-
i mal s with brai ns compl ex enough t o have emot i ons ma ke t hes e deci s i ons
ef f ortl essl y and aut omat i cal l y by havi ng what i s s omet i mes cal l ed a "like-o-
met er" runni ng in their heads at all t i mes . If a monkey t ast i ng a new fruit
f eel s a s weet s ens at i on, its l i ke-o-met er regi s t ers "I like it"; t he monkey
feel s pl eas ur e and bi tes right in. If the t as t e is bitter, a f l ash of di s pl eas ur e
di s c our a ges f ur t her eat i ng. Ther e' s no ne e d f or a wei ghi ng of pr os and
cons , or for a reasoni ng s ys t em. J us t f l as hes of pl eas ur e and di s pl eas ur e.
We huma ns have a l i ke-o-meter too, and it's al ways runni ng. Its i nfl u-
ence i s subt l e, but caref ul exper i ment s s how that you have a like-dislike re-
Changing Your Mind 3 1
act i on t o everyt hi ng you ar e exper i enci ng, even i f you' re not a wa r e of t he
exper i ence. For exa mpl e, s up p o s e you ar e a par t i ci pant i n an e x pe r i me nt
on what i s known as " a f f e c t i ve pr i mi ng. " You si t i n f r ont of a c o mp u t e r
s cr een a nd s t ar e at a dot i n t he center. Every f e w s e c onds , a word i s f l a s he d
over t he dot . All you have to do i s t ap a key wi t h your l ef t hand i f t he wor d
me a ns s ome t hi ng good or l i kabl e ( s uc h as ga r den, hope, f un) , or t a p a key
with your right ha nd i f t he wor d me a ns s ome t hi ng ba d or di s l i kabl e ( de a t h,
tyranny, bor edom) . I t s e e ms easy, but f or s o me r eas on you f i nd yo ur s e l f
hes i t at i ng f or a spl i t s e c ond on s o me of t he wor ds . Unbe knowns t t o you,
t he c o mput e r i s al s o f l as hi ng up anot her wor d, ri ght on t he dot , j u s t f or a
l ew hundr edt hs of a s e c ond bef or e put t i ng up t he t arget wor d you' re r at i ng.
Though t he s e wor ds ar e pr e s e nt e d s ubl i mi nal l y ( bel ow t he l evel of your
a wa r enes s ) , your i ntui ti ve s ys t em i s s o f ast t hat i t r eads a nd r eact s t o t he m
with a l i ke-o-met er rati ng. If t he s ubl i mi nal wor d is fear, it woul d r egi s t er
negat i ve on your Ii ke-o-meter, ma ki ng you f eel a tiny f l as h of di s pl e a s ur e ;
and t hen, a spl i t s e c ond later, when you s ee t he wor d boredom, you woul d
mor e qui ckl y s ay t hat bor e dom i s bad. Your negat i ve eval uat i on of b o r e d o m
has be e n f aci l i t at ed, or " pr i me d, " by your tiny f l as h of negat i vi t y t owa r d
lear. If, however, t he word f ol l owi ng/ ear i s garden, you woul d t ake l onge r to
say t hat gar den i s good, b e c a u s e of t he t i me i t t akes f or your l i ke- o- met er
t o s hi f t f r om bad t o good.
9
The di s covery of af f ect i ve pr i mi ng i n t he 1 9 8 0 s ope ne d up a wor l d of in-
di rect me a s ur e me nt i n psychol ogy. I t b e c a me pos s i bl e t o bypas s t he ri der
and t al k di rect l y t o t he el ephant , a nd what t he el epha nt ha s t o s ay i s s o me -
t i mes di s t ur bi ng. For e x a mp l e , wha t i f, i ns t e a d of f l a s hi ng s u b l i mi na l
wor ds , we us e phot og r a phs of bl ack a nd whi t e f a c e s ? Re s e a r c he r s ha ve
f ound t hat Ame r i c a ns of all ages , c l a s s e s , a nd pol i t i cal af f i l i at i ons r e a c t
with a f l as h of negati vi ty t o bl a c k f a c e s or t o ot her i ma ge s and wo r d s as -
s oci at ed wi th Af r i c a n- Amer i c a n cul t ur e.
1 0
Peopl e who report bei ng unpr ej -
udi c e d a ga i ns t bl a c ks s how, on a ver a ge, a s l i ght l y s ma l l e r a u t o ma t i c
prej udi ce, but appar ent l y t he ri der a nd t he e l e pha nt e a c h have an opi ni on.
(You c a n t es t your own el epha nt at: www. pr oj ect i mpl i ci t . com. ) Ev e n ma ny
Af ri can Ame r i c a ns s how t hi s i mpl i ci t pr ej udi ce, al t hough ot her s s h o w an
i mpl i ci t pr ef er enc e for bl a c k f a c e s and na me s . On. bal ance, Af r i can Ame r i -
cans c o me Out wi t h no i mpl i ci t bi as ei t her way.
2 8 ' I ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
One of the mos t bi zarre de mons t r a t i ons of t he l i ke-o-met er i n act i on
comes from the work of Brett Pe l ha m, " who has di scovered that one' s like-
o-meter is triggered by one' s own name. Whenever you s ee or hear a word
that res embl es your name, a little f l ash of pl easure bi as es you toward think-
ing the thing is good. So when a man na med Denni s is consi deri ng a career,
he ponders the possibilities: "Lawyer, doctor, banker, denti st . . . dentist . . .
somet hi ng about denti st j ust feels right. " And, i n fact, peopl e named Denni s
or Deni s e are slightly more likely t han peopl e with other names to bec ome
denti sts. Men named Lawrence and women named Lauri e are more likely t o
become lawyers. Loui s and Loui s e are more likely to move to Loui si ana or
St. Loui s, and Geor ge and Georgi na are more likely t o move t o Georgi a. The
own-name pref erence even s hows up i n marri age records: Peopl e are slightly
more likely to marry peopl e whos e na mes s ound like their own, even if the
similarity is j ust shari ng a first initial. Whe n Pel ham pr es ent ed his findings to
my academi c depart ment , I was s hocked to realize that mos t of the married
peopl e in the room illustrated his cl ai m: Jerry and Judy, Bri an and Bethany,
and the wi nners were me, J on, and my wi f e, J ayne.
The uns et t l i ng i mpl i cat i on of Pel ham' s work i s t hat t he t hree bi gges t
deci si ons mos t of us ma ke wha t to do with our lives, where to live, and
whom to mar r ycan all be i nf l uenced ( even i f only slightly) by s omet hi ng
as trivial as the s ound of a na me. Li f e i s i ndeed what we de e m it, but t he
deemi ng happens qui ckl y and uncons ci ous l y. The el ephant react s i nsti nc-
tively and st eers the rider toward a new dest i nat i on.
N E G A T I V I T Y B I A S
Cl i ni cal psychol ogi st s s omet i mes say that two ki nds of peopl e s eek ther-
apy: t hos e who need t i ght eni ng, and t hos e who need l oos eni ng. But for
every pat i ent s eeki ng hel p i n be c omi ng mor e organi zed, sel f -cont rol l ed,
and r es pons i bl e about her f ut ur e, t here i s a wai t i ng room full of peopl e
hopi ng t o l oos en up, l i ghten up, and worry l ess a bout the s t upi d thi ngs
they sai d at yesterday' s st af f meet i ng or about the rej ect i on they are sure
will follow tomorrow' s l unch dat e. For mos t peopl e, t he el ephant s ees too
many thi ngs as bad and not enough as good.
Changing Your Mind 3 1
It ma ke s s ens e. If you were des i gni ng the mi nd of a fi sh, woul d you have i t
res pond as strongly t o opport uni t i es as t o t hreat s? No way. The cos t of mi s s -
ing a c ue that si gnal s f ood i s low; odds are that there are ot her f i sh i n t he s ea,
and one mi s t ake won' t l ead t o starvati on. The cos t of mi s s i ng t he s i gn of a
nearby predator, however, can he cat as t rophi c. Ga me over, end of t he l i ne for
t hos e genes . Of cour s e, evol uti on has no desi gner, but mi nds cr eat ed by nat-
ural sel ect i on end up l ooki ng (to us ) as t hough they were des i gned b e c a u s e
11 icy general l y pr oduce behavi or that is flexibly adapt i ve in their ecol ogi cal
ni ches. ( S e e St even Pi nker
1 2
on how natural sel ect i on des i gns wi t hout a de-
signer. ) S o me commona l i t i es of ani mal l i fe even cr eat e s i mi l ari t i es a c r os s
s peci es that we mi ght call des i gn pri nci pl es. On e s uc h pri nci pl e i s t hat bad i s
stronger than good. Re s p o ns e s to t hr eat s a nd unpl e a s a nt ne s s a r e f as t er ,
stronger, and harder t o inhibit than r es pons es t o opport uni t i es and pl e a s ur e s .
Thi s pri nci pl e, cal l ed "negat i vi t y bi as , "
1 3
s hows up all over ps ychol ogy.
In mari tal i nt eract i ons , i t t akes at l eas t fi ve good or cons t r uct i ve a c t i ons to
ma ke up f or t he d a ma g e done by one cri t i cal or des t r uct i ve a c t .
1 4
I n f i na n-
cial t r ans act i ons a nd ga mbl e s , t he pl e a s ur e of gai ni ng a cer t ai n a mo u n t of
money i s s mal l er t han t he pai n of l os i ng t he s a me a mo unt .
1 5
I n e va l ua t i ng
a person' s charact er, pe opl e e s t i ma t e t hat i t woul d t ake t went y-f i ve a c t s of
l i f e-savi ng her oi s m t o ma ke up f or one a c t of mur der .
1 6
Wh e n pr e pa r i ng a
meal , f ood i s easi l y c ont a mi na t e d (by a s i ngl e c oc kr oa c h a nt e nna ) , but di f-
f i cul t t o puri fy. Ove r a nd over agai n, ps yc hol ogi s t s f i nd t hat t he h u ma n
mi nd r eact s t o bad t hi ngs mor e quickly, strongly, a nd per s i s t ent l y t ha n t o
equi val ent good t hi ngs . We can' t j us t will our s el ves t o s e e ever yt hi ng as
good be c a us e our mi nds ar e wi red t o f i nd a nd r eact t o t hreat s , vi ol at i ons ,
and s et ba c ks . As Be n Frankl i n s ai d: " We ar e not s o s ens i bl e of t he gr e a t e s t
I l eal th as of t he l eas t S i c kne s s . "
1 7
I lere' s anot her candi dat e for a des i gn pr i nci pl e of ani mal li fe: Op p o s i n g
s ys t ems pus h agai ns t ea c h ot her t o r each a bal ance poi nt , but t he b a l a nc e
point i s adj us t abl e. Whe n you move your ar m, one s et of mus c l e s e x t e nds i t
tilul anot her cont r act s it. Bot h are al ways slightly t ens ed, ready f or act i on.
Your heart rat e a nd br eat hi ng ar e r egul at ed by an a ut onomi c ner vous s ys t e m
c ompos e d of two s ubs ys t e ms that pus h your or gans i n oppos i t e di r ect i ons :
The s ympa t he t i c s ys t e m pr e pa r e s your body f or " f i ght or f l i ght " a nd t he
par as ympat het i c s ys t em c a l ms you down. Bot h ar e act i ve all t he t i me , i n
3 0 ' I ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
di f f erent ratios. Your behavi or is governed by oppos i ng motivational s ys t ems :
an approach syst em, whi ch triggers posi ti ve emot i ons and makes you want
to move toward certai n thi ngs; and a wi thdrawal syst em, whi ch triggers neg-
ative emot i ons and makes you want to pull back or avoid other things. Both
s ys t ems are al ways acti ve, moni t ori ng the envi ronment , and the two s ys t ems
can pr oduce oppos i ng mot i ves at the s a me t i me
1 8
(as when you feel ambi va-
l ence) , but their rel ati ve bal ance det er mi nes whi ch way you move. ( The
" l i ke-o-met er" i s a me t a phor for t hi s ba l a nc i ng pr oc e s s and its s ubt l e
moment -by-moment f l uct uat i ons . ) The bal ance can shi ft i n an i nstant: You
are drawn by curiosity to an acci dent s cene, but then recoil i n horror when
you s ee the blood that you coul d not have been surpri sed to see. You want to
talk to a stranger, but you fi nd yoursel f s uddenl y paral yzed when you ap-
proach that pers on. The wi t hdrawal s ys t em can qui ckl y s hoot up t o full
power,
1 9
overtaki ng the sl ower ( and general l y weaker) appr oach syst em.
One reason the withdrawal s ys t em i s so qui ck and compel l i ng i s that i t
gets first crack at all i ncomi ng i nformati on. All neural i mpul s es from the eyes
and ears go first to the t hal amus , a kind of central swi tchi ng station in the
brain. From the t hal amus , neural i mpul s es are sent out to speci al sensory
processi ng areas in the cortex; and f rom those areas, i nformati on is relayed to
the frontal cortex, where it is integrated with other higher mental proces s es
and your ongoi ng st ream of cons ci ous nes s . If at the end of this proces s you
bec ome aware of a hi ssi ng s nake in f ront of you, you coul d deci de to run
away and then order your legs to start movi ng. But becaus e neural i mpul s es
move only at about thirty met ers per s econd, this fairly l ong path, i ncl udi ng
deci si on time, coul d easily take a s econd or two. It's easy to s ee why a neural
short cut woul d be advant ageous , and the amygdal a i s that short cut . The
amygdal a, sitting j us t under the t hal amus , di ps into the river of unproces s ed
information flowing through the t hal amus , and it res ponds to patterns that in
the pas t were associ at ed with danger. The amygdal a has a direct connect i on
to the part of the brai nst em that acti vates the fight-or-flight response, and if
the amygdal a fi nds a pat t ern that was part of a previous fear epi s ode (such as
the sound of a hi ss), it orders the body to red al ert.
2 0
You have felt this happen. If you have ever thought you were al one in a
room and then heard a voi ce behi nd you, or if you have ever s een a horror
Changing Your Mind 3 1
movi e i n whi ch a kni f e- wi el di ng ma ni a c j u mp s i nto t he f r a me wi t hout a
mus i ca l f orewarni ng, you prohabl y f l i nched, a nd your hear t r at e s hot u p .
Your body r eact ed wi t h f ear (via t he qui c k a mygda l a pat h) i n t he f i rs t t e nt h
of a s e c ond bef or e you coul d ma ke s e ns e of t he event (via t he s l ower cor t i -
cal pat h) i n t he next ni ne- t ent hs of a s e c ond. Thoug h t he a mygda l a d o e s
p r o c e s s s o me pos i t i ve i nf or ma t i on, t he br a i n ha s no. e q ui v a l e nt " g r e e n
al ert " s ys t em to not i f y you i nstantl y of a del i ci ous meal or a likely ma t e .
S uc h appr ai s al s c a n t ake a s ec ond or t wo. On c e agai n, b a d i s s t ronger a n d
f as t er t han good. The el ephant r eact s be f or e t he ri der even s e e s t he s n a k e
011 t he pa t h. Al t houg h you c a n tell your s e l f t hat you a r e not af r ai d of
s nakes , i f your e l e pha nt f ear s t hem and r ear s up, yoti'll still be t hrown.
On e fi nal poi nt a bout t he amygdal a: No t onl y doe s i t r each down t o t he
br ai ns t em t o trigger a r e s pons e t o danger but i t r e a c he s up t o t he f r ont al
cor t ex t o c ha ng e your t hi nki ng. It s hi f t s t he ent i r e brai n over t o a wi t h-
drawal ori ent at i on. The r e i s a two-way s t r eet bet ween e mot i ons and c o n-
s ci ous t hought s : Thoug ht s can c a us e e mot i ons ( as whe n you ref l ect on a
f ool i sh t hi ng you s ai d) , but emot i ons c a n a l s o c a us e t hought s , pri mari l y by
l ai s i ng ment al fi l ters t hat bi as s ubs e que nt i nf or mat i on pr oc es s i ng. A f l a s h
of f ear ma ke s you extra vi gi l ant for addi t i onal t hr eat s ; you l ook at t he wor l d
t hr ough a f i l t er t hat i nt er pr et s a mbi g uo us event s as pos s i bl e danger s . A
f l ash of anger t oward s o me o ne rai s es a f i l ter t hr ough whi ch you s e e every-
l l i i ng t he of f e ndi ng pe r s on s ays or doe s as a f ur t her i nsul t or t r ans gr es s i on.
I ccl i ngs of s a dne s s bl i nd you t o all pl e a s ur e s a nd oppor t uni t i es . As one f a -
mous depr es s i ve put it: " Ho w weary, st al e, f l at , and unpr of i t abl e s e e m t o
me all t he us e s of t hi s wor l d! "
2 1
So whe n Sha ke s pe a r e ' s Ha ml e t l ater of f e r s
his own pa r a phr a s e of Ma r c u s Aur e l i us " The r e i s not hi ng ei t her good or
had but t hi nki ng ma ke s i t s o "
2 2
he i s ri ght, but he mi ght have a dde d t hat
his negat i ve emot i ons a r e ' ma ki ng hi s t hi nki ng ma ke everyt hi ng bad.
T H E C O R T I C A L L O T T E R Y
I l aml et was unl ucky. Hi s uncl e and hi s mot he r cons pi r ed t o mur de r hi s f a-
ther, t he ki ng. But hi s l ong a nd d e e p de pr e s s i ve r eact i on t o thi s s e t ba c k
3 2 ' I ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
s ugges t s t hat he wa s unl ucky i n a not he r way t oo: He wa s by nat ur e a
pes s i mi s t .
When i t c omes to expl ai ni ng personal i ty, it's al ways true that nat ure and
nurture work together. But it's al s o t rue that nat ur e pl ays a bi gger role than
mos t peopl e-real i ze. Cons i der t he i denti cal twin si sters Da p hne and Bar-
bara. Rai s ed out s i de London, they bot h l ef t s chool at the age of f ourt een,
went to work i n local government , met thei r f ut ur e hus ba nds at the age of
si xteen at local town hall dances , s uf f er ed mi s carri ages at t he s a me t i me,
and then each gave birth to two boys and a girl. They f eared many of the
s a me thi ngs (bl ood and hei ght s) and exhi bi t ed unus ual habi t s ( each drank
her cof f ee col d; each devel oped t he habi t of pus hi ng up her nos e with the
pal m of the hand, a ges t ur e they both cal l ed " s qui dgi ng" ) . No ne of this may
s urpri s e you until you l earn that s epa r a t e f ami l i es had a dopt e d Da phne
and Barbara as i nf ant s ; nei t her even knew of t he other' s exi s t ence until
they were reuni t ed at t he age of forty. Wf i en they finally di d meet , they
were weari ng al mos t i denti cal cl ot hi ng.
2 3
S uc h stri ngs of coi nci dences are c o mmo n a mo ng i dent i cal twi ns who
were s epar at ed at birth, but they do not ha ppe n a mong f rat ernal twi ns
who were similarly s eparat ed.
2 4
On j us t about every trait that has been stud-
ied, i dent i cal twi ns (who s har e all thei r ge ne s and s pend t he s a me ni ne
mont hs i n the s ame womb) are more similar than same-sex fraternal twins
(who share only half their genes and s pend the s a me ni ne mont hs i n the
s ame womb) . Thi s fi ndi ng means that genes make at least s ome contribution
to nearly every trait. Whet her the trait is intelligence, extroversion, fearful-
ness, religiosity, political leaning, liking for j azz, or dislike of spi cy f oods, iden-
tical twins are more similar than fraternal twi ns, and they are usually al most
as similar if they were separat ed at bi rth.
2 5
Ge ne s are not bl uepri nts speci fy-
ing the structure of a person; they are better thought of as recipes for produc-
ing a person over many years.
2 6
Be c a us e i denti cal twins are creat ed from the
s ame recipe, their brains end up bei ng fairly similar (though not identical),
and t hese similar brains pr oduce many of the s a me idiosyncratic behaviors.
Fraternal twins, on the other hand, are ma de f rom two di fferent reci pes that
happen to share half their i nstructi ons. Fraternal twins don' t end up bei ng
50 percent similar to each other; they end up with radically di fferent brains,
Changing Your Mind 3 1
and t heref ore radi cal l y di f f erent per s onal i t i es al mos t as di f f erent as pe opl e
f rom unrel at ed f ami l i es .
2 7
Da phne a nd Ba r ba r a c a me t o be known as t he "gi ggl e t wi ns . " Bot h have
s unny per s onal i t i es a nd a habi t of bur s t i ng i nto l aught er i n mi d- s e nt e nc e .
I'hey won t he cort i cal l ot t eryt hei r br ai ns wer e pr ec onf i gur ed t o s e e good
i n t he worl d. Ot he r pai rs of t wi ns, however, wer e born t o l ook on t he dar k
si de. I n f act , ha ppi ne s s i s one of t he mos t hi ghl y her i t abl e a s p e c t s of per -
sonality. Twi n s t udi es general l y s how that f r om 50 pe r c e nt t o 80 p e r c e nt of
nil t he var i ance a mo ng pe opl e i n thei r average l evel s of ha ppi ne s s c a n be
expl a i ned by d i f f e r e nc e s i n t hei r g e ne s r at her t ha n i n t hei r l i f e exper i -
e nc e s .
2 8
( Part i cul ar e pi s ode s of j oy or depr es s i on, however, mu s t us ua l l y be
under s t ood by l ooki ng at how l i fe event s i nt er act wi th a per s on' s e mot i ona l
pr edi s pos i t i on. )
A pers on' s aver age or typi cal level of ha ppi ne s s i s t hat per s on' s " a f f e c t i ve
styl e. " ( " Af f ect " r ef er s t o t he felt or exper i enc ed part of e mot i on. ) Your af -
f ect i ve styl e r ef l ect s t he everyday ba l a nc e of power be t we e n your a p p r o a c h
s ys t em a nd your wi t hdr awal s ys t e m, a nd t hi s ba l a nc e c a n be r e a d ri ght
f rom your f or ehea d. I t ha s l ong be e n known f r om s t udi e s of br a i nwa ve s
t hat mos t p e o p l e s how an a s ymme t r y: mo r e act i vi t y e i t he r i n t he ri ght
frontal cort ex or i n t he l ef t f ront al cort ex. I n t he l at e 1980s , Ri c ha r d Da vi d-
son at t he Uni vers i t y of Wi s c ons i n di s cover ed t hat t he s e a s y mme t r i e s cor-
r el at ed wi t h a pe r s on' s ge ne r a l t e nd e nc i e s t o e x p e r i e nc e pos i t i ve a nd
negat i ve e mot i ons . Peopl e s howi ng mor e of a cer t ai n ki nd of br a i nwa ve
c omi ng t hrough t he l ef t s i de of t he f or ehea d r epor t ed f eel i ng mor e ha ppi -
nes s i n t hei r dai l y li ves and l es s fear, anxiety, a nd s ha me t han p e o p l e ex-
hi bi ti ng hi gher acti vi ty on t he right s i de. La t er r es ear ch s ho we d t hat t he s e
cort i cal " l ef t i es " ar e l es s s ubj ec t t o de pr e s s i on a nd r ecover mor e qui ckl y
from negat i ve e xpe r i e nc e s .
2 9
The di f f e r e nc e be t we e n cor t i cal r i ght i es a nd
l ef ti es c a n be s e e n even i n i nf ant s : Ten- mont h- ol d ba bi e s s howi ng mor e
m t ivity on t he ri ght s i de ar e mor e likely to cry whe n s e pa r a t e d bri ef l y f r om
their mot he r s .
3 0
And thi s di f f e r e nc e i n i nf ancy a ppe a r s t o r ef l ect an a s p e c t
of pers onal i t y t hat i s s t abl e, f or mos t pe opl e , all t he way t hr ough a dul t -
hood.
3 1
Ba bi es who s how a l ot mor e acti vi ty on t he right s i de of t he f ore-
head b e c o me t oddl er s who a r e mor e a nxi ous a bout novel s i t ua t i ons ; a s
3 4 ' I ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
t eenager s , they are mor e likely t o be f ear f ul a bout dat i ng and s oci al activi-
ti es; and, finally, as adul t s , t hey ar e mor e likely t o ne e d ps ychot her apy t o
l oos en up. Havi ng l ost out i n t he cort i cal lottery, t hey will s t r uggl e all their
lives t o wea ken t he gri p of an overact i ve wi t hdr awal s ys t em. On c e when a
f ri end of mi ne with a negat i ve af f ect i ve s t yl e wa s be mo a ni ng her l i f e si t ua-
ti on, s o me o ne s ugges t ed that a move to a di f f er ent ci ty woul d s ui t her wel l .
" No , " s he s ai d, " I c a n be unha p p y a ny whe r e . " S h e mi g ht a s wel l have
quot ed J ohn Mi l t on' s pa r a phr a s e of Aur el i us : " Th e mi nd i s its own pl ace,
and i n i tsel f c a n ma ke a heaven of hel l , a hel l of hea ven. "
3 2
S C A N YOUR BRAIN
Whi ch set of s t at ement s i s more true of you?
Set A:
I'm always willing to try somet hi ng new if I think it will be f un.
If I see a chance to get s omet hi ng I want I move on it right
away.
When good thi ngs happen to me, i t af f ect s me strongly.
I of ten act on the spur of the moment .
Set B:
I worry about maki ng mi s t akes .
Cri t i ci sm or scol di ng hurts me qui t e a bit.
I feel worried when I thi nk I have done poorly at s omet hi ng
important.
I have many f ears compar ed to my f ri ends.
People who endorse Set A over Set B have a more approach-ori ented
style and, on average, show greater cortical activity on the left si de of
the f orehead. Peopl e who endor s e Set B have a mor e wi t hdrawal -
oriented style and, on average, s how greater cortical activity on t he right
side. (Scal e adapt ed from Carver & Whi te, 1994. Copyri ght 1994 by
the Ameri can Psychological Associ ati on. Adapt ed with permi ssi on. )
Changing Your Mind 3 1
H o w T O C H A N G E Y O U R M I N D
If I had an i denti cal twin brother, he woul d probabl y dr es s badly. I have al-
ways hat ed s hoppi ng, and I can recogni ze only six col ors by na me . Sever al
t i mes I have resol ved t o i mprove my style, and have even a c c e de d t o wome n' s
r eques t s t o t ake me s hoppi ng, but i t wa s no us e. Ea c h t i me I qui ckl y re-
t urned to my f ami l i ar ways, whi ch wer e s t uc k i n t he early 1980s . I coul dn' t
j us t deci de t o change, t o b e c o me s omet hi ng I' m not, by s heer f or ce of will.
I ns t ead, I f ound a mor e r oundabout way to change: I got mar r i ed. No w I
have a cl oset full of ni ce cl ot hes , a f ew pai ri ngs that I have memor i z ed as ap-
propri at e choi ces , a nd a style cons ul t ant who r e c omme nds vari at i ons.
You c a n c ha nge your af f ect i ve styl e too-but agai n, you can' t do i t by
s heer f or ce of will. You have t o do s ome t hi ng that will c ha ng e your r eper -
toi re of avai l abl e t hought s . He r e ar e t hree of t he bes t me t ho ds f or doi ng s o:
medi t at i on, cogni t i ve therapy, and Pr ozac. All t hr ee ar e ef f ec t i ve b e c a u s e
t hey wor k on t he el epha nt .
Meditation
S u p p o s e you read a bout a pill that you c oul d t ake onc e a day t o r e d u c e anx-
iety and i ncr eas e your c ont ent ment . Woul d you t ake it? S u p p o s e f ur t he r
t hat t he pill has a great vari ety of s i de e f f e c t s , all of t hem good: i nc r e a s e d
s el f - es t eem, empat hy, a nd t rust ; i t even i mpr oves memory. S u p p o s e , fi nally,
that t he pill i s all nat ur al a nd c os t s not hi ng. No w woul d you t ake i t?
T h e pill exi st s. It i s medi t at i on.
3 3
It ha s be e n di s cover ed by ma ny reli-
gi ous t radi t i ons a nd wa s i n us e i n Indi a l ong bef or e Buddha , but Bu d d h i s m
br ought i t i nto ma i ns t r e a m Wes t er n cul t ur e. The r e ar e ma ny ki nds of me d-
i tati on, but they all have i n c o mmo n a c ons c i ous a t t e mpt t o f o c us a t t ent i on
i n a nonanal yt i cal way.
3 4
It s o unds eas y: Si t still (in mos t f or ms ) a nd f o c us
a wa r e ne s s onl y on your breat hi ng, or on a wor d, or on an i mage, a nd let no
ot her wor ds , i deas , or i ma ge s ari s e i n c ons c i ous ne s s . Me di t a t i on i s, how-
ever, extraordi nari l y di f f i cul t at fi rst, a nd conf r ont i ng your r epea t ed f ai l ur es
i n t he fi rst weeks t e a c he s t he ri der l es s ons i n humi l i t y a nd pa t i e nc e . Th e
goal of medi t at i on i s t o c ha ng e a ut oma t i c t hought pr oc e s s e s , t her eby t a m-
i ng t he el ephant . And t he pr oof of t a mi ng i s t he br eaki ng of a t t a c hme nt s .
3 6 ' I ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
My dog Andy has two mai n at t achment s , t hrough whi ch he i nterprets
everythi ng that happens i n my hous e: eat i ng meat and not bei ng left al one.
If my wi f e and I s t and near the f ront door, he be c ome s anxi ous . If we pi ck
up our keys, open the door, and say, " Be a good boy, " his tail, head, and
s omehow even his hi ps droop pat het i cal l y toward t he floor. But i f we then
say, "Andy, c ome , " he' s el ectri f i ed with j oy and s hoot s pas t us t hrough the
doorway. Andy' s f ear of bei ng left al one gi ves hi m many mome nt s of anxiety
throughout the day, a f ew hours of des pai r ( when he is left al one) , and a
f ew mi nut es of j oy ( each t i me his s ol i t ude i s rel i eved) . Andy' s pl eas ur es
and pai ns are det er mi ned by t he choi ces my wi f e and I ma ke. If bad i s
stronger than good, then Andy s uf f er s mor e f rom s eparat i on t han he bene-
fits f rom reuni on.
Mos t peopl e have many more at t achment s t han Andy; but, accordi ng t o
Buddhi s m, human psychol ogy i s si mi l ar to Andy' s i n many ways. Bec a us e
Rachel want s to be res pect ed, s he lives i n cons t ant vi gi l ance for si gns of dis-
respect , and s he aches for days after a pos s i bl e violation. S he may enj oy be-
ing treated with respect , but di s r es pect hurts mor e on average than res pect
f eel s good. Char l es want s money and lives i n a cons t ant state of vi gi l ance
for chances to make it: He l oses s l eep over f i nes , l os s es , or t ransact i ons that
he thinks did not get hi m the best pos s i bl e deal . Onc e agai n, l os s es l oom
larger t han gai ns , so even i f Cha r l e s gr ows s t eadi l y weal t hi er, t hought s
about money may on average give hi m more unhappi nes s than happi nes s .
For Buddha, at t achment s are like a g a me of roul et t e i n whi ch s ome one
el s e spi ns the wheel and the ga me i s ri gged: The mor e you play, the more
you lose. The only way to win i s to s t ep away f rom t he tabl e. And the only
way to s t ep away, to make yoursel f not react to the ups and downs of life, i s
to medi t at e and t ame the mi nd. Al t hough you give up t he pl eas ur es of win-
ning, you al so give up the larger pai ns of l osi ng.
In chapt er 5 I'll ques t i on whet her this is really a good t radeof f for mos t
peopl e. For now the i mportant poi nt i s that Buddha ma de a psychol ogi cal
di scovery that he and his f ol l owers e mbe dde d in a phi l os ophy and a reli-
gion. They have been generous with it, t eachi ng i t to peopl e of all f ai t hs
and of no fai th. The di scovery i s that medi t at i on t a mes and c a l ms the ele-
phant . Medi t at i on done every day for several mont hs can hel p you r educe
s ubs t ant i al l y t he f r equency of f ear f ul , negat i ve, and gr a s pi ng t hought s ,
Changing Your Mind 3 1
t her eby i mpr ovi ng your a f f e c t i ve st yl e. As Bu d d ha s ai d: " Whe n a ma n
knows the s ol i t ude of s i l ence, and f eel s t he j oy of qui et nes s , he i s t hen f r ee
from f ear and s i n. "
3 5
Cognitive Therapy
Medi t at i on i s a charact eri st i cal l y Eas t er n sol ut i on to t he pr obl ems of l i f e.
Even bef or e Buddha , the Chi ne s e phi l os opher La o Tzu had sai d that t he
road t o wi s dom r uns t hrough cal m i nact i on, des i r el es s wai t i ng. Wes t er n
appr oaches to pr obl ems more typically involve pul l i ng out a tool box and
trying to fix what' s broken. That was Lady Phi l osophy' s appr oach wi th her
many ar gument s , and r ef r ami ng t echni ques . The tool box was t horoughl y
moderni zed i n the 1960s by Aaron Beck.
Beck, a psychi at ri st at the Uni versi ty of Pennsyl vani a, had been t rai ned
i n the Freudi an appr oach i n whi ch " t he chi l d i s f at her to t he ma n. " Wha t -
ever ails you i s c a us ed by event s i n your chi l dhood, and t he only way to
change yoursel f now i s t o di g through r epr es s ed memor i es , c o me up wi t h a
di agnosi s, and work through your unresol ved conf l i ct s . For de pr e s s e d pa-
ti ents, however, Be c k f ound little evi dence i n t he s ci ent i f i c l i terature or i n
his own cl i ni cal pr act i ce that thi s appr oach was worki ng. The mor e s p a c e
lie gave t hem to run through their sel f-cri ti cal t hought s and me mor i e s of
i nj usti ce, the wors e they felt. But i n t he l ate 1960s , when Bec k broke wi t h
s t andard pract i ce and, like Lady Phi l osophy, ques t i oned t he l egi t i macy of
his pat i ent s' irrational and self-critical t hought s , t he pat i ent s of t en s e e me d
lo f eel better.
Beck took a c ha nc e . He ma ppe d out t he di st ort ed t hought pr o c e s s e s
charact eri s t i c of de pr e s s e d peopl e and t rai ned hi s pat i ent s t o cat ch a nd
chal l enge t hes e t hought s . Be c k was s cor ned by hi s Fr eudi an col l eagues ,
who thought he was treati ng t he s ympt oms of depr es s i on wi th Ba nd- Ai ds
while letting the di s ea s e rage underneat h, but hi s cour age and per s i s t enc e
pai d of f . He cr eat ed cogni t i ve therapy,
3 6
one of t he mos t ef f ect i ve t reat -
ment s avai l abl e for depr es s i on, anxiety, and many other pr obl ems .
As I s ugges t ed i n t he last chapter, we of t en us e reas oni ng not to fi nd t he
truth but to invent ar gument s to support our de e p and intuitive bel i ef s (re-
si di ng i n the el ephant ) . Depr es s ed peopl e are convi nced i n their heart s of
three rel ated bel i ef s, known as Beck' s "cogni ti ve tri ad" of depr es s i on. Th e s e
3 8 ' I ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
are: "I'm no good, " " My world is bleak, " and " My f uture is hopel es s . " A de-
pressed person' s mi nd i s filled with aut omat i c thoughts support i ng t hese
dysfunctional beliefs, particularly when things goes wrong. The thought dis-
tortions were so similar across pati ents that Beck gave them names . Con-
sider the depressed father whose daughter falls down and bangs her head
whi l e he i s wat chi ng her. He i nstantl y f l agel l at es hi ms el f with t hes e
thoughts: "I' m a terrible father" (this is called "personal i zati on, " or seei ng
the event as a ref erendum on the self rather than as a minor medi cal i ssue);
"Why do I always do such terrible things to my chi l dren?" ("overgenerali-
zation" combi ned with di chot omous "al ways/never" thinking); " Now she' s
going to have brain damage" ("magnification"); "Everyone will hate me" ("ar-
bitrary i nference, " or j umpi ng to a concl usi on without evi dence).
Depr es s ed peopl e are caught i n a f e e dba c k l oop i n whi ch di s t ort ed
t hought s c a us e negat i ve f eel i ngs , whi ch t hen di stort t hi nki ng further.
Beck' s discovery is that you can break the cycl e by changi ng the thoughts.
A big part of cognitive therapy is training cl i ents to cat ch their thoughts,
write them down, name the distortions, and then find al ternati ve and more
accurat e ways of thinking. Over many weeks, the client' s t hought s become
more realistic, the f eedback loop is broken, and the client' s anxiety or de-
pression abat es. Cogni ti ve therapy works becaus e it t eaches the rider how
to train the el ephant rather than how to def eat it directly in an argument .
On the first day of therapy, the rider doesn' t real i ze that t he el ephant
i s control l i ng hi m, that the el ephant ' s f ears are dri vi ng his c ons c i ous
thoughts. Over time, the client learns to use a set of tools; t hes e i ncl ude
challenging automati c thoughts and engagi ng i n s i mpl e tasks, s uch as go-
ing out to buy a newspaper rather than-stayi ng in bed all day rumi nati ng.
Thes e tasks are often assi gned as homework, to be done daily. ( The ele-
phant learns best from daily practi ce; a weekly meet i ng with a therapist is
not enough. ) Wi th each ref rami ng, and wi th each s i mpl e t as k a c c om-
pl i shed, the client receives a little reward, a little fl ash of relief or pl easure.
And each flash of pl easure is like a peanut given to an el ephant as rein-
f orcement for a new behavior. You can't win a tug of war with an angry or
fearful el ephant, but you c a n by gradual s hapi ng of the sort the behav-
iorists talked about change your aut omat i c thoughts and, in the process,
your af f ect i ve style. In fact, many t herapi st s combi ne cogni ti ve therapy
Changing Your Mind 3 1
wi th t ec hni ques bor r owed di rectl y f r om behavi or i s m t o cr eat e wha t i s no w
cal l ed " cogni t i ve behavi oral t herapy. "
Unl i ke Fr e ud, B e c k t e s t e d hi s t heor i es i n c ont r ol l e d e x p e r i me nt s .
Peopl e who unde r we nt cogni t i ve t her apy f or de pr e s s i on got me a s ur a b l y
bet t er; t hey got bet t er f as t er t han pe opl e who wer e put on a wai t i ng l i st f or
t herapy; and, at l eas t i n s o me s t udi es , they got bet t er f as t er t han t hos e who
r ecei ved ot her t her a pi es .
3 7
Whe n cogni t i ve t herapy i s done very well i t i s as
ef f ect i ve as dr ugs s uc h as Prozac f or t he t r eat ment of de pr e s s i on,
3 8
a nd i ts
e nor mous advant age over Pr ozac i s t hat whe n cogni t i ve t her apy s t ops , t he
benef i t s us ual l y c ont i nue b e c a us e t he el ephant has been r et r ai ned. Pr ozac,
i n cont r as t , wor ks onl y f or as l ong as you t ake it.
1 don' t me a n to s ug g e s t t hat cogni t i ve behavi oral t herapy i s .the onl y ps y-
chot her apy that wor ks . Mo s t f or ms of ps ychot her apy work t o s o me degr ee,
a nd i n s o me s t udi es they all s e e m t o wor k equal l y wel l .
3 9
I t c o me s d o wn t o
a ques t i on of fit: S o me pe opl e r es pond bet t er t o one t her apy t han anot her ,
a nd s o me ps ychol ogi cal di s or der s ar e mor e ef f ect i vel y t r eat ed by one t her-
apy t han anot her. I f you have f r equent a ut oma t i c negat i ve t hought s a bo ut
your s el f , your worl d, or your f ut ur e, a nd i f t he s e t hought s c ont r i but e t o
chr oni c f eel i ngs of anxi et y or des pai r, t hen you mi ght f i nd a good fit wi t h
cogni t i ve behavi oral t her apy.
4 0
Prozac
Ma r c e l Prous t wrot e that " t he onl y t rue voyage . . . woul d be not to vi si t
s t r ange l ands but t o- pos s es s ot her eyes . "
4 1
I n t he s u mme r of 1996, I tri ed
on a pai r of new eyes whe n I t ook Paxil, a c ous i n of Pr ozac, f or ei ght we e ks .
For t he f i rst f e w we e ks I ha d onl y s i de e f f e c t s : s o me na us e a , di f f i c ul t y
s l eepi ng t hrough t he ni ght , a nd a vari ety of phys i cal s ens a t i ons t hat I di d
not know my body c oul d pr oduc e , i ncl udi ng a f eel i ng I c a n de s c r i be onl y
by s ayi ng that my br ai n fel t dry. But t hen one day i n week fi ve, t he wor l d
c ha ng e d color. I woke up one mor ni ng a nd no l onger fel t anxi ous a bout t he
heavy work l oad arid uncer t ai n pr os pec t s of an unt enur ed pr of es s or . I t wa s
like magi c. A s et of c ha ng e s I ha d wa nt ed t o ma ke i n mys el f f or years-
l oos eni ng up, l i ght eni ng up, a c c e pt i ng my mi s t a ke s wi t hout dwel l i ng on
t he mha p p e n e d overni ght . However , Paxil had o ne devas t at i ng s i de e f f e c t
f or me : I t ma d e i t har d f or me t o recal l f a c t s a nd na me s , even t hos e I knew
4 0 ' I ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
well. I woul d greet my s t udent s and col l eagues , reach for a na me to put af-
ter " Hi , " and he l eft wi th " Hi . . . t here. " I de c i de d that as a pr of es s or I
needed my memor y more than I needed pe a c e of mi nd, so I s t opped taking
Paxil. Fi ve weeks later, my memor y c a me back, al ong wi th my worri es.
What remai ned was a f i rsthand exper i ence of weari ng rose-col ored gl asses,
of s eei ng t he world with new eyes.
Prozac was the first member of a cl as s of drugs known as sel ecti ve sero-
tonin reuptake inhibitors, or S S RI s . In what follows, I us e Prozac to stand
for the whol e group, the psychol ogi cal ef f ect s of whi ch are nearly identical,
and whi ch i ncl udes Paxil, Zoloft, Cel exa, Lexapro, and others. Many things
are not known about Prozac and its c ous i ns a bove all, how they work. The
na me of the drug cl ass tells part of the story: Prozac gets into the synapses
(the gaps bet ween neurons) , but it is selective in af f ect i ng only s ynaps es that
use serotonin as their neurotransmitter. Onc e in the s ynaps es , Prozac inhibits
the reu-ptake pr oces s t he normal pr oces s in whi ch a neuron that has j us t
rel eased serotoni n into the s ynaps e then s uc ks it back up into itself, to be re-
l eased again at the next neural pul se. The net resul t is that a brain on Prozac
has more serotoni n i n certain synapses, so t hos e neurons fire mor e often.
So far Prozac s ounds like cocai ne, heroi n, or any ot her dr ug that you
mi ght have l earned i s as s oci at ed wi th a s peci f i c neurot ransmi t t er. But the
i ncrease i n serotoni n happens within a day of t aki ng Prozac, whi l e the ben-
ef i ts don' t appear for four to six weeks . Somehow, t he neuron on the other
s i de of the s ynaps e i s adapt i ng to the new level of serot oni n, a nd i t i s f rom
that adapt at i on proces s that the benef i t s probabl y emer ge. Or maybe neu-
ral adapt at i on has not hi ng to do with it. The ot her l eadi ng theory about
Prozac is that it rai ses the level of a neural growt h hor mone in the hip-
poc a mpus , a part of the brain cruci al for l earni ng and memory. Peopl e who
have a negati ve af f ect i ve style general l y have hi gher l evel s of s t r es s hor-
mones i n their bl ood; t hes e hor mones , i n t urn, t end to kill of f or pr une
back s ome critical cel l s i n the hi ppoc a mpus , whos e j ob, i n part, i s to shut
off the very st ress r es pons e that i s killing t hem. So peopl e who have a neg-
at i ve af f ect i ve styl e may of t en s uf f e r mi nor neur al d a ma g e t o t he hi p-
p o c a mp us , but thi s can be r epai r ed i n f our or f i ve we e ks a f t e r Prozac
tri ggers t he r el eas e of the neural growt h hor mone .
4 2
Al t hough we don' t
Changing Your Mind 3 1
know how Prozac wor ks , we do know t hat i t works : I t pr o duc e s be ne f i t s
above pl a c e bo or no- t r eat ment cont rol gr oups on an a s t oni s hi ng vari et y of
ment al mal adi es , i ncl udi ng depr es s i on, gener al i zed anxi et y di s order, pa ni c
at t acks , soci al phobi a , pr emens t r ua l dys phor i c di sorder, s o me ea t i ng di s or -
der s , a nd obs e s s i ve c ompul s i ve di s or der .
4 3
Pr ozac i s cont rovers i al f or at l eas t two r eas ons . Fi rst , i t i s a s hor t c ut . In
mos t s t udi es , Pr ozac t ur ns out t o be j us t a bout as ef f ec t i ve as c ogni t i ve
t he r a pys ome t i me s a little mor e, s o me t i me s a little l e s s b u t it's so mu c h
easier t han therapy. No dai l y home wor k or di f f i cul t new ski l l s; no weekl y
t her apy a ppoi nt me nt . I f you bel i eve i n t he Pr ot es t ant wor k et hi c a nd t he
ma xi m " No pai n, no gai n, " t hen you mi ght be di s t ur bed by Pr ozac. S e c o n d ,
Prozac doe s mor e t han j us t rel i eve s ympt oms ; i t s o me t i me s c ha ng e s per -
sonality. In Listening to Prozac,
44
Peter Kr a mer pr es ent s c a s e s t udi e s of hi s
pat i ent s whos e l ong- s t andi ng depr es s i on or anxi et y wa s c ur e d by Pr oz a c ,
a nd who s e per s ona l i t i es t hen b l o o me d g r e a t e r s e l f - c onf i de nc e , g r e a t e r
r es i l i ence i n t he f a c e of s et ba cks , a nd mor e joy, all of whi ch s o me t i me s l ed
t o bi g c ha ng e s i n c a r eer s and r el at i ons hi ps . Th e s e c a s e s c onf or m t o an i de-
al i zed me di c a l nar r at i ve: p e r s o n s uf f e r s f r om l i f el ong d i s e a s e ; me d i c a l
br eakt hr ough c ur e s di s ea s e; per s on r el eas ed f r om s ha c kl es , c e l e br a t e s ne w
f r e e d o m; c l os i ng s hot of pe r s on pl ayi ng j oyous l y wi t h c hi l dr e n; f a d e t o
bl ack. But Kr amer al s o tel l s f as ci nat i ng s t or i es a bout pe opl e who we r e not
ill, who me t no di agnos t i c cat egory f or a ment al di sorder, a nd who j us t ha d
t he s ort s of ne ur os e s a nd pers onal i t y qui r ks that mos t pe opl e ha ve t o s o me
de g r e e f e a r of cr i t i ci s m, i nabi l i ty t o be ha ppy whe n not i n a r el at i ons hi p,
t endenc y t o be t oo cri ti cal a nd overcont rol l i ng of s p o us e a nd chi l dr en. Li ke
all per s onal i t y trai ts, t hes e ar e har d t o c ha ng e , but t hey ar e what t al k ther-
apy i s des i gned t o a ddr es s . Ther a py can' t us ual l y c ha ng e personal i t y, but i t
c a n t ea ch you ways of worki ng a r ound your pr obl emat i c trai ts. Yet whe n
Kr amer pr es cr i bed Prozac, t he of f e ndi ng trai ts went away. Li f e l ong ha bi t s ,
g one overni ght ( f i ve we e ks af t er s t ar t i ng Pr ozac) , whe r e a s yea r s of ps y-
chot her apy of t en had done not hi ng. Thi s i s why Kr amer coi ned t he t er m
" c os me t i c ps ychophar macol ogy, " f or Prozac s e e me d t o pr omi s e t hat ps yc hi -
at ri st s c oul d s ha pe a nd per f ect mi nds j us t a s pl as t i c s ur ge ons s h a p e a nd
per f ect bodi es .
4 2 ' I ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
Doe s that s ound like progress, or like Pandora' s box? Bef or e you ans wer
that, ans wer this: Whi ch of t hes e two phr as es rings truest to you: " Be all
that you can be" or " Thi s above all, t o t hi ne own sel f be t rue. " Our cul t ure
endor s es bot hr el ent l es s s el f - i mpr ovement as well as aut hent i ci t ybut
we of t en es c a pe the cont radi ct i on by f r ami ng s el f -i mprovement as aut hen-
ticity. J us t as gai ni ng an educat i on me a ns struggl i ng for twel ve to twenty
years t o devel op one' s i ntel l ectual pot ent i al , charact er devel opment ought
to involve a l i fel ong struggl e to devel op one' s moral pot ent i al . A nine-year-
old child does not stay true to hersel f by keepi ng the mi nd and charact er of
a nine-year-old; s he works hard to r each her ideal self, pus he d and chauf -
f eured by her parent s to endl es s af t er-school and weekend c l a s s e s i n pi ano,
religion, art, and at hl et i cs. As l ong as c ha nge i s gradual and a resul t of the
child' s hard work, the chi l d i s gi ven t he moral credi t for the change, and
that change is in t he servi ce of authenti ci ty. But what if t here were a pill
that enhanced t enni s skills? Or a mi nor surgi cal t echni que for i mpl ant i ng
pi ano virtuosity di rectl y and per manent l y into the brain? S uc h a separat i on
of s el f - i mpr ovement f rom aut hent i ci t y woul d ma ke ma ny pe opl e recoi l
in horror.
Horror f as ci nat es me, parti cul arl y when t here i s no vi cti m. I st udy moral
reacti ons t o har ml es s t aboo vi ol ati ons s uch as cons ens ual i nces t and pri-
vat e f l ag des ecr at i on. The s e thi ngs j us t feel wr ong t o mos t peopl e, even
when they can' t expl ai n why. (I'll expl ai n why in chapt er 9. ) My research
i ndi cates that a smal l set of i nnate moral i ntui ti ons gui de a nd const rai n the
world's many moral i ti es, and one of t hes e i ntui ti ons i s that the body i s a
t empl e hous i ng a soul wi t hi n.
4 5
Even peopl e who do not cons ci ous l y be-
lieve i n God or the soul are of f ended by or feel uncomf or t abl e about s ome-
one who t reat s her body l i ke a pl a ygr ound, its s ol e p u r p o s e t o provi de
pl easure. A shy woma n who get s a nos e j ob, breast augment at i on, twelve
body pi erci ngs, and a prescri pt i on for el ect i ve Prozac woul d be as shocki ng
to many peopl e as a mi ni ster who r emodel s hi s chur ch to l ook like an Otto-
ma n harem.
The t ransf ormat i on of the chur ch mi ght hurt others by c a us i ng several
pari shi oners to di e f rom apoplexy. It is hard, however, to f i nd harm in the
sel f -transf ormer beyond s ome vague not i on that s he i s "not bei ng true to
hersel f . " But i f this woman had previ ousl y been unhappy wi th her hyper-
Changing Your Mind 3 1
s ens i t i ve a nd overl y i nhi bi t ed pers onal i t y, a nd i f s he had ma d e l i t t l e
progress with psychotherapy, why exactl y s houl d s he be true to a s el f s he
doesn' t want ? Why not change hersel f for the bet t er? Whe n I took Paxil, i t
changed my af f ect i ve style for the better. It ma de me into s omet hi ng I was
not, but had l ong want ed t o be: a per s on who worri es l ess, a nd who s e e s
the world as bei ng full of possi bi l i t i es, not threats. Paxil i mproved t he bal -
a nc e bet ween my appr oach and wi thdrawal s ys t ems , and had t here be e n
no si de ef f ect s , I woul d still be taki ng it today.
I t heref ore ques t i on the wi des pr ead view that Prozac and ot her dr ugs i n
its cl as s are overprescri bed. It's eas y for t hos e who did well i n t he cort i cal
lottery t o pr each about the i mpor t ance of hard work and the unna t ur a l nes s
of chemi cal s hort cut s . But for t hos e who, t hrough no f aul t of thei r own,
ended up on t he negat i ve half of the af f ect i ve style s pect r um, Prozac i s a
way to c ompe ns a t e for the unf ai r nes s of the corti cal lottery. Fur t her mor e,
it's eas y for t hos e who bel i eve that the body i s a t empl e to say that c os me t i c
ps ychophar macol ogy i s a kind of sacri l ege. Somet hi ng i s i ndeed l ost whe n
psychi at ri st s no longer listen to their pat i ent s as peopl e, but rather as a car
mec ha ni c woul d l i sten t o an engi ne, l ooki ng only for cl ues a bout whi ch
knob to adj us t next. But i f t he hi ppocampal theory of Prozac i s cor r ect ,
many peopl e really do need a mechani cal adj us t ment . It's as t hough they
had been driving for years with the emer gency break hal f way enga ged, and
it mi ght be worth a f i ve-week experi ment to s ee what ha ppe ns to thei r l i ves
when the brake i s rel eas ed. Fr a me d i n thi s way, Prozac for t he " wor r i ed
wel l " is no l onger j us t cos met i c. It is mor e like gi vi ng cont act l ens es to a
per s on with poor but f unct i onal eyesi ght who has l earned ways of c opi ng
wi th her l i mi tati ons. Far f rom bei ng a betrayal of that pers on' s " t rue s el f , "
cont act l ens es can be a r eas onabl e s hort cut t o proper f unct i oni ng.
The epi gr aphs that opened thi s chapt er are true. Li f e i s what we d e e m
it, and our lives are the creat i ons of our mi nds . But t hes e cl ai ms are not
hel pf ul until a ugment ed by a theory of t he di vi ded sel f ( s uch as t he ri der
and the el ephant ) and an under s t andi ng of negati vi ty bi as a nd a f f e c t i ve
style. Onc e you know why change i s so hard, you c a n drop the brut e f or ce
met hod and t ake a mor e ps ychol ogi cal l y s ophi s t i cat ed a ppr oa ch t o sel f -
i mpr ovement . Buddha got. i t exactl y right: You need a met hod for t a mi ng
4 4 ' I ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
the el ephant , for changi ng your mi nd gr adual l y Medi t at i on, cogni t i ve ther-
apy, and Prozac are three ef f ect i ve me a ns of doi ng so. Be c a us e e a c h will be
ef f ect i ve for s ome peopl e and not for ot hers , I bel i eve that all t hree shoul d
be readily avai l abl e and wi del y publ i ci zed. Li f e i tsel f i s but what you deem
it, and you c a nt hr o ug h medi t at i on, cogni t i ve t herapy, a nd Pr o z a c
r edeem yoursel f.
Reciprocity with a Vengeance
Zigong asked: "Is there any single word that could guide one's
entire life?" The master said: "Should it not he reciprocity?
What you do not wish for yourself, do not do to others."
A N A L E C T S O F C O N F U C I U S '
\
That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow; this, in
a few words, is the entire Torah; all the rest is but an elabora-
tion of this one, central point.
R A B B I H I L L E L , I S T C E N T , B C E
2
W H E N THE SAGES PI CK a s i ngl e word or pri nci pl e t o el evat e above all ot h-
ers , t he wi nner i s a l mos t al ways ei t her " l ove" or " reci proci t y. " Ch a p t e r 6
will cover l ove; thi s chapt er i s a bout reci proci ty. Bot h are, ul ti matel y, a bout
t he s a me thi ng: t he bonds that ti e us t o one anot her.
The ope ni ng s c e ne of t he movi e l"he Godfather i s an exqui s i t e port rayal
of reci proci t y i n act i on. It i s t he we ddi ng day of t he da ught er of t he Go d -
father, Do n Cor l eone. Th e Ital i an i mmi gr ant Bona s er a , an under t aker , ha s
c o me t o a s k for a favor: He want s t o avenge an as s aul t upon t he honor a nd
body of hi s own daught er, who wa s beat en hy her boyf ri end a nd a not he r
young man. Bona s er a des cr i bes t he as s aul t , t he arrest , and t he trial of t he
t wo boys. The j udg e gave t hem a s us pe nde d s e nt e nc e a nd let t he m go f r ee
4 5
4 6 ' I ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
that very day. Bona s e r a i s f ur i ous a nd f eel s humi l i at ed; he ha s c o me t o Don
Cor l e one t o a s k that j us t i c e be done. Cor l e one as ks what exact l y he want s .
Bonas er a whi s per s s ome t hi ng i nto hi s ear, whi ch we ca n s af el y a s s ume i s
"Kill t hem. " Cor l e one r e f us e s , and poi nt s out that Bona s e r a has not been
muc h of a f ri end until now. Bona s e r a a dmi t s he was af rai d of get t i ng into
" t roubl e. " Th e di al ogue c ont i nue s :
3
C O R L E O N E : I understand. You f ound paradi s e i n Ameri ca, you had a
good trade, made a good living. The pol i ce prot ect ed you and there
were courts of law. And you didn' t need a friend like me. But now you
come to me and you say, " Don Cor l eone give me j us t i ce. " But you don't
ask with respect. You don' t of f er f ri endshi p. You don't even thi nk to call
me " Godf at her . " I ns t ead, you c o me i nto my hous e on t he day my
daughter i s to be married, and you as k me to do murder, for money.
B O N A S E R A : I ask you for j us t i ce.
C O R L E O N E : That i s not j us t i ce; your daught er i s still alive.
B O N A S E R A : Let t hem s uf f er then, as s he suf f ers. [ Pause] . How much
shall I pay you?
C O R L E O N E : Bonas era . . . Bonas er a . . . What have I ever done to
make you treat me so di srespect f ul l y? If you' d c ome to me i n friend-
shi p, then this s cum that rui ned your daught er would be s uf f eri ng this
very day. And if by chance an hones t man like yoursel f shoul d make
enemi es , then they woul d be c ome my enemi es . And t hen they woul d
fear you.
B O N A S E R A : Be my f r i end[ He bows t o Cor l eone] Godf at her ? [ He
ki sses Corl eone' s hand] ,
C O R L E O N E : Good. [Pause. ] S o me day, and that day may never come,
I'll call upon you to do a servi ce for me. But until that dayaccept
this j us t i ce as a gift on my daughter' s weddi ng day.
Th e s c e ne i s extraordi nary, a ki nd of over t ur e that i nt r oduces t he t he me s
of vi ol ence, ki ns hi p, and moral i ty t hat dri ve t he rest of t he movi e. But j us t
as extraordi nary t o me i s how eas y i t i s f or us t o under s t a nd t hi s compl ex
i nteracti on i n an al i en s ubcul t ur e. We i nt ui t i vel y unde r s t a nd why Bonas er a
want s t he boys ki l l ed, a nd why Co r l e o ne r e f us e s t o do it. We wi nc e at
Reciprocity with a Vengeance 4 7
Bonas er a' s c l ums y a t t empt t o of f er mone y whe n what i s l acki ng i s t he ri ght
rel at i ons hi p, a nd we under s t a nd why Bona s e r a ha d been wary, be f or e , of
cul t i vat i ng t he right r el at i ons hi p. We under s t a nd t hat i n a c c e pt i ng a " gi f t "
f rom a ma f i a don, a chai n, not j us t a st ri ng, i s a t t a c hed. We unde r s t a nd
all of t hi s ef f or t l es s l y be c a us e we s e e t he wor l d t hrough t he l ens of reci -
procity. Reci pr oci t y i s a de e p i ns t i nct ; i t i s t he bas i c cur r ency of s oc i a l l i f e.
Bona s e r a us e s i t t o buy r evenge, whi ch i s i tsel f a f or m of reci proci t y. Co r -
l eone us e s i t t o ma ni pul a t e Bona s e r a i nto j oi ni ng Cor l eone' s e x t e nde d f a m-
ily. In t he rest of t hi s chapt er I'll expl ai n how we c a me t o a dopt r eci pr oci t y
as our s oci al currency, a nd how you c a n s p e nd i t wisely.
U L T R A S O C I A L I T Y
Ani ma l s t hat fly s e e m t o vi ol at e t he l aws of phys i c s , but onl y unt i l you
l earn a bit mor e a bout phys i cs . Fl i ght evol ved i ndependent l y at l eas t t hr ee
t i me s i n t he a ni ma l ki ng do m: i n i ns e c t s , d i no s a ur s ( i nc l udi ng mo d e r n
bi rds ) , a nd ma mma l s ( bat s ) . I n ea c h c a s e , a phys i cal f ea t ur e t hat ha d po-
t ent i al l y a er odyna mi c pr oper t i es wa s al r eady pr es ent (f or e xa mpl e , s c a l e s
t hat l engt hened i nt o f eat her s , whi ch l at er ma d e gl i di ng pos s i bl e) .
Ani ma l s t hat live i n l arge pe a c e f ul s oci et i es s e e m t o vi ol at e t he l a ws of
evol ut i on ( s uc h as compet i t i on a nd survi val of t he f i t t est ) , but onl y unti l
you l earn a bit mor e about evol ut i on. Ul t r as oci al i t y
4
l i vi ng i n l arge c oope r -
ati ve s oci et i es i n whi ch hundr e ds or t hous a nds of i ndi vi dual s r eap t he be n-
ef i t s of an ext ens i ve di vi si on of l abor evol ved i ndependent l y at l eas t f our
t i mes i n t he ani mal ki ngdom: a mo ng hymenopt er a ( ant s, bees , a nd wa s p s ) ;
t er mi t es ; naked mol e rats; a nd huma ns . I n e a c h c a s e, a f ea t ur e p o s s e s s i ng
pot ent i al l y c oope r a t i on- e nha nc i ng pr oper t i es al r eady exi s t ed. For all t he
no nhuma n ul t rasoei al s pec i es , that f eat ur e was t he genet i cs of kin a l t r ui s m.
It's obvi ous that ani mal s will ri sk their lives f or t he s af et y of t hei r own chi l -
dren: Th e onl y way t o " wi n" at t he g a me of evol ut i on i s t o l eave s ur vi vi ng
c opi es of your genes . Yet not j us t your chi l dren carry copi es of your g e ne s .
Your si bl i ngs are j us t as cl os el y rel at ed t o you ( 5 0 per cent s har ed g e n e s ) as
your chi l dren; your ne phe ws and ni eces s har e a quar t er of your g e ne s , a nd
your c ous i ns one ei ght h. In a stri ctly Dar wi ni an cal cul at i on, wha t ever c os t
4 8 ' I ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
you woul d bear to save one of your chi l dren you s houl d be willing to pay to
save two ni eces or four cous i ns .
5
Bec a us e nearly all ani mal s that live in cooperat i ve groups live in groups
of cl os e relatives, mos t al t rui sm i n the ani mal ki ngdom ref l ect s t he s i mpl e
axi om that shared genes equal s shared i nt eres t s . But be c a us e t he shari ng
drops of f so qui ckl y with each fork i n the f ami l y tree ( s econd cous i ns share
onl y one t hi rt y- s econd of t hei r g e ne s ) , ki n al t r ui s m expl ai ns onl y how
groups of a few dozen, or per haps a hundr ed, ani mal s can work together.
Out of a f l ock of t hous ands , only a smal l per c ent a ge woul d be cl os e enough
to be worth taki ng risks for. The rest woul d be compet i t or s , i n the Darwi n-
ian s ens e. Here' s where the ances t or s of bees , t ermi t es , and mol e rats took
the c ommon mechani s m of kin al t rui sm, whi ch makes many s peci es soci a-
ble, and parl ayed i t
6
into the f oundat i on of thei r unc ommon ultrasociality:
They are all si bl i ngs. Thos e s peci es each evol ved a reproduct i on s ys t em i n
whi ch a si ngl e queen pr oduces all the chi l dren, and nearly all t he chi l dren
are either sterile (ants) or el s e their reproduct i ve abilities are s uppr es s ed
( bees , mol e rats); theref ore, a hive, nes t , or col ony of t hes e ani mal s i s one
big family. If everyone around you is your si bl i ng, and if the survival of your
genes depends on the survival of your que e n, s el f i s hnes s be c ome s genet i c
s ui ci de. The s e ul trasoci al s pec i es di s pl ay l evel s of cooper at i on and sel f-
sacri f i ce that still ast oni sh and i nspi re t hos e who st udy t hem. S o me ant s,
for exampl e, s pend their lives hangi ng f r om t he top of a t unnel , of f eri ng
their abdomens for us e as f ood st orage bags by t he rest of the nes t .
7
The ultrasoci al ani mal s evolved into a s t at e of ul traki nshi p, whi ch led
automati cal l y to ul t racooperat i on (as in bui l di ng and def endi ng a l arge nest
or hive), whi ch al l owed the mas s i ve di vi si on of l abor ( ant s have cas t es s uch
as soldier, forager, nursery worker, and f ood s t or age bag) , whi ch creat ed
hives overfl owi ng with mi l k and honey, or what ever ot her s ubs t a nc e they
us e to store their s urpl us f ood. We huma ns al s o try to ext end t he reach of
kin al t rui sm by us i ng f i ct i t i ous ki nshi p na me s for nonrel at i ves , as when
chi l dren are encour aged t o call their par ent s ' f ri ends Uncl e Bob and Aunt
Sarah. I ndeed, the maf i a i s known as " t he f ami l y, " and the very i dea of a
godf at her is an at t empt to forge a kin-like link with a ma n who is not true
kin. The huma n mi nd f i nds ki ns hi p deepl y appeal i ng, and kin al t rui s m
surely underl i es the cul tural ubi qui ty of nepot i s m. But even i n t he maf i a,
Reciprocity with a Vengeance 4 7
kin al t rui s m c a n t ake you onl y s o far. At s o me poi nt you ha ve t o wor k wi t h
peopl e who are at bes t di s t ant rel at i ons , a nd t o do s o you' d bet t er ha ve an-
ot her tri ck up your s l eeve.
Y o u S C R A T C H M Y B A C K ,
I ' L L S C R A T C H Y O U R S
Wha t woul d you do i f you r ecei ved a Ch r i s t ma s c a r d f r o m a c o mp l e t e
s t r anger ? Thi s act ual l y ha ppe ne d i n a s t udy i n whi c h a ps ychol ogi s t s e nt
Chr i s t ma s car ds t o pe opl e at r a ndom. Th e great maj ori t y s e nt hi m a c a r d i n
ret urn.
8
In hi s i ns i ght f ul book Influence,
9
Rober t Ci a l di nj of Ari zona S t a t e
Uni ver s i t y ci t es t hi s a nd ot her s t udi e s as e v i d e nc e t hat p e o p l e ha v e a
mi ndl es s , aut omat i c reci proci t y ref l ex. Li ke ot her a ni ma l s , we will p e r f o r m
cert ai n behavi ors whe n t he worl d pr e s e nt s us wi th cer t ai n pa t t er ns of in-
put . A baby herri ng gul l , s e e i ng a red s pot on i ts mot her ' s bea k, p e c k s at i t
aut omat i cal l y, and out c o me s r egur gi t at ed f ood. T h e ba by gul l will p e c k
j us t as vi gorousl y at a red s pot pai nt ed on t he e nd of a penci l . A cat s t a l ks a
mo u s e us i ng t he s a me l ow- down, wi g g l e - c l o s e - t he n- p o unc e t e c h n i q u e
us ed by cat s ar ound t he worl d. The cat us e s t he s a me t e c hni que t o a t t a c k a
s t ri ng trai l i ng a ball of yarn be c a us e t he s t ri ng acci dent al l y act i vat es t he
cat ' s mous e- t ai l - det ect or modul e . Ci al di ni s e e s hu ma n reci proci t y as a s i m-
ilar et hol ogi cal ref l ex: a pe r s on r ecei ves a favor f r om an a c q ua i nt a nc e a nd
wa nt s t o repay t he favor. T h e per s on will even repay an e mpt y f avor f r o m a
stranger, s uc h as t he r ecei pt of a wor t hl es s Chr i s t ma s car d.
Th e ani mal a nd hu ma n e xa mpl e s ar e not exact l y paral l el , however. T h e
gul l s and cat s are r e s pondi ng t o vi s ual s t i mul i wi t h s pec i f i c bodi l y mo v e -
ment s , execut ed i mmedi at el y. The per s on i s r e s pondi ng t o t he meaning of
a s i t uat i on wi th a mot i vat i on that c a n be s at i s f i ed by a vari et y of bodi l y
move me nt s exec ut ed days later. So what i s really bui l t i nto t he per s on i s a
strategy: Play tit f or tat. Do t o ot her s what they do unt o you. Speci f i cal l y,
t he tit-for-tat strategy i s t o be ni ce on t he first r ound of i nt er act i on; b u t af -
ter t hat , do t o your par t ner what ever your par t ner di d t o you on t he previ -
ous r ound.
1 0
Ti t f or t at t a ke s us way be yond kin a l t r ui s m. I t o p e n s t he
possi bi l i t y of f or mi ng cooper at i ve r el at i ons hi ps wi t h s t r anger s .
5 0 ' I ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
Mos t i nt eract i ons a mong ani mal s ( ot her t han cl os e kin) are zero-s um
games : One ani mal ' s gai n i s the other' s l oss. But life i s full of si t uat i ons i n
whi ch cooperat i on woul d expand the pi e to be s hared i f only a way coul d
be f ound t o cooper at e wi t hout bei ng expl oi t ed. Ani mal s that hunt are par-
ticularly vul nerabl e t o the variability of s uc c e s s : They may f i nd far more
food than they can eat i n one day, and t hen f i nd no f ood at all for three
weeks . Ani mal s that can trade their s ur pl us on a day of pl ent y for a l oan on
a day of need are muc h more likely to survi ve the vagari es of c ha nc e. Vam-
pi re bat s, for exampl e, will regurgi t at e bl ood f r om a s uc c e s s f ul night of
bl oods ucki ng into the mout h of an uns uc c e s s f ul and genet i cal l y unrel at ed
peer. Suc h behavi or s e e ms t o violate t he spirit of Darwi ni an compet i t i on,
except that the bats keep track of who has hel ped t hem i n t he pas t , and i n
return they share primarily with t hose bat s .
1 1
Li ke the Godf at her , bat s play
tit for tat, and so do other soci al ani mal s , parti cul arl y t hos e that live in rel-
atively smal l , st abl e groups where i ndi vi dual s can recogni ze each other as
i ndi vi dual s.
1 2
But i f the r es pons e to noncooperat i on i s j us t noncooperat i on on the next
round, then tit for tat can uni te groups of only a f ew hundr ed. In a large
enough group, a cheat i ng vampi re bat c a n beg a meal f rom a di f f erent suc-
ces s f ul bat each night and, when they c o me to hi m pl eadi ng for a return fa-
vor, j ust wrap his wi ngs around his head and pret end to be as l eep. What
are they goi ng to do to hi m? Well, i f t hes e were peopl e rather t han bat s , we
know what they'd do: They' d beat the hell out of hi m. Vengeance and grat-
i t ude are moral s ent i ment s that ampl i f y and enf or ce tit' for tat. Vengef ul
and grat ef ul f eel i ngs appear t o have evol ved pr eci s el y b e c a us e they are
s uch us ef ul tools for hel pi ng i ndi vi dual s cr eat e cooperat i ve rel at i onshi ps,
thereby reapi ng the gai ns f rom non-zero-s um ga me s .
1 3
A s peci es equi pped
with vengeance and grat i t ude r es pons es can s upport larger and mor e coop-
erative social groups bec a us e the payof f t o cheat er s i s r educed by t he cos t s
they bear i n maki ng enemi es .
1 4
Conversel y, t he benef i t s of generosi t y are
i ncreased becaus e one gai ns f ri ends.
Tit for tat appear s to be built into huma n nat ur e as a set of moral emo-
ti ons that make us want to return favor f or favor, i nsul t for i nsul t , tooth for
tooth, and eye for eye. Several recent t heor i s t s
1 5
even talk about an "ex-
Reciprocity with a Vengeance 4 7
c ha ng e or g a n" i n t he h u ma n br ai n, as t houg h a par t of t he br a i n we r e
de vot e d t o ke e p i ng t r ack of f a i r ne s s , d e b t s owe d, a nd s oci al a c c o u n t s -
r ecei vabl e. T h e " or gan" i s a me t a pho r no bo dy e xpe c t s t o f i nd an i s ol a t ed
bl ob of br ai n t i s s ue t he only f unc t i on of whi ch i s t o e nf or c e r eci pr oci t y.
However , r ecent evi denc e s ugge s t s t hat t here real l y c oul d be an e x c ha ng e
or gan i n t he brai n i f we l oos en t he me a ni ng of " or gan" a nd al l ow t hat f unc -
ti onal s ys t ems i n t he brai n ar e of t en c o mp o s e d of wi del y s e pa r a t e d bi t s of
neural t i s s ue t hat wor k t oget her t o do a s pec i f i c j ob.
S u p p o s e you wer e i nvi ted t o pl ay t he " ul t i ma t um" g a me , whi ch e c ono-
mi s t s i nvent ed
1 6
t o s t udy t he t ens i on be t we e n f ai r nes s a nd gr eed. I t g o e s
l i ke thi s: Two pe opl e c o me t o t he l ab but never me e t . Th e e x pe r i me nt e r
gi ves one of t heml et ' s s uppo s e it's not yout we nt y one- dol l ar bi l l s a nd
a s ks her t o di vi de t he m bet ween t he two of you i n any way s he l i kes. S h e
t hen gi ves you an ul t i mat um: Ta ke i t or l eave it. Th e c a t c h i s t hat i f you
l eave it, i f you say no, you both get not hi ng. If you wer e bot h pe r f e c t l y ra-
ti onal , a s mos t e c onomi s t s woul d pr edi ct , your par t ner woul d of f er you o ne
dollar, knowi ng that you' d pr ef er one dol l ar t o no dol l ars , a nd you' d a c c e p t
her of f er, b e c a u s e s he wa s right a bout you. But t he e c onomi s t s wer e wr ong
a bout you bot h. I n real life, nobody of f er s o ne dollar, a nd ar ound hal f of all
pe opl e of f er t en dol l ars. But what woul d you do i f your par t ner of f e r e d you
s even dol l ars ? Or f i ve? Or t hr ee? Mo s t pe opl e woul d a c c e pt t he s e ve n dol -
l ars, but not t he t hree. Mo s t pe opl e ar e wi l l i ng t o pay a f ew dol l ars , but not
s even, t o puni s h t he s el f i s h part ner.
No w s up p o s e you pl ayed thi s g a me whi l e i ns i de a n f MRI s canner . Al a n
S a nf e y
1 7
a nd hi s col l eagues at Pr i ncet on had pe opl e do j us t t hat ; t he re-
s ear cher s t hen l ooked at what par t s of t he brai n wer e mor e act i ve whe n
peopl e wer e gi ven unf ai r of f ers . On e of t he t hree a r ea s t hat di f f er ed mo s t
( when c ompa r i ng r es pons es t o unf ai r vs. fai r of f er s ) wa s t he f ront al i ns ul a,
an ar ea of t he cort ex on t he f ront al under s i de of t he brai n. The f ront al in-
s ul a i s known t o be act i ve dur i ng mos t negat i ve or unpl e a s a nt e mot i ona l
s t at es , part i cul arl y anger a nd di s gus t . Anot her area wa s t he dor s ol at er al pr e-
f ront al cort ex, j us t behi nd t he s i des of t he f or ehead, known t o be act i ve
dur i ng r eas oni ng and cal cul at i on. Per haps t he mos t i mpr es s i ve f i ndi ng f r o m
Sanf ey' s s t udy i s that peopl e' s ul t i mat e r e s p o ns e a c c e p t or r e j e c t c o ul d
5 2 ' I ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
be predi ct ed by l ooki ng at the state of their brai ns mome nt s bef or e they
pr es s ed a button to make a choi ce. Thos e s ubj ect s who s howed mor e acti -
vation in the i nsul a than in the dorsolateral pref ront al cortex general l y went
on to rej ect the unfai r offer; those with t he reverse pat t ern general l y ac-
cept ed it. (It's no wonder that marketers, pol i ti cal cons ul t ant s , and the CI A
are so i nterested in neural imaging and " neuromarket i ng. " )
Grat i t ude and vengef ul nes s are big s t eps on the road that led to huma n
ultrasociality, and it's i mport ant to realize that they are two s i des of one
coin. It woul d be hard to evolve one wi thout the other. An i ndi vi dual who
had grati tude wi thout vengef ul ness woul d be an easy mark for expl oi tati on,
and a vengef ul and ungrat ef ul individual woul d qui ckl y al i enat e all pot en-
tial cooperat i ve partners. Grati tude and revenge are al so, not eoi nci den-
tally, maj or f or ces hol di ng together the maf i a. The Godf a t her si ts at t he
cent er of a vast web of reciprocal obl i gati ons and favors. He a c c umul a t e s
power with each favor he does, secure i n the knowl edge that nobody who
val ues his own life will fail to repay at a t i me of the Godf at her' s choos i ng.
Revenge for mos t of us i s much less drast i c, but i f you have worked l ong
enough i n an of f i ce, restaurant, or store, you know there are many s ubt l e
ways to retaliate agai nst t hose who have cr os s ed you, and many ways to
hel p t hose who have hel ped you.
Y o u S T A B H I S B A C K , I ' L L S T A B Y O U R S
Whe n I sai d that peopl e woul d beat the hell out of an i ngrate who f ai l ed to
repay an i mportant favor, I left out a qual i f i cat i on. For a first of f ens e, they' d
probabl y j us t gos s i p. They' d ruin his r eput at i on. Go s s i p i s a not her key
pi ece i n the puzzl e of how humans became ul trasoci al . It mi ght al s o be t he
reason we have s uch large heads .
Woody Allen once des cri bed his brain as his " s econd favori te organ, " but
for all of us it's by far the most expensive one to run. It account s for 2 per-
cent of our body wei ght but consumes 20 per cent of our energy. Hu ma n
brai ns grow so l arge that human bei ngs mus t be born pr emat ur el y
1 8
(at
l east, compar ed t o other mammal s, who are born when their brai ns ar e
more or l ess ready to control their bodi es), and even then they can barel y
Reciprocity with a Vengeance 4 7
ma ke i t t hrough t he hi rth canal . On c e out of t he womb, t he s e gi ant br a i ns
a t t a c he d t o hel pl es s baby bodi es r equi r e s o me b o d y t o carry t he m a r o und
f or a year or two. Th e tri pl i ng of hu ma n brai n si ze f r om t he t i me of our l as t
c o mmo n a nc e s t or wi th c hi mpa nz e e s t o t oday i mpo s e d t r e me n d o u s c o s t s
on par ent s , s o t here mus t have been a very good r eas on t o do it. S o me ha ve
ar gued that t he r ea s on wa s hunt i ng a nd tool maki ng, ot her s s u g g e s t t hat
t he extra gray mat t er hel ped our a nc e s t or s l ocat e frui t. But t he onl y t heor y
that expl ai ns why a ni ma l s i n gener al have par t i cul ar brai n s i zes i s t he o ne
that ma p s brai n si ze ont o soci al gr oup si ze. Robi n Du nb a r
1 9
ha s d e mo n -
s t r at ed t hat within a gi ven gr oup of ver t ebr at e s p e c i e s p r i ma t e s , car ni -
vores , ungul at es , bi r ds , rept i l es , or f i s ht he l ogar i t hm of t he br ai n s i ze i s
al mos t perf ect l y pr opor t i onal t o t he l ogari t hm of t he s oci al g r oup s i ze. I n
ot her wor ds , all over t he ani mal ki ngdom, br ai ns grow t o ma na g e l ar ger a nd
l arger gr oups . Soci al a ni ma l s are s mar t ani mal s .
Dunba r poi nt s out t hat c hi mpa nz e e s live i n gr oups of a r ound thirty, a nd
l i ke all s oci al pr i ma t e s , t hey s pe nd e no r mo us a mo unt s of t i me g r o o mi ng
e a c h other. Hu ma n bei ngs ought t o live i n gr oups of ar ound 150 p e o p l e ,
j udgi ng f r om t he l ogar i t hm of our brai n si ze; a nd s ur e e no ug h, s t ud i e s of
hunt er - gat her er g r o ups , mi l i t ary uni t s , a nd ci t y dwel l er s ' a d d r e s s b o o k s
s ugges t that 100 t o 1 50 i s t he " nat ur al " gr oup si ze wi thi n whi c h p e o p l e c a n
know j us t a bout ever yone directly, by n a me a nd f ace, a nd know ho w e a c h
per s on i s rel at ed t o ever ybody el s e. But i f gr oomi ng i s s o cent r al t o p r i ma t e
sociality, a nd i f our a nc e s t or s began li vi ng i n l arger a nd l arger g r o ups ( f or
s o me ot her r ea s on, s uc h as t o t ake a dva nt a ge of a new ec ol ogi c a l ni c he
wi t h hi gh pr edat i on ri s ks ) , at s ome poi nt gr oomi ng b e c a me an i na d e q u a t e
me a ns of keepi ng up one' s r el at i ons hi ps .
Du nb a r s ug g e s t s t hat l a ngua ge evol ved as a r e pl a c e me nt f or phy s i c a l
gr oomi ng.
2 0
La ng ua g e al l ows s mal l gr oups of pe opl e t o bond qui ckl y a nd t o
l earn f r om ea c h ot her a bout t he bonds of ot her s . Dunba r not e s t hat pe o pl e
do i n f act us e l a ngua ge pri mari l y t o talk a bout ot her p e o p l e t o f i nd out
who i s doi ng what t o whom, who i s coupl i ng wi th whom, who i s f i ght i ng
wi th whom. And Dunba r poi nt s out that i n our ul t rasoci al s pe c i e s , s u c c e s s
i s largely a mat t er of pl ayi ng t he soci al g a me wel l . It's not what you know, it's
who you know. I n short , Dunba r pr opos es t hat l a ngua ge evol ved b e c a u s e i t
ena bl ed gos s i p. I ndi vi dual s who coul d s har e s oci al i nf ormat i on, us i ng any
5 4 ' I ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
primitive means of communi cat i on, had an advant age over t hos e who coul d
not. And once peopl e hegan gossi pi ng, there was a runaway compet i t i on to
mast er the arts of social mani pul at i on, rel at i onshi p aggressi on, and reputa-
tion management , all of whi ch requi re yet mor e brain power.
Nobody knows how l anguage evol ved, but I fi nd Dunbar' s s pecul at i on
so f asci nat i ng that I love to tell peopl e about it. It's not good gossi p)after
all, you don't know Dunbar-but i f you are like me you have an urge to tell
your f ri ends about anythi ng you l earn that a ma z es or f as ci nat es you, and
this urge itself i l l ustrates Dunbar' s poi nt : We are motivated to pa s s on infor-
mat i on to our f ri ends; we even s ome t i me s say, "I can' t keep it in, I have to
tell somebody. " And when you do pa s s on a pi ece of j ui cy gos s i p, what hap-
pens ? Your friend' s reci proci ty refl ex ki cks i n and s he f eel s a slight pr es s ur e
to return the favor. If s he knows s omet hi ng about the per s on or event in
quest i on, s he is likely to s peak up: " Oh really? Well, I heard that he . . . "
Gos s i p elicits gos s i p, and i t enabl es us to keep track of everyone' s reput a-
tion wi thout havi ng to wi t nes s their good and bad deeds personal l y. Gos s i p
creat es a non-zero-sum ga me be c a us e i t cos t s us nothi ng to give each other
i nf ormati on, yet we both benef i t by recei vi ng i nf ormat i on.
Be c a us e I' m parti cul arl y i nt er es t ed i n t he role of gos s i p i n our moral
l i ves, I was pl e a s e d when a gr aduat e s t udent i n my de pa r t me nt , Hol l y
Horn, told me that s he want ed to s t udy gos s i p. In one of Holly' s st udi es, ?
1
we as ked fi fty-one peopl e to fill out a short ques t i onnai re e a c h t i me over
the cour s e of a week that they took part in a conversat i on that went on for
at least ten mi nut es . We t hen took only t he records i n whi ch the topi c of
conversati on was anot her pers on, whi ch gave us about one epi s ode of po-
tential gossi p per day per pers on. Amo ng our mai n f i ndi ngs: Gos s i p i s over-
whel mi ngl y critical, and i t i s pri mari l y about t he moral and soci al vi ol ati ons
of others. (For col l ege s t udent s , this meant a lot of talk about t he sexuality,
cl eanl i ness, and dri nki ng habi ts of thei r f r i ends and r oommat es . ) Peopl e do
occasi onal l y tell stori es about the good deeds of others, but s uch stori es are
only one tenth as c ommon as stori es about t ransgressi ons. Whe n peopl e
pas s al ong high-quality ("j uicy") gos s i p, they feel more power f ul , they have
a better shared s ens e of what i s right and what' s wrong, and they feel more
cl osel y connect ed to their gos s i p part ners.
Reciprocity with a Vengeance 4 7
A s e c o nd s t udy reveal ed t hat mos t pe opl e hol d negat i ve vi ews of g o s s i p
a nd gos s i per s , even t hough al mos t ever yone gos s i ps . Whe n we c o mp a r e d
peopl e' s at t i t udes a bout gos s i p t o t he s oci al f unc t i ons that gos s i p s er ves ,
Hol l y a nd I c a me t o bel i eve that g os s i p i s unde r a ppr e c i a t e d. In a wor l d
wi th no gos s i p, pe opl e woul d not get away wi th mur de r but t hey wo ul d get
away wi t h a trail of r ude, s el f i s h, a nd a nt i s oci a l a c t s , of t e n obl i vi ous t o
thei r own vi ol at i ons. Go s s i p ext ends our moral emot i onal tool ki t. In a gos -
si py worl d, we don' t j us t f eel ve ng e a nc e a nd gr at i t ude t owar d t ho s e who
hurt or hel p us ; we f eel pa l e but still i ns t ruct i ve f l as hes of c o nt e mp t a nd
a nge r t owar d p e o p l e who m we mi ght not even know. We f eel vi c a r i ous
s ha me a nd e mba r r a s s me nt whe n we hear a bout pe opl e who s e s c h e me s ,
l us t s , a nd pri vat e f ai l i ngs ar e expos ed. Go s s i p i s a pol i c e ma n a nd a t eacher .
Wi t hout it, t here woul d be c ha os a nd i gnor a nc e.
2 2
Ma ny s pe c i e s r eci pr ocat e, but onl y huma ns gos s i p, a nd mu c h of wha t
we gos s i p about i s t he val ue of ot her pe opl e as par t ner s f or r eci pr ocal rel a-
t i ons hi ps . Us i ng t he s e t ool s , we c r e a t e an ul t r as oci al wor l d, a wor l d i n
whi ch we ref rai n f r om nearl y all t he ways we c oul d t ake a dva nt a ge of t hos e
weaker t han us , a worl d i n whi ch we of t en hel p t hos e who ar e unl i kel y ever
t o be a bl e t o ret urn t he favor. We want t o pl ay tit f or t at , whi c h me a n s
s t art i ng out ni ce wi t hout bei ng a pus hover , a nd we want to cul t i vat e a rep-
ut at i on f or bei ng a good pl ayer. Go s s i p and r eput at i on ma ke s ur e t hat wha t
goes a r ound c o me s a r o u nd a per s on who i s cr uel will f i nd t hat ot he r s ar e
cruel ba c k t o hi m, a nd a pe r s on who i s ki nd will f i nd t hat ot her o t he r s ar e
ki nd i n ret urn. Go s s i p pai r ed wi th reci proci t y al l ow kar ma t o wor k he r e on
eart h, not i n t he next li fe. As l ong as ever yone pl ays tit-for-tat a u g me n t e d
by gr at i t ude, ve nge a nc e , a nd gos s i p, t he whol e s ys t em s houl d wor k bea ut i -
fully. (It rarely does , however, be c a us e of our s el f - s ervi ng bi a s es a nd ma s -
si ve hypocri sy. S e e chapt er 4. )
U S E T H E F O R C E , L U K E
I n of f er i ng reci proci t y as t he bes t wor d t o gui de one' s l i fe, Co n f u c i u s wa s
wi s e. Reci pr oci t y i s l i ke a magi c wand that c a n cl ear your way t hr ough t he
5 6 ' I ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
j ungl e of soci al l i fe. But as anyone who has read a Har r y Pot t er hook
knows, magi c wands can be us ed agai nst you. Robert Ci al di ni s pent years
studyi ng the dark arts of soci al i nf l uence: He routinely ans wer ed ads re-
crui ti ng peopl e t o work as door-to-door s a l e s me n and t el emarket ers , and
went through their trai ni ng pr ogr ams t o l earn their t echni ques . He then
wrote a manual
2 3
for t hos e of us who want to resi st t he tricks of "compl i -
ance prof es s i onal s . "
Ci al di ni des cri bes six pri nci pl es that s al es peopl e us e agai nst us, but the
most basi c of all i s reciprocity. Peopl e who want s omet hi ng f r om us try to
give us s omet hi ng first, and we all have pi l es of addr es s st i ckers and f ree
pos t cards f rom chari ti es that gave t hem to us out of the goodnes s of their
marketi ng cons ul t ant s ' hearts. The Har e Kr i s hnas per f ect ed t he t echni que:
They pr es s ed f l owers or c hea p copi es of t he Bhagavad Gita i nto the hands
of uns us pect i ng pedes t r i ans , and only t hen a s ked for a donat i on. Whe n
Ci al di ni s t udi ed the Kr i s hnas at O' Ha r e Ai rport i n Chi c a go, he not i ced
that they routinely went around the gar bage pai l s to col l ect and recycl e the
f l owers that they knew woul d be t hrown away. Few pe opl e wa nt ed t he
fl owers, but i n the early days of the t echni que, mos t were unabl e j us t to ac-
cept t hem and wal k on wi thout giving s omet hi ng i n return. The Kri shnas
grew weal t hy by expl oi t i ng peopl e' s reci proci t y r ef l exes unt i l everyone
l earned about the Kri shnas and f ound ways to avoi d taki ng t he "gift" i n the
first pl ace.
But l egi ons of others are still af t er you. Super ma r ket s and Amway deal -
ers give out f ree s ampl es to boost s al es . Wai t ers and wai t res s es put a mi nt
on the check tray, a t echni que that has been s hown to boost t i ps .
2 4
Incl ud-
ing a five-dollar "gift check" al ong with a survey s ent in the mai l i ncreas es
peopl e' s wi l l i ngness to compl et e the survey, even mor e t han does promi s-
i ng to s end t hem fifty dollars for compl et i ng t he survey.
25
If you get s ome-
thi ng for nothi ng, part of you may be pl eas ed, but part of you (part of the
el ephant aut omat i c pr oces s es ) moves your hand t o your wal l et t o give
s omet hi ng back.
Reciprocity works j ust as well for bargai ni ng. Ci al di ni was once as ked by
a boy scout to buy ti ckets to a movi e he didn' t want to see. Whe n Ci al di ni
said no, the scout asked hi m to buy s ome l ess expensi ve chocol at e bars in-
stead. Ci al di ni f ound hi msel f wal ki ng away with three chocol at e bars that
Reciprocity with a Vengeance 4 7
he didn' t want . Th e s cout had ma de a c onc e s s i on, and Ci al di ni a ut oma t i -
cally r eci pr ocat ed by maki ng a conces s i on of his own. But rat her t ha n get -
ti ng mad, Ci al di ni got dat a. He c onduc t e d hi s own versi on of t he enc ount er ,
as ki ng col l ege s t udent s wal ki ng on c a mp u s whet her they woul d vol unt eer t o
c ha per one a gr oup of j uveni l e del i nquent s to t he zoo for a day. Onl y 1 7 per -
cent agreed. But i n anot her condi t i on of t he study, s t udent s wer e fi rst a s ke d
whet her they woul d vol unt eer t o work for t wo hours a we e k f or t wo yea r s
wi t h j uveni l e de l i nque nt s . All s ai d no, but whe n t he e x pe r i me nt e r t he n
as ked about t he day trip t o t he zoo, 50 per cent sai d yes .
2 6
Co nc e s s i o n l e a ds
t o conces s i on. I n f i nanci al bargai ni ng, too, peopl e who s t ake out an e x t r e me
first posi t i on a nd t hen move toward t he mi ddl e end up doi ng bet t er t han
t hos e who s t at e a mor e r eas onabl e first pos i t i on a nd t hen hol d f a s t .
2 7
And
t he ext r eme of f er f ol l owed by conces s i on doesn' t j us t get you a bet t er pr i ce,
i t get s you a happi er par t ner (or vi ct i m) : S he i s mor e likely t o honor t he
a gr eement be c a us e s he f eel s that s he had mor e i nf l uence on t he o u t c o me .
The very pr oc es s of gi ve and t ake cr eat es a f eel i ng of par t ner s hi p, even i n
t he per s on bei ng t aken.
So t he next t i me a s a l e s ma n gi ves you a f r e e gi f t or c o ns ul t a t i o n, or
ma ke s a c onc e s s i on of any sort, duck. Don' t let hi m pr es s your r eci pr oci t y
but t on. The bes t way out , Ci al di ni advi s es , i s t o fi ght r eci pr oci t y wi t h reci -
procity. I f you c a n r eappr ai s e t he s al es man' s move f or what i t i s a n ef f or t
t o expl oi t youyou' l l f eel ent i t l ed t o expl oi t hi m right back. Ac c e p t t he gi f t
or c onc e s s i on wi t h a f eel i ng of vi ct or yyou are expl oi t i ng an e x pl o i t e r
not mi ndl es s obl i gat i on.
Reci pr oci t y i s not j us t a way of deal i ng wi th boy s c out s and obnoxi ous
s a l e s pe opl e ; it's f or f r i ends a nd l overs, t oo. Rel a t i ons hi ps ar e e xqui s i t e l y
s ens i t i ve t o ba l a nc e i n their earl y s t ages , a nd a great way t o rui n t hi ngs i s
ei t her t o gi ve t oo mu c h (you s e e m pe r ha ps a bit des per a t e) or t oo l i ttl e ( you
s e e m col d a nd rej ect i ng) . Rather, r el at i ons hi ps grow bes t by ba l a nc e d gi ve
a nd t ake, es peci al l y of gi f t s , f avors, at t ent i on, a nd s el f - di s cl os ur e. T h e f i rst
t hree are s ome wha t obvi ous , but pe opl e of t en don' t real i ze t he de g r e e t o
whi c h t he di s c l o s ur e of pe r s ona l i nf or ma t i on i s a g a mb i t i n t he d a t i ng
g a me . Whe n s o me o ne tel l s you a bout pa s t r oma nt i c r el at i ons hi ps , t her e
i s conver s at i onal pr e s s ur e f or you t o do t he s a me . I f thi s di s c l os ur e c a r d i s
pl ayed t oo early, you mi ght f eel a mbi va l e nc e your reci proci t y ref l ex ma k e s
5 8 ' I ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
you prepare your own mat chi ng di s cl os ure, but s ome other part of you re-
si sts shari ng i nti mate detai l s with a near-stranger. But when it's pl ayed at
the right t i me, t he pas t - r el at i ons hi ps - mut ual - di s cl os ur e convers at i on can
be a memor abl e turni ng poi nt on the road to love.
Reciprocity is an al l -purpose rel ati onshi p tonic. Us e d properly, it strength-
ens, l engthens, and rej uvenates soci al ti es. It works so well in part becaus e
the el ephant is a natural mi mi c. For exampl e, when we i nteract with some-
one we like, we have a slight t endency to copy their every move, automati -
cally and unconsci ousl y.
2 8
If the other per s on t aps her foot, you are more
likely to t ap yours. If s he t ouches her f a c e, you are more likely to t ouch
yours. But it's not j us t that we mi mi c t hos e we like; we like t hose who mi mi c
us. People who are subtl y mi mi cked are t hen more hel pful and agreeabl e to-
ward their mimicker, and even toward ot her s .
2 9
Wai t resses who mi mi c their
cus t omers get larger t i ps.
3 0
Mi mi cry is a ki nd of soci al gl ue, a way of sayi ng "We are one. " The uni-
fying pl eas ures of mi mi cry are parti cul arl y cl ear i n synchroni zed acti vi ti es,
s uch as line da nc e s , gr oup cheer s , and s o me rel i gi ous ri t ual s, i n whi ch
peopl e try to do the s a me thi ng at t he s a me ti me. A t heme of t he rest of
this book i s that huma ns are partially hive creat ures , like bees , yet i n the
modern world we s pend nearly all our t i me out s i de of the hive. Reciprocity,
like love, reconnect s us with others.
The Faults of Others
Why do you see the speck in your neighbor's eye, but do not
notice the log in your own eye? . . . You hypocrite, first take
the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to
take the speck out of your neighbor's eye.
M A T T H E W 7 : 3 5
It is easy to see the faults of others, but difficult to see one's
own faults. One shows the faults of others like chaff win-
nowed in the wind, but one conceals one's own faults as a
cunning gambler conceals his dice.
B U D D H A
1
I T ' S FUN TO LAUGH at a hypocri te, and recent years have gi ven Ame r i c a ns a
great deal t o l augh at. Ta ke t he cons er vat i ve r adi o s how hos t Rus h Li m-
baugh, who onc e sai d, i n r es pons e t o t he cri t i ci sm that t he Uni t ed St a t e s
pr os ec ut es a di s proport i onat e numbe r of bl ack me n for dr ug c r i mes , t hat
whi t e drug us er s s houl d be sei zed and " s ent up t he river," too. I n 2 0 0 3 , he
was f or ced t o eat his words when Fl ori da of f i ci al s di s covered hi s illegal pur-
c ha s e of mas s i ve quant i t i es of Oxycont i n, a pai nki l l er al so known as "hillbilly
heroi n. " Anot her c a s e occur r ed i n my home st at e of Virginia. Co ng r e s s ma n
Ed Schr ock wa s an out s poken opponent of gay ri ght s , gay marri age, a nd of
5 9
6 0 ' I ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
gays serving in the military. Speaki ng of the horrors of s uch coservi ce, he
said, "I mean, they are in the showers with you, they are in the di ni ng hall
with you. "
2
In August 2004, audi o t apes were ma de publ i c of the mes s ages
that Schrock, a married man, had left on Mega ma t es , an i nteracti ve phone
sex line. Schrock descri bed the anat omi cal f eat ures of the kind of man he
was seeking, al ong with the act s he was i nterested i n perf ormi ng.
There is a speci al pl eas ure in the irony of a moral i st brought down for the
very moral failings he has condemned. It's the pl eas ure of a well-told j oke.
S ome j okes are f unny as one-l i ners, but mos t requi re t hree vers es : t hree
guys, say, who walk into a bar one at a t i me, or a priest, a minister, and a
rabbi in a li feboat. The first two set t he pat t ern, and t he third vi ol ates it.
With hypocrisy, the hypocrite' s pr eachi ng i s t he s et up, the hypocritical ac-
tion i s the punc h l i ne. Sc a nda l i s great ent er t ai nment be c a us e i t al l ows
peopl e to feel cont empt , a moral emot i on that gives f eel i ngs of moral superi-
ority while aski ng nothi ng in return. Wi t h cont empt you don' t need to right
the wrong (as with anger) or f l ee the s cene (as with fear or di sgust ) . And best
of all, cont empt is ma de to share. St ori es about the moral fai l i ngs of others
are among the most c ommon ki nds of gos s i p,
3
they are a st apl e of talk radio,
and they of f er a ready way for peopl e to s how that they share a c ommon
moral orientation. Tell an acquai nt ance a cyni cal story that ends wi th both of
you smirking and shaki ng your heads and voila, you' ve got a bond.
Well, st op smi rki ng. One of the mos t uni versal pi eces of advi ce f rom
acros s cul t ures and eras i s that we are all hypocri t es, and i n our condemna-
tion of others' hypocri sy we only c o mpo und our own. Soci al ps ychol ogi s t s
have recentl y i sol ated the me c ha ni s ms that ma ke us blind to t he logs i n
our own eyes. The moral i mpl i cat i ons of t hes e f i ndi ngs are di st urbi ng; in-
deed, they chal l enge our great est moral cert ai nt i es. But t he i mpl i cat i ons
can be liberating, too, f reei ng you f rom des t ruct i ve moral i s m and divisive
sel f -ri ght eousness.
K E E P I N G U P A P P E A R A N C E S
Res earch on the evol uti on of al t rui sm and cooperat i on has relied heavily
on s t udi es i n whi ch several peopl e (or peopl e s i mul at ed on a comput er )
7 he Faults of Others 7 5
pl ay a g a me . On e a c h r ound of play, one per s on i nt er act s wi th o ne ot her
pl ayer a nd c a n c ho o s e t o be cooper at i ve ( t her eby expa ndi ng t he pi e t hey
t hen s har e) or gr eedy ( ea c h gr abbi ng as mu c h as pos s i bl e f or hi ms e l f ) . Af -
ter ma ny r ounds of play, you count up t he numb e r of poi nt s e a c h pl ayer ac-
c umul a t e d and s e e whi ch st rat egy wa s mos t pr of i t abl e i n t he l ong r un. I n
t he s e g a me s , whi ch ar e i nt ended t o be s i mpl e mode l s of t he g a me of l i f e,
no st rat egy ever beat s tit f or tat.
4
In t he l ong r un a nd a c r os s a vari ety of en-
vi r onment s , i t pays t o c ooper a t e whi l e r ema i ni ng vi gi l ant t o t he da ng e r of
bei ng c hea t ed. But t hos e s i mpl e g a me s ar e i n s o me ways s i mpl e mi n d e d .
Pl ayers f a c e a bi nary c hoi c e at e a c h poi nt : The y can c oope r a t e or de f e c t .
Ea c h pl ayer t hen r eact s t o what t he ot her pl ayer di d i n t he pr evi ous r ound.
I n real l i fe, however, you don' t react t o what s o me o ne di d; you r eact onl y t o
wha t you think s he di d, a nd t he g a p b e t we e n a c t i on a nd p e r c e p t i o n i s
br i dged by t he art of i mpr es s i on ma na g e me nt . I f l i f e i tsel f i s but wha t you
d e e m it, t hen why not f oc us your ef f or t s on pe r s ua di ng ot her s t o believe
t hat you ar e a vi rt uous a nd t rus t wort hy cooper a t or ? Th u s Ni c c ol o Ma c h i a -
velli, whos e n a me ha s b e c o me s ynonymous wi th t he c unni ng a nd a mor a l
us e of power , wr ot e f i ve hundr e d yea r s a g o t hat " t he gr eat ma j or i t y of
ma nki nd are s at i s f i ed wi th a ppe a r a nc e s , as t hough t hey wer e real i t i es , a nd
ar e of t en mor e i nf l uenc ed by t he t hi ngs t hat s e e m t han by t hos e t hat a r e . "
5
Na t ur a l s el ect i on, l i ke pol i t i cs , wor ks by t he pr i nci pl e of survi val of t he
f i t t est , a nd several r es ear cher s have a r gued t hat huma n bei ngs evol ved t o
pl ay t he g a me of l i fe i n a Machi avel l i an way.
6
T h e Machi avel l i an ver s i on of
tit f or tat, f or exa mpl e, i s to do all you can to cul t i vat e t he re-putation of a
t rus t wort hy yet vi gi l ant part ner, what ever t he real i ty ma y be.
T h e s i mpl e s t wa y t o c ul t i va t e a r e put a t i on f or be i ng f ai r i s t o r eal l y
be fair, but l i f e a nd ps ychol ogy exper i ment s s o me t i me s f or c e us t o c ho o s e
be t we e n a ppe a r a nc e a nd reality. Da n Ba t s on at t he Uni ver s i t y of Ka n s a s
devi s ed a cl ever way t o ma ke pe opl e c hoos e , and hi s f i ndi ngs ar e not pretty.
He brought s t ude nt s i nt o hi s l ab one at a t i me t o t ake par t i n wha t t hey
t hought wa s a s t udy of how unequa l r ewar ds a f f e c t t ea mwor k.
7
T h e pr oc e -
dur e wa s expl ai ned: On e me mb e r of e a c h t e a m of t wo will be r e wa r de d f or
cor r ect r e s pons e s to ques t i ons wi th a r af f l e ti cket that c oul d wi n a va l ua bl e
pri ze. T h e ot her me mb e r will recei ve not hi ng. S ubj e c t s we r e al s o t ol d t hat
an addi t i onal part of t he exper i ment c onc e r ne d t he e f f e c t s of cont r ol : You,
6 2 ' I ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
t he subj ect , will deci de whi ch of you is rewarded, whi ch of you is not. Your
partner i s al ready here, i n anot her room, and the two of you will not meet .
Your partner will be told that the deci s i on was ma de by c ha nc e . You can
make the deci si on i n any way you like. Oh, and here i s a coi n: Mos t peopl e
i n this study s eem to think that f l i ppi ng t he coi n i s the f ai rest way to ma ke
the deci si on.
Subj ect s were then left al one to choos e. About half of t hem us ed the coin.
Bat son knows this becaus e the coin was wr apped in a pl asti c bag, and half
the bags were ri pped open. Of those who di d not flip the coi n, 90 percent
chos e the positive t as k for t hemsel ves. For t hose who did fl i p the coin, the
laws of probability were s us pended and 90 percent of t hem chos e the posi-
tive task for t hemsel ves. Bat son had given all the subj ect s a variety of ques-
t i onnai res about moral i ty weeks earl i er ( t he s ubj ect s wer e s t udent s i n
psychology cl asses) , so he was abl e to c he c k how various mea s ur es of moral
personality predi cted behavior. Hi s fi ndi ng: Peopl e who reported bei ng most
concerned about cari ng for others and about i ssues of social responsibility
were more likely to open the bag, but they were not more likely to give the
other person the posi ti ve task. In other words, peopl e who thi nk they are par-
ticularly moral are in f act more likely to " do the right thing" and flip the coin,
but when the coin flip c omes out agai nst t hem, they find a way to ignore it
and follow their own self-interest. Bat s on cal l ed this t endency to val ue the
appearance of morality over the reality "moral hypocrisy."
Batson' s subj ects who fl i pped the coi n reported (on a questi onnai re) that
they had made the deci si on in an ethi cal way. After his first study, Bat son
wondered whether perhaps peopl e tricked themsel ves by not stati ng clearly
what heads or tails woul d mean ("Let' s s ee, heads, that means , um, oh yeah, I
get the good one. "). But when he l abel ed the two si des of the coi n to erase
ambiguity, it made no di f f erence. Pl aci ng a large mirror in the room, right in
front of the subj ect, and at the s ame ti me stressi ng the i mport ance of fairness
i n the i nst ruct i ons, was the only mani pul at i on that had an ef f ect . When
peopl e were forced to think about f ai rness and coul d s ee t hemsel ves cheat-
ing, they st opped doi ng it. As J es us and Byddha said i n the openi ng epigraphs
of this chapter, it is easy to spot a cheat er when our eyes are l ooki ng outward,
but hard when looking inward. Folk wi s dom from around the world concurs:
7 he Faults of Others 7 5
Though you s ee the seven def ect s of others, we do not s ee our own t en
def ect s . ( J apanes e proverb)
8
A he-goat doesn' t realize that he smel l s. ( Ni geri an proverb)
9
Proving that peopl e are sel f i sh, or that they'll s omet i mes cheat whe n t hey
know they won' t be caught , s e e ms like a good way to get an arti cl e i nto t he
journal of Incredibly Obvious Results. What ' s not so obvi ous is that, in nearl y
all t hes e s t udi es , peopl e don' t thi nk they ar e doi ng anyt hi ng wrong. It's t he
s a me i n real li fe. Fr om t he pers on who cut s you of f on t he hi ghway all t he wa y
t o t he Nazi s who ran t he concent rat i on c a mps , mos t peopl e thi nk t hey are
good peopl e a nd that their act i ons are mot i vat ed by good reas ons . Machi avel -
lian tit for tat requi res devot i on to a ppe a r a nc e s , i ncl udi ng pr ot es t at i ons of
one' s virtue even when one choos es vice. And s uch prot est at i ons ar e mos t ef-
fecti ve when t he pers on maki ng t hem really bel i eves t hem. As Robert Wr i ght
put it in his mas t erf ul book The Moral Animal, " Hu ma n bei ngs are a s pe c i e s
s pl endi d i n their array of moral equi pment , tragic i n their propensi t y to mi s -
us e it, and pat het i c i n their consti tuti onal i gnorance of t he mi s us e . "
1 0
If Wri ght i s correct about our " cons t i t ut i onal i gnor ance" of our hypocri sy,
t hen t he s ages ' admoni t i on t o s t op s mi r ki ng ma y be no mor e ef f ect i ve t han
tel l i ng a de pr e s s e d per s on t o s na p out of it. You can' t c ha ng e your me nt a l fil-
t ers by wi l l power al one; you have t o enga ge i n act i vi t i es s uc h as medi t a t i on
or cogni t i ve t herapy that train t he el ephant . But at l eas t a de pr e s s e d pe r s on
will us ual l y a dmi t s he' s de pr e s s e d. Cur i ng hypocr i s y i s mu c h ha r der be-
c a us e part of t he pr obl em i s that we don' t bel i eve there' s a pr obl em. We ar e
wel l - ar med f or bat t l e i n a Machi avel l i an worl d of r eput at i on ma ni pul a t i on,
a nd one of our mos t i mpor t ant we a pons i s t he del us i on t hat we ar e non-
c omba t a nt s . How do we get away wi th it?
F I N D Y O U R I N N E R L A W Y E R
Re me mbe r J ul i e and Mar k, the si st er and brot her who had sex ba c k i n c ha p-
ter 1? Mos t peopl e c onde mne d their act i ons even i n t he a bs e nc e of ha r m,
6 4 ' I ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
and then made up reasons, s omet i mes bad ones , t o j usti fy their condemna-
tion. In my st udi es of moral j udgment , I have f ound that peopl e are skilled at
f i ndi ng reas ons to s upport their gut f eel i ngs : The rider act s l i ke a lawyer
whom the el ephant has hired to represent it in the court of publ i c opinion.
One of the r eas ons peopl e are of t en c ont e mpt uous of l awyers i s that
they fight for a client' s i nt erest s, not for t he truth. To be a good lawyer, it
of t en hel ps to be a good liar. Al t hough ma ny l awyers won' t tell a di rect lie,
mos t will do what they can t o hi de i nconveni ent f act s whi l e weavi ng a
pl aus i bl e al ternati ve story for the j udge and jury, a story that they s ome-
t i mes know i s not t rue. Our i nner l awyer wor ks i n t he s a me way, but ,
somehow, we actual l y bel i eve the stori es he ma ke s up. To under s t and his
ways we mus t cat ch hi m i n act i on; we mus t obs erve hi m carryi ng out low-
pres s ure as well as hi gh-pressure as s i gnment s .
Peopl e s omet i mes call their lawyers to as k whet her a part i cul ar cours e of
acti on i s permi ssi bl e. No pressure, j us t tell me whet her I can do this. The
lawyer looks into the relevant laws and pr ocedur es and cal l s back with a ver-
dict: Yes, there is a legal or regulatory pr ecedent for that; or per haps no, as
your lawyer I woul d advi se agai nst s uch a cour s e. A good lawyer mi ght look
at all si des of a quest i on, think about all possi bl e, rami f i cat i ons, and recom-
mend alternative cour s es of acti on, but s uch t horoughnes s de pe nds i n part
on his cl i ent does she really want advi ce or does s he j us t want to be given
a red or a green light for her pl an?
St udi es of everyday reasoni ng show that t he' el ephant i s not an inquisitive
cl i ent. When peopl e are gi ven di f f i cul t ques t i ons t o think a bout f or ex-
ampl e, whether the mi ni mum wage shoul d be rai s edt hey general l y lean
one way or the other right away, and t hen put a call in to reas oni ng to see
whet her s upport for that posi t i on i s f or t hcomi ng. For exampl e, a pers on
whos e first instinct i s that the mi ni mum wage shoul d be rai sed l ooks around
for supporti ng evi dence. If s he thinks of her Aunt Fl o who i s worki ng for
the mi ni mum wage and can' t support her fami l y on i t then yes, that means
the mi ni mum wage shoul d be rai sed. All done. Dea nna Kuhn,
1 1
a cognitive
psychol ogi st who has s t udi ed s uc h everyday r eas oni ng, f ound that mos t
peopl e readily of f ered " ps eudoevi dence" like the anecdot e about Aunt Flo.
Mos t peopl e gave no real evi dence for thei r posi t i ons, and mos t ma de no ef-
fort to look for evi dence oppos i ng their initial posi t i ons. Davi d Perki ns,
1 2
a
7 he Faults of Others 7 5
Har var d ps ychol ogi s t who has devot ed hi s car eer t o i mpr ovi ng r e a s oni ng,
f ound t he s a me t hi ng. He s ays t hat t hi nki ng general l y us e s t he " ma k e s -
s e ns e " s t oppi ng rul e. We t ake a posi t i on, l ook for evi dence that s uppor t s it,
a nd i f we f i nd s o me e vi de nc e e noug h s o that our posi t i on " ma ke s s e n s e "
we s t op t hi nki ng. But at l eas t i n a l ow- pr es s ur e s i t uat i on s uc h as t hi s , i f
s o me o ne else bri ngs up r eas ons a nd evi dence on t he ot her s i de, pe opl e c a n
be i nduc ed t o c ha ng e thei r mi nds ; they j us t don' t ma ke an ef f ort t o do s uc h
t hi nki ng for t hems el ves .
No w let' s cr ank up t he pr es s ur e. The cl i ent has be e n c a ught c he a t i ng on
her t axes . S h e cal l s her l awyer. S he does n' t c o nf e s s a nd a s k, " Wa s t hat
OK? " S he says, " Do s ome t hi ng. " The l awyer bol t s i nto act i on, a s s e s s e s t he
da ma g i ng evi dence, r e s e a r c he s pr e c e de nt s a nd l oophol es , a nd f i gur es out
how s o me per s onal e x pe ns e s mi ght be pl aus i bl y j us t i f i ed as b u s i ne s s ex-
pe ns e s . The l awyer has been gi ven an order: Us e all your power s t o d e f e nd
me. S t udi e s of " mot i vat ed r e a s oni ng "
1 3
s how t hat pe opl e who a r e mot i -
vat ed t o r each a par t i cul ar concl us i on are even wor s e r ea s oner s t ha n t hos e
i n Kuhn' s a nd Perki ns' s s t udi es , but t he me c ha ni s m i s bas i cal l y t he s a me : a
one - s i de d s ea r c h f or s uppor t i ng e vi de nc e only. Peopl e who a r e t ol d t hat
t hey have pe r f or me d poorl y on a test of s oci al i nt el l i gence t hi nk ext ra hard
t o f i nd r ea s ons t o di s c ount t he t est ; pe opl e who ar e a s ke d t o r ea d a s t udy
s howi ng t hat one of t hei r ha b i t s s uc h as dr i nki ng cof f ee- i s unhe a l t hy
t hi nk ext ra har d t o f i nd f l aws i n t he st udy, f l aws t hat pe o pl e who don' t
dri nk c o f f e e don' t not i ce. Over and over agai n, s t udi es s how t hat pe o pl e set
out on a cogni t i ve mi s s i on t o bri ng ba c k r eas ons t o s uppor t t hei r pr ef er r ed
bel i ef or act i on. And be c a us e we are us ual l y s uc c e s s f ul i n thi s mi s s i on, we
end up wi th t he i l l usi on of obj ectivity. We real l y bel i eve t hat our pos i t i on i s
rati onal l y a nd obj ect i vel y j us t i f i ed.
Be n Frankl i n, as us ual , wa s wi s e t o our t ri cks. But he s ho we d unus ua l
i nsi ght i n c a t c hi ng hj ms el f i n t he act . Tho ug h he had be e n a veget a r i a n on
pr i nci pl e, on o ne l ong s e a c r os s i ng t he me n we r e gr i l l i ng f i s h, a n d hi s
mout h s t ar t ed wat eri ng:
I bal anc' d s ome t i me bet ween pri nci pl e and i ncl i nati on, till I recol l ect d
that, when the fi sh were opened, I s aw s mal l er f i sh taken out of thei r
s t omachs ; t hen thought I, "if you eat one another, I don' t s ee why we
6 6 ' I ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
mayn't eat you. " So I din'd upon cod very heartily, and cont i nued to eat
with other peopl e, returni ng only now and t hen occasi onal l y to a veg-
etabl e di et.
1 4
Frankl i n c onc l uded: " S o conveni ent a t hi ng i s i t to be a r e a s ona bl e crea-
t ure, s i nce i t enabl es one to f i nd or ma k e a r ea s on for every t hi ng one has a
mi nd t o do. "
T H E R O S E - C O L O R E D M I R R O R
I don' t want t o bl a me ever yt hi ng on t he l awyer. Th e l awyer i s, af t er all,
t he r i der your c ons c i ous , r eas oni ng s el f ; a nd he i s t aki ng or der s f r om t he
el epha nt your a ut oma t i c and unc ons c i ous s el f . T h e t wo are i n c a hoot s t o
wi n at t he g a me of l i fe by pl ayi ng Ma c hi a vel l i a n tit f or tat, a nd bot h are i n
deni al about it.
To wi n at thi s g a me you mus t pr es ent your bes t pos s i bl e s el f t o ot her s .
You mus t a ppea r vi r t uous , whet her or not you are, and you mu s t gai n t he
benef i t s of cooper at i on whet her or not you de s e r ve t hem. But ever yone
el s e i s pl ayi ng t he s a me g a me , s o you mu s t al s o pl ay d e f e n s e y o u mus t
be wary of ot hers ' s el f - pr es ent at i ons , a nd of t hei r ef f or t s t o c l a i m mor e f or
t hems el ves t han they des er ve. Soci al l i f e i s t her ef or e al ways a g a me of so-
ci al compar i s on. We mus t c o mpa r e our s el ves t o ot her pe opl e , a nd our ac-
t i ons t o thei r act i ons , and we mus t s o me h o w s pi n t hos e c o mp a r i s o ns i n
our favor. (In depr es s i on, part of t he i l l nes s i s t hat s pi n goes t he ot her way,
as des cr i bed by Aar on Beck' s cogni t i ve t ri ad: I' m ba d, t he wor l d i s terri bl e,
a nd my f ut ur e i s bl eak. ) You c a n s pi n a c o mp a r i s o n ei t her by i nf l at i ng your
own cl ai ms or by di s pa r a gi ng t he c l a i ms of ot her s . You mi ght expec t , gi ven
what I've s ai d s o far, t hat we do bot h, but t he c ons i s t ent f i ndi ng of ps ycho-
l ogi cal r es ear ch i s t hat we are fairly a c c ur a t e i n our pe r c e pt i ons of ot her s .
It's our s el f - per cept i ons t hat are di s t or t ed b e c a u s e we l ook at our s el ves i n
a ros e-col ored mirror.
I n Gar r i s on Keillor' s myt hi cal t own of L a k e Wobe gon, all t he wo me n are
st rong, all t he me n good l ooki ng, and all t he chi l dr en above aver age. But i f
t he Wobegoni ans wer e real peopl e, t hey woul d go f urt her: Mo s t of t hem
7 he Faults of Others 7 5
woul d bel i eve t hey wer e stronger, bet t er l ooki ng, or s ma r t er t han t he aver-
age Wobegoni an. Whe n Ame r i c a ns a nd Eur o p e a ns ar e a s ke d t o rat e t he m-
s el ves on vi r t ues , ski l l s, or ot her de s i r a bl e t rai t s ( i nc l udi ng i nt e l l i ge nc e ,
dri vi ng ability, s exual ski l l s, and et hi cs ) , a l arge maj ori t y s ay t hey a r e a b o v e
aver age.
1 5
( Thi s e f f e c t i s weaker i n Ea s t As i an count r i es , and ma y not exi s t
i n J a pa n. )
1 6
I n a bri l l i ant s eri es of exper i ment s ,
1 7
Ni c k Epl ey and Davi d Du nni ng fi g-
ured out how we do it. The y as ked s t udent s at Cor nel l Uni versi t y t o pr e di c t
how many f l owers they woul d buy i n an upc o mi ng chari t y event a nd how
ma ny t he aver age Cor nel l s t udent woul d buy. The n they l ooked at a c t ua l
behavi or. Peopl e had greatl y over es t i mat ed thei r own vi rtue, but wer e pret t y
c l os e on thei r g ue s s e s about ot hers . I n a s e c ond study, Epl ey a nd Du n n i n g
as ked peopl e t o pr edi ct what t hey woul d do i n a g a me t hat coul d be pl a yed
f or money ei t her sel f i shl y or cooperati vel y. S a me f i ndi ngs : Ei ght y- f our per-
cent pr edi ct ed that they' d cooper at e, but t he s ubj ect s expect ed (on a ver a ge)
t hat onl y 64 pe r c e nt of ot her s woul d c ooper a t e. Wh e n t hey ran t he real
g a me , 61 pe r c e nt c oope r a t e d. I n a thi rd study, Epl e y a nd Du nni ng pa i d
pe opl e fi ve dol l ars for par t i ci pat i ng i n an exper i ment a nd t hen a s ke d t he m
t o predi ct how muc h of t he mone y they and ot hers woul d donat e, hypot het -
ically, had t hey been gi ven a par t i cul ar char i t abl e a ppe a l af t er t he s t udy.
Peopl e sai d (on average) they' d donat e $ 2 . 4 4 , and ot her s woul d dona t e onl y
$1. 83. But whe n t he s t udy wa s rerun wi th a real r eques t t o give money, t he
average gi ft wa s $1. 53.
In their cl everest study, t he res earchers des cr i bed t he det ai l s of t he third
s t udy t o a new gr oup of s ubj ect s and as ked t hem t o predi ct how muc h mo ne y
they woul d donat e i f they had been i n the "real " condi t i on, and how mu c h
money ot her-Cornel l s t udent s woul d donat e. Onc e agai n, s ubj ect s pr edi ct ed
they' d be muc h mor e gener ous t han others. But t hen s ubj ect s s aw t he act ual
a mount s of money donat ed by real s ubj ect s f rom t he third study, reveal ed to
t hem one at a t i me ( and averagi ng $ 1. 53). Af t er bei ng gi ven this new i nf or ma-
ti on, s ubj ect s wer e gi ven a c ha nc e t o revi se thei r es t i ma t es , a nd t hey di d.
The y l owered thei r es t i ma t es of what ot her s woul d gi ve, but they di d not
c ha nge their es t i mat es of what they t hems el ves woul d give. In ot her wor ds ,
s ubj ect s us ed bas e rate i nf ormati on properl y to revi se their predi ct i ons of oth-
ers, but they r ef us ed to appl y i t to their rosy s el f - as s es s ment s . We j udg e ot her s
6 8 ' I ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
by their behavior, but we think we have speci al i nformati on about ours el ves
we know what we are "really like" inside, so we can easily find ways to explain
away our selfish act s and cling to the illusion that we are better than others.
Ambi gui t y abet s the i l l usi on. For many trai ts, s uch as l eaders hi p, there
are so many ways to def i ne i t that one i s f r ee to pi ck t he cri teri on that will
mos t f l atter ones el f . If I'm c onf i dent , I c a n def i ne l eader s hi p as conf i -
dence. If I think I'm high on peopl e skills, I can def i ne l eaders hi p as the
ability t o unders t and and i nf l uence peopl e. Whe n compar i ng ours el ves t o
others, the general pr oces s i s this: Fr a me t he ques t i on ( unconsci ousl y, au-
t omat i cal l y) so that t he trait i n que s t i on i s r el at ed to a s el f - per cei ved
st rengt h, t hen go out and look f or e vi de nc e t hat you have t he st rengt h.
Onc e you f i nd a pi ece of evi dence, onc e you have a " ma kes - s ens e" story,
you are done. You can s t op thi nki ng, and revel i n your s el f - es t eem. It's no
wonder, then, that in a study of 1 million Amer i can high s chool s t udent s ,
70 percent thought they were above average on l eaders hi p ability, but only
2 percent thought they were bel ow average. Everyone can f i nd some skill
that mi ght be cons t r ued as rel ated to l eader s hi p, and t hen f i nd some pi ece
of evi dence that one has that ski l l .
1 8
( Col l ege pr of es s or s are l ess wi s e t han
high school s t udent s i n this r e s pe c t 94 per cent of us think we do above-
average work. )
1 9
But when there i s little r oom for ambi gui t yhow tall are
you? how good are you at j uggl i ng? peopl e t end t o be muc h mor e modes t .
If the only ef f ect of t hes e rampant es t eem- i nf l at i ng bi as es wa s t o make
peopl e feel good about t hems el ves , they woul d not be a pr obl em. In f act,
evi dence s hows that peopl e who hol d per vas i ve pos i t i ve i l l us i ons about
t hems el ves , their abi l i ti es, and thei r f ut ur e pr os pect s are ment al l y health-
ier, happi er, and better liked t han peopl e who l ack s uch i l l us i ons .
2 0
But
s uc h bi as es can ma ke peopl e f eel that they des er ve mor e t han they do,
thereby setti ng the s t age for endl es s di s put es with ot her peopl e who feel
equal l y over-entitled.
I f ought endl essl y with my first-year col l ege r oommat es . I had provi ded
muc h of our f urni ture, i ncl udi ng the hi ghly val ued refrigerator, a nd I di d
mos t of the work keepi ng our c o mmo n s pa c e cl ean. Af t er a whi l e, I got
tired of doi ng more than my share; I s t oppe d worki ng so hard and let the
s pa c e bec ome mes s y s o that s omeone el s e woul d pi ck up the sl ack. No-
body did. But they di d pi ck up my r es ent ment , and i t uni ted t hem i n their
7 he Faults of Others 7 5
di s l i ke of me . The next year, whe n we no l onger lived t oget her, we b e c a me
c l os e f r i ends .
Wh e n my f at her dr ove me a nd my ref ri gerat or up t o c ol l e ge t hat f i rst
year, he tol d me that t he mos t i mpor t ant t hi ngs I wa s goi ng t o l earn I woul d
not l earn i n t he c l a s s r oom, and he wa s right. It took many mor e years of liv-
i ng wi th r oomma t e s , but I fi nal l y real i zed what a fool I had ma d e of mys e l f
that first year. Of c our s e I t hought I di d mor e t han my s hare. Al t hough I wa s
awar e of every little t hi ng I di d f or t he gr oup, I was awar e of onl y a por t i on
of everyone el se' s cont r i but i ons . And even i f I had been cor r ect i n my a c -
c ount i ng, I wa s s el f - r i ght eous i n s et t i ng up t he a c c o unt i ng c a t e g or i e s . I
pi cked t he t hi ngs I car ed a b o ut s uc h as keepi ng t he ref ri gerat or c l e a n
and t hen gave mys el f an A-pl us i n that category. As with ot her ki nds of so-
ci al compar i s on, ambi gui t y al l ows us t o set up t he c ompa r i s on i n ways t hat
f avor ours el ves , a nd t hen t o s eek evi dence that s hows we ar e excel l ent co-
operat ors . St udi es of s uc h " unc ons c i ous over cl ai mi ng" s how that whe n hus -
ba nds and wi ves e s t i ma t e t he pe r c e nt a g e of hous e wor k e a c h do e s , t hei r
es t i ma t es total mor e t han 120 per cent .
2 1
Wh e n MB A s t udent s i n a wor k
gr oup ma ke es t i ma t es of thei r cont r i but i ons t o t he t e a m, t he e s t i ma t e s total
1 39 per c ent .
2 2
Whe ne ve r peopl e f orm cooper at i ve gr oups , whi ch ar e us u-
ally of mut ual benef i t , s el f - s ervi ng bi as es t hr eat en t o fill gr oup me mb e r s
wi th mut ual r es ent ment .
I ' M R I G H T ; Y O U ' R E B I A S E D
I f s pous e s , col l eagues , a nd r oomma t e s s o easi l y d e s c e nd i nt o r e s e nt me nt ,
t hi ngs get wor s e when pe opl e who l ack a f f e c t i on or s har ed goal s ha ve t o
negot i at e. Vast s oci et al r es our ces ar e e x pe nde d on l i ti gati on, l abor s t r i kes ,
di vorce di s put e s , a nd vi ol ence af t er f ai l ed p e a c e t al ks b e c a u s e t he s a me
s el f -s ervi ng bi as es are at work f ome nt i ng hypocri t i cal i ndi gnat i on. I n t he s e
hi gh- pr es s ur e s i t uat i ons , t he l awyers (real a nd met a phor i c a l ) ar e wor ki ng
r ound t he c l oc k t o s pi n a nd di st ort t he c a s e i n t hei r cl i ent s ' favor. Ge o r g e
Loe we ns t e i n
2 3
a nd hi s c ol l ea gues at Ca r ne g i e Mel l on f ound a way t o s t udy
t he pr o c e s s by gi vi ng pai r s of r es ear ch s ubj e c t s a real l egal c a s e t o r e a d
( about a mot or cycl e acci dent , i n Texas ) , a s s i gni ng one s ubj ect t o pl ay t he
7 0 T H E H A P P I N E S S H Y P O' T H E S I S
def enda nt and one t he pl ai nt i f f , and t hen gi vi ng t hem real mone y t o nego-
ti ate wi th. Ea c h pai r wa s told to r each a f ai r a gr e e me nt and wa r ne d that, i f
they f ai l ed t o agree, a s et t l ement woul d be i mpo s e d a nd " cour t c os t s " de-
duct ed f r om t he pool of money, l eavi ng bot h pl ayers wor s e of f . Wh e n bot h
pl ayers knew whi ch rol e e a c h was t o pl ay f r om t he start, e a c h read t he c a s e
mat er i al s di f f erent l y, ma d e di f f er ent g u e s s e s a bout what s e t t l e me nt t he
j udg e i n t he real c a s e had i mpos ed, a nd a r gued i n a bi as ed way. Mo r e t han
a quart er of all pai rs f ai l ed t o r each an agreement . ' However, whe n t he play-
ers didn' t know whi ch role they wer e to pl ay until af t er t hey ha d read all
t he mat eri al s , they b e c a me mu c h mor e r ea s ona bl e, and onl y 6 per cent of
pai rs f ai l ed t o set t l e.
Recogni zi ng that hi di ng negot i at ors ' i dent i t i es f r om t hem unt i l t he last
mi nut e i s not an opt i on i n t he real worl d, Loe we ns t e i n set out t o f i nd ot her
ways t o " de- bi as " negot i at ors . He tri ed havi ng s ubj ect s read a short es s ay
about the ki nds of s el f -s ervi ng bi a s es that a f f e c t peopl e i n thei r s i t uat i on t o
s e e whet her s ubj ect s coul d cor r ect f or t he bi as es . No di ce. Al t hough t he
s ubj ect s us e d t he i nf or mat i on t o pr edi ct t hei r opponent ' s behavi or mor e
accuratel y, they di d not c ha ng e their own bi a s e s at all. As Epl e y a nd Dun-
ni ng had f ound, pe opl e really are ope n t o i nf or mat i on that will pr edi ct t he
behavi or of ot hers, but they r e f us e t o a dj us t thei r s e l f - a s s e s s me nt s . In an-
ot her study, Loewens t ei n f ol l owed t he a dvi c e of t en gi ven by mar r i age ther-
api s t s t o have ea c h s ubj ec t first wri te an e s s a y argui ng t he ot her person' s
c a s e as convi nci ngl y as pos s i bl e. Eve n wor s e t han no di ce. T h e mani pul a-
ti on backf i red, pe r ha ps be c a us e t hi nki ng a bout your opponent ' s a r gument s
aut omat i cal l y tri ggers addi t i onal t hi nki ng on your own part as you pr epar e
t o r ef ut e t hem.
On e mani pul at i on di d work. Whe n s ubj e c t s read t he es s a y a bout sel f-
servi ng bi as es and wer e then a s ked t o wri te an es s ay about we a kne s s e s i n
their own cas e, their previ ous r i ght eous nes s wa s s haken. S ub j e c t s i n thi s
st udy were j us t as f ai r-mi nded as t hos e who l earned their i dent i t i es at the
last mi nut e. But bef or e you get too opt i mi s t i c about this t echni que for re-
duci ng hypocrisy, you s houl d realize that Loewens t ei n was as ki ng s ubj ect s t o
f i nd weaknes s es i n thei r casesin t he pos i t i ons they were ar gui ng f or not
in their characters. Whe n you try to pe r s ua de peopl e to look at thei r own per-
7 he Faults of Others 7 5
sonal pi ct ur e of Dori an Gray, they put up a mu c h bi gger fi ght. Emi l y Proni n
at Pri ncet on a nd L e e Ros s at St anf or d have tried t o hel p pe opl e ove r c ome
thei r sel f-servi ng bi as es by t eachi ng t hem about bi as es a nd t hen as ki ng, " OK,
now that you know about t hes e bi as es , do you want t o c ha nge what you j us t
s ai d a bout your s e l f ? " Ac r os s ma ny s t udi e s , t he r es ul t s we r e t he s a me :
2 4
Peopl e wer e qui t e happy t o l earn about t he vari ous f or ms of s el f -s ervi ng bi as
a nd then appl y their newf ound knowl edge t o predi ct ot hers' r es pons es . But
thei r sel f -rati ngs wer e unaf f ect ed. Even when you grab peopl e by t he l apel s ,
s hake t hem, and say, " Li s t en t o me! Mos t peopl e have an i nf l at ed vi ew of
t hems el ves . Be real i sti c! " they r ef us e, mut t er i ng t o t hems el ves , "Wel l , ot her
peopl e may be bi as ed, but I really am above average on l eader s hi p. "
Proni n a nd Ros s t race thi s r es i s t ance t o a phe no me no n they cal l " nai ve
real i sm" : Ea c h of us thi nks we s ee t he worl d directly, as i t really is. We f ur-
ther bel i eve that t he f act s as we s ee t hem are t here f or all t o s ee, t her ef or e
ot hers s houl d agr ee with us. If they don' t agree, i t f ol l ows ei t her that t hey
have not yet been expos ed t o t he rel evant f act s or el s e that they ar e bl i nded
by their i nt eres t s a nd i deol ogi es. Peopl e a c knowl edge that thei r own ba c k-
gr ounds have s ha pe d their vi ews, but s uc h exper i ences ar e i nvari abl y s e e n as
de e pe ni ng one' s i nsi ght s; for exampl e, bei ng a doct or gi ves a per s on s pec i a l
i nsi ght i nto t he pr obl ems of t he heal t h-care industry. But t he ba c kgr ound of
ot her peopl e i s us ed t o expl ai n thei r bi as es a nd covert mot i vat i ons ; f or e xa m-
pl e, doct ors t hi nk that l awyers di s agr ee wi th t hem a bout tort ref orm not be-
c a u s e they work with t he vi ct i ms of mal pr act i ce ( and t her ef or e have t hei r
own s peci al i nsi ght s) but be c a us e thei r sel f -i nt erest bi as es their t hi nki ng. It
j us t s e e ms pl ai n as day, t o t he nai ve real i st, that everyone i s i nf l ue nc e d by
i deol ogy a nd sel f -i nt erest . Exc ept f or me. I s ee t hi ngs as t hey are.
I f I coul d nomi na t e one c a ndi da t e f or " bi gges t obs t a c l e t o worl d p e a c e
a nd soci al har mony, " i t woul d be nai ve r eal i s m b e c a us e i t i s s o eas i l y r at ch-
et ed up f r om t he i ndi vi dual t o t he gr oup l evel : My gr oup i s ri ght b e c a u s e
we s e e t hi ngs as t hey are. Tho s e who di s agr ee are obvi ous l y bi a s e d by t hei r
rel i gi on, thei r i deol ogy, or thei r s el f -i nt eres t . Na i ve r eal i s m gi ves us a wor l d
f ul l of good a nd evil, a nd thi s bri ngs us t o t he mos t di s t ur bi ng i mpl i c a t i on
of t he s ages ' advi ce a bout hypocri sy: Go o d a nd evil do not exi st out s i de of
our bel i ef s a bout t hem.
7 2 ' I ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
S A T A N S A T I S F I E S
One day in 1998 I recei ved a handwri tten letter f rom a woma n in my town
whom I did not know. The woman wrote about how cri me, drugs , and t een
pregnancy were all spi ral i ng out of control . Soci et y was goi ng downhi l l as
Sat an spread his wi ngs. The woman invited me t o c ome t o her chur ch and
f i nd spiritual shelter. As I read her letter, I had to agree with her that Sat an
had spread his wi ngs, but only to fly away and l eave us i n peace. The l ate
1 9 9 0 s was a gol den age. The col d war was over, de moc r a c y arid hu ma n
rights were spreadi ng, Sout h Afri ca had vanqui s hed apart hei d, Israel i s and
Pal esti ni ans were reapi ng the fruits of the Os l o accor ds , and t here were en-
couragi ng si gns f rom Nort h Korea. Her e i n the Uni t ed St at es , cr i me and
unempl oyment had pl ummet ed, the st ock market was cl i mbi ng ever higher,
and the ens ui ng prosperity was promi si ng t o eras e the nati onal debt . Even
cockroaches were di s appeari ng from our ci t i es be c a us e of wi des pr ead us e
of the roach poi son Comba t . So what on eart h was s he talking about ?
When the moral history of the 1990s is written, it mi ght be titled Desper-
ately Seeking Satan. Wi th peace and harmony as cendant , Amer i cans s e e me d
to be searchi ng for subst i t ut e villains. We tried drug deal ers (but then the
cr ack epi demi c waned) and child abduct ors ( who are usual l y one of the par-
ent s) . The cultural right vilified homos exual s ; the l eft vilified raci sts and ho-
mophobes . As I t hought about t hes e vari ous vi l l ai ns, i ncl udi ng the ol der
villains of c ommuni s m and Sat an hi msel f, I realized that mos t of t hem share
three properties: They are invisible (you can' t i denti fy the evil one f rom ap-
pear ance al one); their evil s preads by cont agi on, maki ng it vital to prot ect
i mpressi onabl e young peopl e f rom i nf ecti on (for exampl e f r om c ommuni s t
i deas, homosexual t eachers, or st ereot ypes on tel evi si on); and the villains
can be def eat ed only i f we all pull together as a t eam. I t ' became cl ear to me
that peopl e want to believe they are on a mi s s i on f rom God, or that they are
fi ghti ng for s ome more secul ar good ( ani mal s, f et us es , women' s ri ghts), and
you can't have much of a mi ssi on wi thout good allies and a good enemy.
The probl em of evil has bedeviled many religions si nce their birth. If God
is all good and all powerf ul , either he al l ows evil to fl ouri sh (whi ch mea ns he
is not all good), or el se he struggles agai nst evil (whi ch mea ns he is not all
powerful ). Religions have generally chos en one of three resol uti ons of this
7 he Faults of Others 7 5
par adox.
2 5
On e sol ut i on i s strai ght dual i s m: The r e exi st s a good f or ce a nd an
evil f orce, they are equal and oppos i t e, and they fi ght eternally. Hu ma n be-
i ngs are part of t he bat t l eground. We were cr eat ed part good, part evil, a nd
we mus t c hoos e whi ch si de we will be on. Thi s vi ew i s cl ear es t i n rel i gi ons
ema na t i ng f rom Persi a and Babyl oni a, s uc h as Zoroas t ri ani s m, a nd t he vi ew
i nf l uenced Chri s t i ani t y as a long-lived doct ri ne cal l ed Ma ni c ha e i s m. A s e c -
ond resol ut i on i s st rai ght moni s m: Inhere i s one Go d; he cr eat ed t he worl d as
i t needs to be, and evil i s an i l l usi on, a vi ew that domi na t ed rel i gi ons t hat de-
vel oped i n Indi a. The s e religions hol d that t he ent i re worl dor, at l east , its
emot i onal gri p upon us i s an i l l usi on, a nd that enl i ght enment c ons i s t s of
br eaki ng out of t he i l l us i on. T h e thi rd a ppr oa c h, t aken by Chr i s t i ani t y,
bl ends moni s m a nd dual i s m i n a way that ul ti matel y r econci l es t he g oodne s s
and power of Go d wi th the exi s t ence of Sat an. Thi s a r gument i s s o compl i -
cat ed that I cannot under s t and it. Nor, apparentl y, c a n ma ny Chr i s t i ans who,
j udgi ng by what I hear on gos pel radi o st at i ons i n Virginia, s e e m to hol d a
s t rai ght Ma ni c ha e a n worl d view, a c c or di ng t o whi c h Go d and S a t a n a r e
f i ghti ng an eternal war. In f act , des pi t e t he diversity of t heol ogi cal a r g ume nt s
ma d e i n di f f erent rel i gi ons, concr et e repres ent at i ons of Sat an, de mons , a nd
ot her evil ent i t i es are surpri si ngl y si mi l ar acr os s cont i nent s arid er as .
2 6
Fr om a ps ychol ogi cal per s pect i ve, Ma ni c ha e i s m ma k e s pe r f e c t s e ns e .
" Our life i s t he creat i on of our mi nd, " as Buddha sai d, and our mi nds evol ved
to play Machi avel l i an tit for tat. We all c ommi t s el f i s h and s hort s i ght ed a ct s ,
but our i nner lawyer ens ur es that we do not bl a me our s el ves or our al l i es f or
t hem. We ar e t hus convi nced of our own vi rtue, but qui c k t o s e e bi as, gr eed,
and dupl i ci t y i n ot hers . We are of t en correct about ot hers' mot i ves , but as
any conf l i ct e s c a l a t e s we begi n t o exagger at e grossl y, t o we a ve a s t ory i n
whi ch pur e vi rtue ( our si de) i s i n a bat t l e wi th pur e vi ce (thei rs).
T H E M Y T H O F P U R E E V I L
In t he days af t er recei vi ng that letter, I t hought a lot a bout t he ne e d f or evi l .
I dec i ded t o wri te an art i cl e on thi s need and us e t he tool s of mode r n ps y-
chol ogy to under s t a nd evil i n a new way. But as s oon as I s t art ed my re-
s ear ch, I f ound out I was too l at e. By one year. A t hr ee- t hous and- year - ol d
7 4 ' I ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
quest i on had been given a compl et e and compel l i ng psychol ogi cal expl ana-
tion the previ ous year by Roy Baumei s t er, one of today' s mos t creati ve social
p s y c ho l o g i s t s . In Evil: Inside Human Cruelty and Aggression,
27
B a u me i s t e r
exami ned evil f rom the perspect i ve of both vi cti m and perpetrator. When
taki ng the perpetrator' s perspect i ve, he f ound that peopl e who do thi ngs we
s ee as evil, f rom spousal a bus e all the way to genoci de, rarely thi nk they are
doi ng anything wrong. They al mos t al ways s ee t hems el ves as r es pondi ng t o
at t acks and provocati ons i n ways that are j us t i f i ed. They of t en thi nk that
they t hems el ves are vi cti ms. But , of cours e, you can s ee right t hrough this
tacti c; you are good at unders t andi ng the bi as es that others us e to protect
their sel f -est eem. The di st urbi ng part i s that Baumei s t er s hows us our own
di storti ons as vi cti ms, and as ri ghteous advocat es of vi cti ms. Al mos t every-
where Baumei s t er looked i n the res earch l i terature, he f ound that vi cti ms
of t en shared s ome of the bl ame. Mos t mur der s resul t f rom an es cal at i ng cy-
cle of provocation and retaliation; of t en, the cor ps e coul d j us t as easi l y have
been the murderer. In half of all domes t i c di s put es , both s i des us ed vio-
l ence.
2 8
Baumei s t er poi nt s out that, even i n i ns t ances of obvi ous pol i ce bru-
tality, s uch as t he i nf a mous vi deot aped be a t i ng of Rodney Ki ng i n Los
Angel es i n 1991, there i s usually much more to t he story than i s s hown on
the news. ( News programs gai n vi ewers by sat i sf yi ng peopl e' s need to be-
lieve that evil stal ks the l and. )
Baumei s t er i s an extraordi nary soci al ps ychol ogi s t , i n part be c a us e i n his
s earch for truth he i s unconcer ned about pol i ti cal correct nes s . Some t i me s
evil fal l s out of a cl ear bl ue sky ont o t he head of an i nnocent vi ct i m, but
mos t cas es are muc h more compl i cat ed, and Baumei s t er i s willing t o vio-
l ate the t aboo agai ns t " bl ami ng t he vi ct i m" i n order t o under s t a nd what
really happened. Peopl e usual l y have r eas ons for commi t t i ng vi ol ence, and
t hose reas ons usual l y involve retaliation for a percei ved i nj ust i ce, or self-
def ens e. Thi s does not mean that both s i des are equal l y t o bl ame: Perpe-
trators of t en grossly overreact and mi s i nt erpret ( us i ng sel f -servi ng bi as es ) .
But Baumei st er' s point i s that we have a de e p need to under s t and vi ol ence
and cruel ty through what he cal l s "t he myt h of pur e evi l . " Of t hi s myth' s
many part s, t he mos t i mpor t ant are that evi l doers are pur e i n thei r evil
mot i ves (they have no moti ves for their act i ons beyond s adi s m and greed) ;
7 he Faults of Others 7 5
vi ct i ms are pur e i n their vi ct i mhood (they did not hi ng to bri ng a bout t hei r
vi cti mi zati on); and evil c ome s f rom out s i de and i s as s oci at ed wi th a gr oup
or f orce that at t acks our group. Fur t her mor e, anyone who ques t i ons t he
appl i cat i on of the myt h, who dares muddy the wat ers of moral certai nty, i s
in l eague with evil.
The myth of pur e evil i s the ul t i mat e sel f -servi ng bi as, t he ul t i mat e f or m
of nai ve real i sm. And i t i s the ul t i mat e c a us e of mos t l ong-runni ng cycl es of
vi ol ence be c a us e bot h s i des us e i t to l ock t hems el ves i nto a Ma ni c ha e a n
struggl e. Whe n Geor ge W. Bus h sai d that t he 9/1 1 terrori sts di d what t hey
did be c a us e they " hat e our f r eedom, " he s howed a s t unni ng l ack of ps ycho-
logical insight. Nei t her t he 9/1 1 hi j ackers nor Os a ma Bi n La de n wer e par-
ticularly ups et be c a us e Amer i can women can drive, vote, and wear bi ki ni s.
Rather, many Isl ami c ext remi st s want t o kill Amer i cans be c a us e they are
us i ng t he Myt h of Pure Evil t o i nterpret Arab history and current event s .
They s ee Amer i ca as t he Gr eat Sat an, t he current villain i n a l ong pa ge a nt
of West ern humi l i at i on of Arab nati ons and peopl es . They di d what t hey
di d as a react i on t o Ameri ca' s act i ons and i mpact i n t he Mi ddl e Ea s t , as
they s ee i t through t he di st ort i ons of t he Myt h of Pur e Evi l . However hor-
rifying it is for terrori sts to l ump all civilians i nto t he cat egory of " e ne my"
and t hen kill t hem i ndi scri mi natel y, s uch act i ons at l east ma ke ps ychol ogi -
cal s ens e, wher eas killing be c a us e of a hat red for f r eedom does not.
I n anot her uns et t l i ng concl us i on, Baumei s t er f ound that vi ol ence a nd
cruel ty have four mai n caus es . The first two are obvi ous at t ri but es of evil:
greed/ ambi t i on (vi ol ence for di rect personal gai n, as i n robbery) and s a di s m
( pl eas ure in hurting peopl e) . But greed/ ambi t i on expl ai ns only a smal l por-
tion of vi ol ence, and s adi s m expl ai ns al most none. Out s i de of chi l dren' s car-
t oons and horror f i l ms, peopl e al mos t never hurt others for t he s heer j oy of
hurti ng s omeone. The two bi ggest caus es of evil are two that we t hi nk are
good, and that we try to encour age i n our chi l dren: high s el f - es t eem a nd
moral i deal i sm. Havi ng high sel f -est eem doesn' t directly c a us e vi ol ence, but
when s omeone' s high es t eem i s unreal i sti c or narci ssi st i c, i t i s easi l y t hreat -
ened by reality; i n react i on t o t hos e t hreat s , peopl epar t i cul ar l y y o ung
me no f t e n l ash out vi ol entl y.
29
Ba umei s t er ques t i ons t he us e f ul ne s s of
programs that try rai se chi l dren' s sel f -est eem directly i nstead of by t ea c hi ng
7 6 ' I ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
them skills they can be proud of. Such di rect enhancement can potentially
foster unstabl e narci ssi sm.
Threat ened sel f -esteem account s for a large portion of vi ol ence at the
individual level, but to really get a mas s atrocity goi ng you need i deal i s m
the belief that your vi ol ence is a means to a moral end. The maj or atrocities
of t he twenti eth cent ury wer e carri ed out largely ei ther by me n who
thought they were creati ng a Utopia or el se by men who believed they were
def endi ng their homel and or tribe f rom at t ack.
3 0
Ideal i sm easily becomes
dangerous becaus e it brings with it, al most inevitably, the bel i ef that the
ends j ustify the means . If you are fighting for good or for God, what mat-
ters is the out come, not the path. People have little respect for rul es; we re-
s pect the moral pri nci pl es that underl i e mos t rul es . But when a moral
mi ssi on and legal rules are i ncompati bl e, we usually care more about the
mi s s i on. The ps ychol ogi s t Li nda Ski t ka
3 1
f i nds that when pe opl e have
strong moral feelings about a controversial i s s uewhen they have a "moral
mandat e" t hey care much less about procedural fai rness i n court cas es .
They want the "good guys" freed by any means , and the " bad guys" con-
vi cted by any means . It is thus not surpri si ng that the admi ni strati on of
George W. Bus h consi stentl y argues that extra-j udicial killings, i ndefi ni te
i mpri sonment without trial, and harsh physi cal treatment of pri soners are
legal and proper steps in fighting the Mani chaean "war on terror."
F I N D I N G T H E G R E A T W A Y
In philosophy cl asses, I often came across the idea that the world is an illu-
sion. I never really knew what that meant , al though it sounded deep. But af-
ter two decades st udyi ng moral psychol ogy, I thi nk I finally get it. The
anthropologist Cl i fford Geertz wrote that " man is an animal s us pended in
webs of significance that he hi msel f has s pun. "
3 2
That is, the world we live
in is not really one made of rocks, trees, and physical obj ects; it is a world
of insults, opportunities, status symbols, betrayals, saints, and si nners. All of
t hese are human creations which, though real in their own way, are not real
in the way that rocks and trees are real. The s e human creati ons are like
7 he Faults of Others 7 5
f ai r i es i n J . M. Ba r r i e s Peter Pan: The y exi s t onl y i f you bel i eve i n t h e m.
The y ar e t he Mat r i x ( f r om t he movi e of t hat na me ) ; t hey ar e a c o n s e n s u a l
hal l uci nat i on.
T h e i nner l awyer, t he r os e- col or ed mi rror, nai ve r ea l i s m, a nd t he my t h of
pur e e v i l t he s e me c h a n i s ms all c ons pi r e t o we a v e f or us a we b of s i gni f i -
c a n c e upo n whi c h a ng e l s a nd d e mo n s f i ght i t out . Ou r ever - j udgi ng mi n d s
t hen gi ve us c o ns t a nt f l a s he s of appr oval a nd di s a ppr ova l , a l o ng wi t h t h e
cer t ai nt y t hat we a r e on t he s i de of t he a ngel s . Fr o m t hi s v a nt a g e p o i nt i t
all s e e ms s o silly, all t hi s mor a l i s m, r i g ht e ous ne s s , a nd hypocri s y. It' s b e -
yond silly; i t i s t ragi c, f or i t s ug g e s t s t hat h u ma n bei ngs wi l l never a c h i e v e a
s t a t e of l as t i ng p e a c e a nd har mony. So wha t c a n you do a b o ut i t?
T h e f i rs t s t e p i s t o s e e i t as a g a me a nd s t op t aki ng i t s o s eri ous l y. T h e
gr eat l e s s on t hat c o me s out of a nc i e nt I ndi a i s t hat l i f e as we e x p e r i e nc e i t
i s a g a me c a l l e d " s a ms a r a . " I t i s a g a me i n whi c h e a c h pe r s on pl ays out hi s
" d ha r ma , " hi s rol e or pa r t i n a gi a nt pl ay. I n t he g a me of s a ms a r a , g o o d
t hi ngs ha p p e n t o you, a nd you a r e happy. T h e n bad t hi ngs ha p p e n, a nd y o u
a r e s a d or angry. And s o i t goe s , unti l you di e. T h e n you ar e r ebor n b a c k
i nt o it, a nd i t r epea t s . T h e me s s a g e of t he Bhagavad Gita ( a cent r al t ext of
Hi nd u i s m) i s t hat you can' t qui t t he g a me ent i rel y; you ha ve a rol e t o p l a y
i n t he f unc t i oni ng of t he uni ver s e, a nd you mu s t pl ay t hat r ol e. But y o u
s houl d do i t i n t he ri ght way, wi t hout be i ng a t t a c he d t o t he " f r ui t s " or o u t -
c o me s of your act i on. T h e god Kr i s hna s ays :
I love t he ma n who hat es not nor exul ts, who mour ns not nor des i r es . . .
who i s t he s a me t o f ri end and f oe, [the s a me l whet her he be r es pect ed or
des pi s ed, the s a me i n heat and col d, i n pl eas ur e a nd i n pai n, who ha s
put away at t achment and r emai ns unmove d by prai s e or bl a me . . . con-
t ent ed with what ever c ome s hi s way.
33
Bu d d ha went a s t e p f urt her. Fi e, t oo, c o uns e l e d i ndi f f er enc e t o t he u p s
a nd downs of l i fe, but he urged t hat we qui t t he g a me entirely. Bu d d h i s m i s
a s e t of p r a c t i c e s f or e s c a p i n g s a ms a r a a nd t he e nd l e s s c yc l e of r e bi r t h.
Tho u g h di vi ded on whe t he r t o ret reat f r om t he worl d or e ng a g e wi t h it, B u d -
dhi s t s all a gr e e on t he i mpor t a nc e of t rai ni ng t he mi nd t o s t op its i nc e s s a nt
7 8 ' I ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
j udgi ng. Sen-ts' an, an early Chi nes e Zen master, urged nonj udgment al i s m as
a prerequi si te to followi ng "the perf ect way" in this poem f rom t he ei ghth
century CE:
The Perfect Way is only difficult for those who pick and
choose;
Do not like, do not dislike; all will then he clear.
Make a hairbreadth difference, and Heaven and Earth are -
set apart;
If you want the truth to stand clear before you, never be for
or against.
The struggle between "for" and "against" is the mind's worst
disease.
34
J udgment al i s m is i ndeed a di s eas e of t he mi nd: it l eads to anger, t orment ,
and confl i ct. But it is al so the mind' s normal condi t i ont he el ephant is al-
ways evaluating, al ways sayi ng " Li ke it" or " Don' t like it." So how can you
change your aut omat i c react i ons? You know by now that you can' t si mpl y re-
solve to stop j udgi ng others or to st op bei ng a hypocri te. But , as Buddha
taught, the rider can gradually learn to t ame t he el ephant , and medi t at i on i s
one way to do so. Medi t at i on has been s hown to ma ke peopl e cal mer, l ess
reactive to the ups and downs and petty provocat i ons of l i fe.
3 5
Medi t at i on i s
the East ern way of training yoursel f to take thi ngs philosophically.
Cogni t i ve therapy works, too. In Feeling Good,
36
a popul ar gui de to cog-
nitive therapy, Davi d Bur ns has written a chapt er on cogni ti ve t herapy for
anger. He advi s es us i ng ma ny of t he s a me t e c hni que s t hat Aar on Be c k
us ed for depressi on: Wri t e down your t hought s , l earn to recogni ze the dis-
tortions in your t hought s, and then thi nk of a mor e appropri at e t hought .
Burns f ocus es on the should s t at ement s we carry a r oundi de a s about how
the world should work, and about how peopl e should treat us . Vi ol ati ons of
t hes e should s t at ement s are t he maj or c a us e s of anger and r es ent ment .
Burns al so advi ses empat hy: In a conf l i ct , l ook at t he world f rom your op-
ponent' s poi nt of view, and you'll s ee that s he is not entirely crazy.
Al though I agree with Burns' s general appr oach, t he materi al I have re-
vi ewed i n this chapt er s ugges t s that, once anger c ome s into play, peopl e
7 he Faults of Others 7 5
f i nd i t ext r emel y di f f i cul t t o e mpa t hi z e wi t h a nd unde r s t a nd a not he r per -
s pect i ve. A bet t er pl a c e t o start is, as J e s u s advi s ed, wi t h your s el f a nd t he
l og i n your own eye. ( Ba t s on and Loe we ns t e i n bot h f ound that d e b i a s i ng
oc c ur r ed onl y when s ubj e c t s wer e f or ced t o l ook at t he ms e l ve s . ) An d you
will s e e t he l og onl y i f you s et out on a del i ber at e a nd ef f or t f ul q ue s t t o l ook
f or it. Try thi s now: Thi nk of a recent i nt er per s onal conf l i ct wi th s o me o n e
you car e about a nd t hen f i nd one way i n whi ch your behavi or wa s not ex-
empl ary. Ma ybe you di d s ome t hi ng i ns ens i t i ve ( even i f you had a ri ght t o
do it), or hur t f ul ( even i f you me a nt wel l ) , or i ncons i s t ent wi th your pr i nci -
pl es ( even t hough you c a n readi l y j us t i f y it). Wh e n you f i rst c a t c h s i ght of a
f aul t i n yours el f , you' ll likely hear f rant i c a r g ume nt s f r om your i nner l awyer
e xc us i ng you a nd bl a mi ng ot her s , but try not t o l i st en. You ar e on a mi s s i o n
t o f i nd at l east one t hi ng that you di d wrong. Wh e n you ext ract a s pl i nt er i t
hurt s , briefly, but t hen you f eel rel i ef, even pl eas ur e. Wh e n you f i nd a f aul t
i n your s el f i t will hurt , briefly, but i f you ke e p goi ng and a c kno wl e d g e t he
f aul t , you are likely t o be r ewar ded wi th a f l as h of pl e a s ur e t hat i s mi xed,
oddly, wi th a hi nt of pr i de. It i s t he pl e a s ur e of t aki ng r es pons i bi l i t y f or your
own behavi or. It i s t he f eel i ng of honor.
Fi ndi ng f aul t with yoursel f i s al s o t he key t o over comi ng t he hypocri s y a nd
j udgment a l i s m that da ma g e s o many val uabl e rel at i onshi ps. The i ns t ant you
s ee s ome cont ri but i on you ma d e t o a conf l i ct , your anger s o f t e ns ma y b e
j us t a bit, but e nough that you mi ght be abl e t o acknowl edge s ome meri t on
t he ot her s i de. You c a n still bel i eve you ar e right a nd t he ot her p e r s o n i s
wrong, but i f you can move to bel i evi ng that you are mostly right, a nd your
opponent i s mostly wrong, you have t he bas i s f or an ef f ect i ve a nd nonhumi l i -
at i ng apol ogy. You c a n t ake a s mal l pi ec e of t he di s a g r e e me nt a nd say, "I
s houl d not have done X, a nd I can s ee why you fel t Y." The n, by t he po we r of
reciprocity, t he ot her per s on will likely f eel a s t rong urge to say, " \ e s , I wa s
really ups et by X. But I gues s I shoul dn' t have done P, so I can s e e why you
fel t Q. " Reci pr oci t y ampl i f i ed by s el f -s ervi ng bi as es drove you apar t b a c k
whe n you wer e ma t c hi ng i ns ul t s or host i l e ges t ur es , but you c a n t ur n t he
pr oces s ar ound a nd us e reci proci ty t o end a conf l i ct and save a r el at i ons hi p.
Th e huma n mi nd may have been s ha pe d by evol ut i onary p r o c e s s e s t o
pl ay Machi avel l i an tit f or tat, and i t s e e ms t o c o me e qui ppe d with cogni t i ve
pr oc e s s e s that pr e di s pos e us t o hypocrisy, s el f - r i ght eous nes s , a nd mor al i s t i c
8 0 ' I ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
confl i ct. But s omet i mes , by knowi ng the mi nd' s st ruct ure and st rat egi es, we
can s t ep out of the anci ent game of soci al mani pul at i on and ent er into a
ga me of our choosi ng. By s eei ng the log i n your own eye you can bec ome
l ess bi ased, l ess moral i sti c, and theref ore l es s i ncl i ned toward ar gument and
confl i ct. You can begi n to follow the perf ect way, the pat h to happi nes s that
l eads through accept ance, whi ch i s the s ubj ect of t he next chapter.
The Pursuit of Happiness
Good men, at all times, surrender in truth all attachments.
The holy s-pend not idle words on things of desire. When
pleasure or pain comes to them, the rinse feel above pleasure
and pain.
B U D D HA '
Do not seek to have events happen as you want them to, but
instead want them to happen as they do happen, and your
life will go well.
EP I CTETUS 2
I F MONE Y OR P OWE R coul d buy ha ppi nes s , t hen t he aut hor of t he Ol d Tes -
t a me nt book of Ec c l e s i a s t e s s houl d have be e n overj oyed. Th e text at t ri b-
ut es i tsel f t o a ki ng i n J e r us a l e m, who l ooks ba c k on hi s life a nd hi s s e a r c h
for ha ppi nes s and f ul f i l l ment . He tried at one poi nt t o " ma ke a t es t of pl ea-
s ur e, " by s eeki ng ha ppi ne s s i n hi s ri ches:
I made great works; I built hous es and pl ant ed vi neyards for mysel f ; I
ma de mysel f gardens and parks, and pl ant ed i n t hem all ki nds of frui t
trees . . . I al so had great pos s es s i ons of herds and f l ocks, more than any
who had been bef ore me in J er us al em. I al so gathered for mysel f silver
81
8 2 ' I ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
and gold and the treasure of kings and of the provi nces; I got si ngers,
both men and women, and delights of the f l esh, and many concubi nes.
So I became great arid surpassed all who were before me in J erus al em;
also my wisdom remained with me. Whatever my eyes desired I did not
keep from them. ( E C C L E S I A S T E S 2:410)
But i n what may be one of the earl i est report s of a mi dl i f e cri si s, t he au-
thor f i nds it all poi nt l ess:
Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had spent in
doing it, and again, all was vanity and a chasi ng af ter wind, and there was
nothing to be gained under the sun. ( E C C L E S I A S T E S 2 : 1 1 )
The author tells us about many other avenues he pur s uedhar d work,
learning, wi nebut nothi ng brought sat i sf act i on; nothi ng coul d bani sh the
feel i ng that his life had no more intrinsic worth or pur pos e than that of an
ani mal . From the perspect i ve of Buddha and the St oi c phi l osopher Epi ct e-
tus, the author' s probl em is obvi ous: his pursuit of happi nes s . Buddhi s m and
St oi ci sm teach that striving for external goods , or to make the world conf orm
to your wi shes, is always a striving af t er wi nd. Ha ppi ne s s can only be f ound
within, by breaki ng at t achment s to external thi ngs and cul ti vati ng an atti-
t ude of accept ance. ( St oi cs and Buddhi s t s can have rel ati onshi ps, j obs , and
pos s es s i ons , but, to avoid becomi ng upset upon l osi ng t hem, they mus t not
be emotionally at t ached. t o t hem. ) Thi s i dea i s of cour s e an extensi on of the
truth of chapt er 2: life itself is but what you de e m it, and your ment al state
det ermi nes how you deem things. But r ecent r es ear ch i n psychol ogy sug-
gest s that Buddha and Epi ct et us may have t aken thi ngs too far. S o me things
are worth striving for, and happi nes s c ome s i n part f rom out si de of yoursel f,
if you know where to look.
T H E P R O G R E S S P R I N C I P L E
The author of Eccl es i as t es wasn' t j us t bat t l i ng t he f ear of meani ngl es s nes s ;
he was bat t l i ng t he di s appoi nt ment of s uc c e s s . The pl ea s ur e of get t i ng
The Pursuit of HA-ppi nes s 9 I
what you want i s of t en f l eet i ng. You dr e a m a bout get t i ng a pr omot i on, be-
i ng a c c e pt e d i nto a pr es t i gi ous s chool , or f i ni s hi ng a bi g pr oj ect . You wor k
every waki ng hour, pe r ha ps i magi ni ng how ha ppy you' d be i f you c o ul d j us t
a c hi eve that goal . The n you s uc c e e d, a nd i f you' re l ucky you get an hour,
ma ybe a day, of euphor i a, part i cul arl y i f your s uc c e s s wa s une x pe c t e d a nd
t here wa s a mo me nt i n whi ch i t wa s r eveal ed (. . . t he envel ope, p l e a s e ) .
Mo r e typically, however, you don' t get any euphor i a. Wh e n s u c c e s s s e e ms
i ncreas i ngl y pr oba bl e a nd s o me f i nal event c onf i r ms what you al r eady ha d
be g un t o expect , t he f eel i ng i s mor e one of r e l i e f t he pl ea s ur e of c l o s ur e
a nd r el eas e. I n s uc h c i r c ums t a nc e s , my first t hought i s s e l dom " Hoor a y!
Fant as t i c! " ; i t i s "Okay, what do I have to do now? "
My under j oyed r es pons e t o s uc c e s s t urns out t o be normal . And f r om an
evol uti onary poi nt of view,-it's even s ens i bl e. Ani ma l s get a r us h of do pa mi ne ,
t he pl eas ur e neurot ransmi t t er, whenever t hey do s ome t hi ng t hat a d v a nc e s
their evol uti onary i nt erest s and moves t hem ahead i n t he g a me of l i fe. Food
and sex gi ve pl eas ur e, a nd that pl eas ur e serves as a rei nf orcer (in behavi ori s t
t er ms ) that mot i vat es l ater ef f or t s t o f i nd f ood a nd sex. For huma ns , however,
t he g a me i s mor e compl ex. Peopl e wi n at t he g a me of l i fe by achi evi ng hi gh
s t a t us a nd a g ood r eput at i on, cul t i vat i ng f r i e nds hi ps , f i ndi ng t he be s t
mat e( s ) , a c c umul a t i ng r es our ces , and reari ng thei r chi l dren t o be s uc c e s s f ul
at t he s a me ga me. Peopl e have many goal s a nd t heref ore ma ny s our c e s of
pl eas ur e. Sq you' d t hi nk we woul d recei ve an enor mous ar\d l ong-l ast i ng s hot
of dopa mi ne whenever we s uc c e e d at an i mpor t ant goal . But here' s t he tri ck
wi th r ei nf or cement : It works best when i t c o me s s e c o nds no t mi nut e s or
hour s a f t er t he behavior. J us t try trai ni ng your dog to f et ch by gi vi ng hi m a
bi g s t eak ten mi nut es af t er ea c h s uc c e s s f ul retrieval. I t can' t be done.
T h e e l e p h a n t wo r ks t he s a me wa y: It feels pleasure whenever it takes a step
in the right direction. The el ephant l earns whenever pl eas ur e (or pai n) f ol l ows
i mmedi at el y af t er behavior, but i t has t roubl e connect i ng s uc c e s s on Fri day
wi th act i ons i t t ook on Monday. Ri char d Da vi ds on, t he ps ychol ogi s t who
brought us af f ect i ve style and t he appr oach ci rcui t s of t he front l ef t cort ex,
wri tes about two t ypes of posi t i ve af f ect . The first he cal l s "pre-goal at t ai n-
ment posi ti ve af f ect , " whi ch i s t he pl eas ur abl e f eel i ng you get as you ma k e
progres s toward a goal . The s econd i s cal l ed "post-goal at t ai nment pos i t i ve af -
f ect , " whi ch Da vi ds on s ays ar i s es onc e you . have achi eved s ome t hi ng you
8 4 ' I ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
want.
3
You experi ence this latter feel i ng as cont ent ment , as a short-lived feel-
ing of rel ease when the left prefrontal cortex r educes its activity af t er a goal
has been achi eved. In other words, when it c ome s to goal pursui t , it really is
the j ourney that count s , not the dest i nat i on. Set for yoursel f any goal you
want. Mos t of the pl eas ure will be had al ong the way, with every s t ep that
takes you closer. The final moment of s uc c es s i s of t en no more thrilling than
the relief of taking off a heavy backpack at the end of a long hike. If you went
on the hike only to feel that pl easure, you are a fool. peopl e s omet i mes do
j ust this. They work hard at a task and expect s ome speci al euphori a at the
end. But when they achi eve s ucces s and fi nd only moderat e and short-lived
pl easure, they as k (as the singer Peggy L e e onc e di d): Is that all there is?
They deval ue their accompl i s hment s as a striving after wind.
We can call this "t he progress pri nci pl e": Pl eas ur e c omes mor e f rom mak-
i ng progress toward goal s than f rom achi evi ng t hem. Shakes pear e capt ur ed
it perfectly: " Thi ngs won are done; joy's soul lies in the doi ng. "
4
T H E A D A P T A T I O N P R I N C I P L E
If L gave you ten s econds to name the very bes t and very worst thi ngs that
coul d ever happen to you, you mi ght well c o me up with t hes e: wi nni ng a
20-mi l l i on-dol l ar l ottery j a ckpot and b e c o mi ng paral yzed f r om t he neck
down. Wi nni ng the lottery woul d bri ng f r e e dom f rom so many car es and
limitations; i t would enabl e you to pur s ue your dr eams , hel p ot hers, and live
in comf ort, so it ought to bri ng l ong-l asti ng happi nes s rather t han one serv-
ing of dopami ne. Los i ng the us e of your body, on t he other hand, woul d
bring more limitations t han life in pri son. You'd have to give up on nearl y all
your goal s and dr eams , forget about sex, a nd depend on other peopl e for
hel p with eati ng and bat hroom f unct i ons . Ma ny peopl e thi nk they woul d
rather be dead than parapl egi c. But they are mi s t aken.
Of course, it's better to win the lottery t han to break your neck, but not by
as much as you'd think. Bec a us e whatever happens , you're likely to adapt to
it, but you don't realize up front that you will. We are bad at " af f ect i ve fore-
casti ng, "
5
that is, predi cti ng how we'll feel in the f uture. We grossl y overesti-
The Pursuit of Ha-ppiness 9 i
ma t e t he i nt ensi t y and t he dur at i on of our emot i onal r eact i ons . Wi t hi n a
year, lottery wi nners and par apl egi cs have bot h (on average) r et ur ned mo s t of
t he way t o their bas el i ne levels of ha ppi nes s .
6
The l ottery wi nner buys a new
hous e a nd a new car, qui t s her bori ng j ob, and eat s bet t er f ood. S h e get s a
ki ck out of the cont ras t with her f or mer life, but wi thi n a f ew mo nt hs t he
cont r as t bl urs a nd t he pl eas ur e f ades . Th e huma n mi nd i s ext r aor di nar i l y
sensi t i ve to changes i n condi t i ons , but not so sensi t i ve to abs ol ut e l evel s . T h e
wi nner' s pl eas ur e c o me s f rom ri si ng i n weal t h, not f rom s t andi ng still at a
high level, and af t er a f ew mont hs t he new comf or t s have b e c o me t he new
bas el i ne of daily life. The wi nner t akes t hem for gr ant ed and has no wa y t o
ri se any f urther. Even wors e: Th e money mi ght d a ma g e her r el at i ons hi ps .
Fr i ends , rel at i ves, s wi ndl er s , a nd s obbi ng s t r anger s s wa r m a r ound l ot t ery
wi nners, s ui ng t hem, s ucki ng up t o t hem, de ma ndi ng a s har e of t he weal t h.
( Re me mbe r t he ubi qui t y of sel f -servi ng bi as es ; everyone c a n f i nd a r e a s on t o
be owed s omet hi ng. ) Lot t ery wi nner s are s o of t en har as s ed that ma n y have
t o move, hi de, e nd rel at i onshi ps, and fi nal l y turn t o e a c h other, f or mi ng lot-
tery wi nner s uppor t gr oups t o deal with thei r new di f f i cul t i es .
7
(It s houl d be
not ed, however, that nearly all lottery wi nners are still gl ad that t hey won. )
At t he ot her ext r eme, t he quadr i pl egi c t akes a huge ha ppi ne s s l os s up
front. He t hi nks hi s life i s over, and i t hurt s t o gi ve up everyt hi ng he o nc e
hoped for. But like t he lottery wi nner, hi s mi nd i s s ens i t i ve mor e t o c ha ng e s
t han t o abs ol ut e l evel s, so af t er a f ew mont hs he has be gun a da pt i ng t o hi s
new s i t uat i on a nd i s set t i ng mor e mode s t goal s. He di s cover s that phys i c a l
t herapy c a n expand hi s abi l i t i es. He has nowher e t o go but up, a nd e a c h
s t ep gi ves hi m t he pl eas ur e of t he pr ogr es s pri nci pl e. Th e phys i ci s t S t e p h e n
Ha wki ng ha s been t r a pped i n a shel l of a body s i nc e hi s earl y t we nt i e s ,
whe n he wa s di a gnos ed with mot or neur one di s eas e. Yet he went on t o s ol ve
maj or pr obl ems i n cosmol ogy, wi n ma ny pri zes, and wri te t he bes t - s el l i ng
s ci ence book of all t i me. Dur i ng a r ecent i ntervi ew in t he New York Times,
he was a s ke d how he keeps hi s spi ri t s up. He r epl i ed: " My e x pe c t a t i ons
wer e r e duc e d t o zero whe n I wa s t went y-one. Ever yt hi ng s i nc e t he n ha s
be e n a bonus . "
8
Thi s i s t he adapt at i on pri nci pl e at work: Peopl e' s j udg me nt s a bout t hei r
pr es ent s t at e are ba s e d on whet her i t i s bet t er or wor s e t han t he s t a t e t o
8 6 ' I ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
whi ch they have bec ome a c c us t omed.
9
Adapt at i on is, in part, j us t a property
of neur ons : Nerve cel l s r es pond vi gorousl y t o new st i mul i , but gradual l y
they " habi t uat e, " firing l es s to sti mul i that they have be c o me us e d to. It
i s change that cont ai ns vital i nformati on, not s t eady st at es. Hu ma n bei ngs,
however, take adapt at i on to cogni ti ve ext remes . We don' t j us t habi t uat e, we
recal i brate. We creat e for oursel ves a world of targets, and each t i me we hit
one we repl ace it with another. Af t er a stri ng of s uc c e s s e s we ai m hi gher; af-
ter a mas s i ve set back, s uch as a broken neck, we ai m lower. I ns t ead of fol-
lowing Buddhi st a nd St oi c advi ce t o surrender at t achment s and let event s
happen, we s urround oursel ves with goal s, hopes , and expect at i ons , and
then feel pl eas ure and pai n i n relation to our pr ogr es s .
1 0
Whe n we c ombi ne t he a da pt a t i on pr i nc i pl e wi t h t he di s cover y t hat
peopl e' s average level of happi nes s i s highly heri t abl e,
1 1
we c ome to a star-
tling possibility: In the l ong run, i t doesn' t muc h mat t er what ha ppe ns to
you. Good f ort une or bad, you will al ways ret urn to your happi nes s set-
poi nt your brai n' s def aul t l evel of ha p p i ne s s whi c h wa s de t e r mi ne d
l argel y by your genes . I n 1759, l ong bef or e a nyone knew a bout ge ne s ,
Ada m Smi t h reached the s a me concl us i on: %
In every permanent situation, where there is no expectati on of change,
the mind of every man, in a longer or shorter ti me, returns to its natural
and usual state of tranquility. In prosperity, after a certain time, it falls
back to that state; in adversity, after a certain ti me, it rises up to it.
12
If this i dea i s correct, then we are all s t uck on what has been cal l ed the
" hedoni c treadmi l l . "
1 3
On an exerci se t readmi l l you can i ncr eas e the s peed
all you want, but you stay i n the s a me pl ace. In l i fe, you can work as hard
as you want, and accumul at e all the ri ches, fruit t rees, and c onc ubi ne s you
want, but you can' t get ahead. Be c a us e you can' t c ha nge your "nat ural and
usual st at e of tranquility," the ri ches you a c c umul a t e will j us t rai se your ex-
pect at i ons and l eave you no better off than you were bef ore. Yet, not realiz-
i ng the futility of our ef f or t s , we cont i nue to stri ve, all the whi l e doi ng
things that hel p us win at the ga me of life. Al ways want i ng more t han we
have, we run and run and run, like hams t er s on a wheel .
The Pursuit of Ha-ppiness 9 i
A N E A R L Y H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
Buddha , Epi c t e t us , a nd ma ny ot her s a g e s s a w t he futi l i ty of t he rat r a c e
and ur ged pe opl e t o qui t . The y pr opos e d a par t i cul ar ha ppi ne s s hypot he s i s :
Happiness comes from within, and it cannot he found by making the world
conform to your desires. Buddhi s m t e a c he s t hat a t t a c hme nt l eads i nevi t abl y
t o s uf f er i ng a nd of f er s t ool s f or br eaki ng a t t a c hme nt s . T h e St oi c phi l os o-
pher s of Anci ent Gr e e c e , s uc h as Epi c t e t us , t aught thei r f ol l ower s t o f o c u s
onl y on what t hey c oul d f ul l y cont rol , whi c h me a nt pri mari l y t hei r own
t hought s a nd r eact i ons . All ot her e v e nt s t he gi f t s and c ur s e s of f o r t u n e
wer e ext er nal s , a nd t he t rue St oi c wa s una f f e c t e d by ext er nal s .
Nei t her Buddha nor t he St oi cs ur ged peopl e t o wi t hdr aw i nto a c a ve . I n
f act , bot h doct r i nes have s uch endur i ng a ppea l preci s el y b e c a u s e t hey of f er
g u i d a nc e on how t o f i nd p e a c e a nd ha p p i ne s s whi l e pa r t i c i pa t i ng i n a
t r eacher ous and ever - changi ng soci al worl d. Bot h doct r i nes are ba s e d on an
empi r i cal cl ai m, a ha ppi ne s s hypot hes i s that as s er t s that stri vi ng t o obt a i n
goods and goal s i n t he ext ernal worl d cannot bri ng you mor e t han mo me n -
tary ha ppi nes s . You mus t work on your i nternal worl d. If t he hypot hes i s i s
true, i t ha s pr of ound i mpl i cat i ons for how we s houl d live our l i ves, r ai s e our
chi l dren, and s pe nd our money. But i s i t t rue? It all de pe nds on wha t ki nd of
ext ernal s we are tal ki ng about .
The s e c ond bi gges t f i ndi ng i n ha ppi nes s r es ear ch, af t er t he s t r ong i nf l u-
e nc e of genes upon a person' s average level of -happi ness, i s that mo s t en-
vi ronment al a nd demogr aphi c f act ors i nf l uenc e ha ppi nes s very little. Tr y t o
i magi ne yoursel f changi ng pl aces with ei t her Bob or Mary. Bob i s thi rty-f i ve
years ol d, si ngl e, whi t e, attracti ve, a nd at hl et i c: He ear ns $ 1 0 0 , 0 0 0 a year
a nd lives i n s unny Sout he r n Cal i f or ni a. He i s hi ghl y i nt el l ect ual , a n d he
s pe nds hi s f r ee t i me readi ng and goi ng t o mu s e u ms . Mar y and her h u s b a n d
live i n s nowy Buf f al o, Ne w York, wher e t hey earn a c o mbi ne d i nc o me of
$ 4 0 , 0 0 0 . Mar y i s sixty-five years ol d, bl ack, overwei ght , a nd pl ai n i n a ppe a r -
ance. S he i s hi ghl y s oci abl e, and s he s pe nds her f r ee t i me mos t l y i n acti vi -
ti es rel at ed t o her chur ch. S he i s on di al ysi s for ki dney pr obl ems . Bob s e e ms
to have i t all, and f ew r eader s of this book woul d pr ef er Mary' s l i fe to hi s . Yet
i f you had to bet on it, you s houl d bet that Ma r y i s happi er t han Bob.
8 8 ' I ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
What Mary has that Bob lacks are strong connect i ons . A good marriage
i s one of the l i fe-factors most strongly and cons i s t ent l y as s oci at ed with
happi ness.
1 4
Part of this apparent benef i t c omes f rom "reverse correlation":
Happi nes s caus es marriage. Happy peopl e marry sooner and stay marri ed
longer than peopl e with a lower happi nes s setpoi nt, both becaus e they are
more appeal i ng as dating partners and becaus e they are easi er to live with
as s pous es .
1 5
But much of the apparent benef i t is a real and l asti ng benefi t
of dependabl e compani onshi p, which is a basi c need; we never fully adapt
either to it or to its abs ence.
1 6
Mary al so has religion, and religious peopl e
are happier, on average, than nonreligious peopl e.
1 7
Thi s ef f ect ari ses from
the social ties that come with parti ci pati on in a religious communi ty, as
well as from feeling connect ed to s omet hi ng beyond the self.
What Bob has going for him is a string of objective advantages in power,
status, freedom, health, and sunshi neal l of which are subj ect to the adapta-
tion principle. White Ameri cans are freed from many of the hassl es and indig-
nities that affect black Americans, yet, on average, they are only very slightly
happier.
18
Men have more freedom and power than women, yet they are not
on average any happier. (Women experience more depressi on, but also more
intense j oy).
19
The young have so much more to look forward to than the eld-
erly, yet ratings of life satisfaction actually rise slightly with age, up to age
sixty-five, and, in some studies, well beyond.
2 0
People are often surprised to
hear that the old are happier than the young becaus e the old have so many
more health probl ems, yet peopl e adapt to most chroni c health probl ems
such as Mary's
21
(although ailments that grow progressively worse do reduce
well-being, and a recent study finds that adaptati on to disability is not, on av-
erage, compl ete).
22
People who live in cold cl i mates expect peopl e who live
in California to be happier, but they are wrong.
23
People believe that attractive
people ate happier than unattractive peopl e,
2 4
but they, too, are wrong.
25
The one thing Bob does have going for hi m is wealth, but here the story
is compl i cated. The most widely reported concl usi on, from surveys done by
psychologist Ed Di ener,
26
is that within any given country, at the l owest end
of the i ncome scal e money does buy happi ness: Peopl e who worry every day
about paying for food and shelter report si gni fi cantl y l ess well-being than
those who don't. But once you are freed from basi c needs and have ent ered
The Pursuit of Ha-ppiness 9 i
t he mi ddl e cl as s , t he rel at i ons hi p bet ween weal t h and ha ppi ne s s b e c o me s
smal l er. The ri ch are happi er on aver age t han t he mi ddl e c l a s s , but onl y by
a little, a nd part of t hi s r el at i ons hi p i s r ever s e correl at i on: Ha p p y p e o p l e
grow ri ch f as t er be c a us e , as i n t he mar r i age mar ket , they are mor e a ppe a l -
i ng t o ot her s ( s uc h a s bo s s e s ) , a nd a l s o b e c a u s e t hei r f r e q ue nt pos i t i ve
emot i ons hel p t he m t o c ommi t t o pr oj ect s , t o wor k hard, a nd t o i nves t i n
t hei r f ut ur es .
2 7
Weal t h i tsel f ha s only a s mal l di rect e f f e c t on ha p p i ne s s be-
c a u s e i t s o ef f ect i vel y s pe e ds up t he he doni c t readmi l l . For e x a mpl e , as t he
level of weal t h has doubl ed or tri pl ed i n t he l ast fi fty year s i n ma ny i ndus -
t ri al i zed na t i ons , t he l evel s of ha p p i ne s s a nd s a t i s f a c t i on wi t h l i f e t ha t
pe opl e report have not c ha nged, and depr es s i on has act ual l y b e c o me mo r e
c o mmo n.
2 8
Vast i ncr eas es i n gross dome s t i c pr oduct l ed t o i mp r o v e me nt s
i n t he c omf or t s of l i f e a l arger home , mor e car s , t el evi s i ons , a nd r es t a u-
rant meal s , bet t er heal t h and l onger l i f e but t hes e i mpr ove me nt s b e c a me
t he nor mal condi t i ons of l i fe; all wer e a da pt e d t o a nd t aken f or gr a nt e d, s o
t hey di d not ma ke peopl e f eel any happi er or mor e s at i s f i ed.
Th e s e f i ndi ngs woul d have pl ea s ed Bu d d ha and Ep i c t e t us i f , t hat i s,
t hey f ound pl e a s ur e i n s uc h ext ernal event s as bei ng pr oved ri ght . As i n
t hei r day, pe opl e t oday devot e t hems el ves t o t he pur s ui t of goal s t ha t won' t
ma ke t hem happi er, i n t he pr oc e s s negl ect i ng t he sort of i nner gr owt h a nd
spi ri t ual de ve l opme nt t hat coul d bri ng l as t i ng s at i s f act i on. On e of t he mo s t
cons i s t ent l e s s ons t he anci ent s a ges t ea ch i s t o let go, s t op s t ri vi ng, a nd
c ho o s e a new pat h. Tur n i nwar ds , or t owar d Go d , but f or God' s s a k e s t op
t ryi ng to ma k e t he worl d c onf or m to your wi l l . T h e Bhagavad Gita i s a
Hi ndu t reat i s e on nona t t a c hme nt . I n a s ect i on on " huma n devi l s , " t he god
Kr i s hna de s c r i be s humani t y' s l ower nat ur e a nd t he peopl e who gi ve i n t o it:
" Bo und by hundr e ds of f et t er s f or ged by hope, o bs e s s e d by a nge r a nd de-
si re, they s e e k t o bui l d up weal t h unj us t l y t o s at i s f y t hei r l us t s . "
2 9
Kr i s hna
t hen par odi es t he t hi nki ng of s uc h a devi l :
Thi s have I gai ned today, this whi m I'll sati sf y; this weal t h is mi ne and
muc h more too will be mi ne as ti me goes on. He was an enemy of mi ne,
I've killed hi m, and many another too I'll kill. I' m mas t er here. I t ake my
pl eas ure as I will. I'm strong and happy and s ucces s f ul .
9 0 ' I ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
Subs t i t ut e " def eat " for "kill" and you have a pretty good des cri pt i on of
the modern West ern i deal , at least i n s o me corners of the bus i nes s world.
So even i f Bob were j us t as happy as Mary, i f he has an arrogant , enti tl ed
at t i t ude and treats peopl e badly, his life woul d still be spi ri tual l y and aes-
thetically worse.
T H E H A P P I N E S S F O R M U L A
In the 1990s , the two big f i ndi ngs of happi nes s research ( st rong rel ati on to
genes , weak rel ati on t o envi r onment ) hit t he ps ychol ogi cal c ommuni t y
hard, bec a us e they appl i ed not j us t t o happi nes s but t o mos t as pect s of
personality. Psychol ogi st s s i nce Freud had shared a nearly rel i gi ous devo-
tion to the i dea that personal i t y is s ha ped primarily by chi l dhood environ-
ment . Thi s axi om was taken on faith: The evi dence for i t cons i s t ed al mos t
enti rel y of cor r el at i ons us ual l y smal l o ne s be t we e n what par ent s di d
and how their chi l dren t urned out, and anyone who s ugges t ed that t hes e
correl ati ons were c a us e d by genes was di s mi s s ed as a reduct i oni st . But as
twin s t udi es reveal ed the a we s ome r each of genes and the rel ati ve uni m-
port ance of the f ami l y envi ronment that si bl i ngs s har e,
3 0
the anci ent hap-
pi nes s hypot hesi s grew ever more pl aus i bl e. Ma ybe t here really i s a set
poi nt
3 1
fixed into every brai n, like a t her mos t at set forever to 58 degrees
Fahrenhei t (for depr es s i ves ) or 75 degr ees (for happy peopl e) ? Ma ybe the
only way to find happi nes s t heref ore i s to change one' s own i nternal set t i ng
(for exampl e, t hrough medi t at i on, Prozac, or cogni ti ve t herapy) i ns t ead of
changi ng one' s envi ronment ?
As psychol ogi st s wres t l ed with -these i deas , however, and as bi ol ogi sts
worked out the first sket ch of the human genome, a more sophi st i cat ed un-
derstandi ng of nature and nurture began to emerge. \fes, genes explain far
more about us than anyone had realized, but the genes t hemsel ves of ten turn
out to be sensitive to envi ronmental condi t i ons .
3 2
And yes, each person has a
characteristic level of happi nes s , but it now looks as though it's not so much
a set point as a potential range or probability distribution. Whet her you oper-
ate on the high or the low si de of your potenti al range is det ermi ned by many
f actors that Buddha and Epi ct et us woul d have consi dered external s.
The Pursuit of Ha-ppiness 9 I
Whe n Mar t i n Se l i gma n f ounde d pos i t i ve ps ychol ogy i n t he l at e 1 9 9 0 s ,
o ne of hi s f i rst mo v e s wa s t o br i ng t oget her s ma l l g r o ups of e x p e r t s t o
t ackl e s peci f i c pr obl ems . On e gr oup wa s cr eat ed t o s t udy t he ext er nal s t hat
mat t er f or ha ppi ne s s . Thr e e ps ychol ogi s t s , Sonj a Lyubomi rs ky, Ke n She l -
don, a nd Davi d S c hka de , revi ewed t he avai l abl e evi denc e a nd r eal i zed t hat
t here ar e t wo f unda ment a l l y di f f er ent ki nds of ext ernal s : t he conditions of
your l i fe a nd t he voluntary activities t hat you unde r t a ke .
3 3
Co nd i t i o ns in-
c l ude f act s a bout your l i fe t hat you can' t c ha ng e ( r ace, sex, age, di s abi l i t y)
as well as t hi ngs t hat you c a n ( weal t h, mari t al s t at us , wher e you l i ve). Co n -
di t i ons are c ons t a nt over t i me, at l eas t dur i ng a per i od i n your l i f e, a nd so
t hey ar e t he s ort s of t hi ngs t hat you ar e likely t o a da pt to. Vol unt ar y act i vi -
ti es, on t he ot her hand, are t he t hi ngs that you choose t o do, s uc h as me di -
t at i on, exer ci s e, l ear ni ng a ne w ski ll, or t aki ng a vacat i on. B e c a u s e s u c h
act i vi t i es mus t be c hos e n, a nd be c a us e mos t of t hem t ake ef f or t a nd at t en-
ti on, t hey can' t j us t di s a ppea r f r om your a wa r e ne s s t he way c ondi t i ons c a n.
Vol unt ary act i vi t i es , t her ef or e, of f er mu c h gr eat er pr omi s e f or i nc r e a s i ng
ha ppi ne s s whi l e avoi di ng adapt at i on e f f e c t s .
One of t he mos t i mport ant i deas i n pos i t i ve ps ychol ogy i s wha t Lyubo-
mirsky, She l don, S c hka de , and Se l i gma n call t he " ha ppi ne s s f o r mul a : "
H = S + C + V
The level of ha ppi ne s s t hat you act ual l y exper i enc e ( H) i s de t e r mi ne d by
your bi ol ogi cal s et poi nt ( S ) pl us t he condi t i ons of your l i f e ( C) p l us t he
vol unt ary act i vi t i es (V) you do.
3 4
T h e chal l enge f or pos i t i ve ps yc hol ogy i s t o
us e t he s ci ent i f i c me t hod t o f i nd out exact l y what ki nds of C a nd V c a n
pus h H up t o t he t op of your pot ent i al range. Th e ext r eme bi ol ogi cal ver-
si on of t he ha ppi ne s s hypot hes i s s ays t hat H = S, a nd that C a nd V don' t
mat t er. But we have t o gi ve Buddha a nd Epi c t e t us cr edi t for V b e c a u s e
Bu d d ha pr es c r i bed t he " ei ght f ol d nobl e pa t h" ( i ncl udi ng me di t a t i on a nd
mi ndf ul ne s s ) , a nd Epi c t e t us ur ged me t ho ds of t hought t o cul t i vat e i ndi f -
f er enc e (apatheia) t o ext ernal s . So t o t es t t he wi s dom of t he s a g e s pr oper l y
we mus t e xa mi ne thi s hypot hes i s : H = S + V, wher e V = vol unt ar y or i nt en-
ti onal act i vi t i es t hat cul t i vat e a c c e p t a nc e a nd we a ke n e mot i ona l a t t a c h-
me nt s . I f t her e ar e ma ny c ondi t i ons ( C) t hat mat t er , a nd i f t he r e a r e a
9 2 ' I ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
variety of voluntary acti vi ti es beyond t hos e a i me d at nonat t achment , then
t he happi nes s hypot hesi s of Buddha and Epi c t e t us i s wrong and peopl e
woul d be poorly advi sed si mpl y to look wi thi n.
It turns out that there really are s ome ext ernal condi t i ons ( C) t hat mat-
ter. Ther e are s ome changes you can make i n your life that are not fully
s ubj ect to the adapt at i on pri nci pl e, and that mi ght ma ke you lastingly hap-
pier. It may be worth stri vi ng to achi eve t hem.
Noise. Whe n I' l i ved in Phi l adel phi a, I l ear ned a val uabl e l es s on about
real es t at e: If you mus t buy a hous e on a bus y s t reet , don' t buy one wi thi n
thirty yards of a traffi c light. Every ni nety-fi ve s e c onds I had to l i st en to
f ort y-t wo s e c o nds of s ever al peopl e' s mu s i c a l s el ec t i ons f ol l owed by
twel ve s econds of engi nes revving, with an i mpat i ent honk t hrown i n once
every f i f t een cycl es. I never got us ed to it, a nd when my wi f e a nd I were
l ooki ng for a hous e in Charl ot t esvi l l e, I tol d our agent that if a Vi ctori an
mans i on were bei ng gi ven away on a bus y s t r eet , I woul d not t ake it. Re-
s earch s hows that peopl e who mus t adapt t o new and chroni c s our c es of
noi se ( s uch as when a new hi ghway i s bui l t ) never ful l y adapt , a nd even
s t udi es that f i nd s ome adapt at i on still f i nd e vi de nc e of i mpa i r me nt on
cogni ti ve t asks. Noi s e, es peci al l y noi s e that i s vari abl e or i nt ermi t t ent , in-
t erf eres with concent rat i on and i ncreas es s t r es s .
3 5
It' s. worth stri vi ng to re-
move s our ces of noi s e i n your l i fe.
Commuting. Many peopl e choos e to move f art her away f rom thei r j obs i n
search of a larger hous e. But al t hough peopl e qui ckl y adapt to havi ng more
s pa c e,
3 6
they don' t fully adapt to the l onger c ommut e , parti cul arl y if it in-
vol ves dri vi ng i n heavy t r af f i c.
3 7
Even af t er yea r s of c o mmut i ng , t hos e
whos e c ommut e s are traffi c-fi l l ed still arrive at work with hi gher l evel s of
s t res s hormones . (Dri vi ng under ideal condi t i ons is, however, of t en enj oy-
abl e and rel axi ng. )
3 8
It's worth striving to i mprove your c ommut e .
Lack of control. One of the active i ngredi ent s of noi se and traf f i c, the as-
pect that hel ps them get under your ski n, i s t hat you can' t control t hem. In
one cl assi c study, Davi d Gl as s and J er ome Si nger expos ed peopl e t o loud
bursts of random noi se. Subj ect s i n one gr oup were told they coul d termi-
The Pursuit of Ha-ppiness 9 i
nat e t he noi s e by pr es s i ng a but t on, but they wer e a s ked not t o p r e s s t he
but t on unl es s i t wa s abs ol ut el y neces s ary. No n e of t hes e s ubj e c t s pr e s s e d
t he but t on, yet t he bel i ef that they ha d s o me f or m of cont rol ma d e t he noi s e
l es s di s t r es s i ng t o t hem. I n t he s ec ond part of t he exper i ment , t he s ubj e c t s
who t hought t hey had cont rol wer e mor e per s i s t ent whe n worki ng on di ffi -
cul t puzzl es , but t he s ubj ect s who ha d exper i enced noi s e wi t hout cont r ol
gave up mor e easi l y.
3 9
I n anot her f a mo u s study, El l en La ng e r and J udi t h Rodi n gave be ne f i t s t o
r es i dent s on t wo f l oor s of a nur s i ng h o me f o r e x a mpl e , pl a nt s i n t hei r
r ooms , and a movi e s c r eeni ng one ni ght a week. But on o ne fl oor, t he s e
benef i t s c a me wi th a s ens e of control : Th e r es i dent s wer e al l owed t o c ho o s e
whi ch pl ant s t hey wa nt ed, a nd they wer e r es pons i bl e f or wa t er i ng t he m.
The y wer e al l owed t o c hoos e as a gr oup whi ch ni ght woul d be movi e ni ght .
On t he ot her floor, t he s a me benef i t s wer e s i mpl y dol ed out : T h e nur s e s
c ho s e t he pl ant s a nd wat er ed t hem; t he nur s e s de c i de d whi ch ni ght wa s
movi e ni ght . Thi s s mal l ma ni pul a t i on ha d bi g e f f e c t s : On t he f l oor wi t h
i ncr eas ed cont rol , r es i dent s were happi er, mor e acti ve, a nd mor e al ert ( as
rat ed by t he nur s es , not j us t by t he r es i dent s ) , a nd t hes e benef i t s we r e still
vi s i bl e e i ght e e n mo nt hs l ater. Mo s t amazi ngl y, a t t he e i g ht e e n- mo nt h
f ol l ow-up, r es i dent s of t he fl oor gi ven cont rol had bet t er heal t h a nd hal f as
many deat hs ( 15 per cent ver s us 30 per c ent ) .
4 0
I n a revi ew pa pe r t hat Rodi n
and I wrot e, we c onc l ude d that c ha ngi ng an i nsti tuti on' s e nvi r onme nt t o in-
c r ea s e t he s e ns e of control a mo ng its workers , s t udent s , pat i ent s , or ot her
us er s wa s one of t he mos t ef f ect i ve pos s i bl e ways t o i nc r ea s e t hei r s e ns e of
enga gement , energy, and happi nes s .
4 1
Shame. -Overall, at t ract i ve peopl e ar e not happi er t han unat t r act i ve ones .
Yet, surpri si ngl y, s o me i mpr ovement s i n a per s on' s a p p e a r a nc e do l ead t o
l ast i ng i ncr eas es i n ha ppi nes s .
4 2
Peopl e who under go pl as t i c s urgery report
(on average) hi gh l evel s of s at i s f act i on wi th t he pr oces s , a nd t hey even re-
port i ncr eas es i n t he qual i t y of their l i ves a nd de c r e a s e s i n ps ychi at r i c s ymp-
t oms ( s uch as depr es s i on a nd anxi ety) i n t he years af t er t he oper at i on. Th e
bi ggest gai ns wer e report ed for breas t surgery, both e nl a r ge me nt a nd r educ-
ti on. I thi nk t he way t o under s t and t he l ong-l ast i ng e f f e c t s of s uc h s e e m-
ingly s hal l ow c ha ng e s i s t o thi nk about t he power of s ha me i n ever yday life.
9 4 ' I ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
Young women whos e breast s are muc h larger or smal l er than thei r ideal of-
ten report f eel i ng s el f - cons ci ous nes s every day about their bodi es. Ma ny ad-
j us t their post ure or their wardrobe in an at t empt to hi de what they s ee as a
personal deficiency. Bei ng f reed f rom s uch a daily burden may l ead to a last-
ing i ncrease i n sel f -conf i dence and wel l -bei ng.
Relationships. The condi t i on that is usual l y s ai d
4 3
to t r ump all ot hers iri
i mport ance i s t he strength and number of a person' s rel at i onshi ps. Good
rel ati onshi ps make peopl e happy, and happy pe opl e enj oy more and better
rel ati onshi ps than unhappy peopl e.
4 4
Thi s ef f ect i s so i mport ant and inter-
es t i ng that i t get s its own c ha pt er t he next one. For now, I'll j us t ment i on
that conf l i ct s i n r el at i ons hi ps havi ng an annoyi ng of f i ce ma t e or room-
mat e, or havi ng chroni c conf l i ct wi th your s p o us e i s one of t he surest
ways to r educe your happi nes s . You never a da pt to i nt erpersonal conf l i ct ;
4 5
i t damages every day, even days when you don' t s ee the ot her pers on but
rumi nat e about t he conf l i ct nonet hel es s .
Ther e are many other ways i n whi ch you can i ncr eas e your happi nes s by
getti ng the condi t i ons of your life right, parti cul arl y in rel at i onshi ps, work,
and the degree of control you have over s t res s ors . So i n the happi nes s for-
mul a, C i s real and s ome external s matter. S o me thi ngs are worth striving
for, and posi ti ve ps ychol ogy can hel p i dent i f y t hem. Of c our s e, Buddha
woul d adapt fully to noi se, traffi c, l ack of control and bodi l y def i ci enci es ,
but i t has al ways been di f f i cul t , even i n anci ent Indi a, for real peopl e to be-
c ome like Buddha. In the modern Wes t ern worl d, i t i s even har der to fol-
low Buddha' s pat h of nondoi ng and nonst ri vi ng. S o me of our poe t s and
writers i n f act urge us t o f ors wear that pat h a nd e mbr a c e act i on whol e-
heartedly: "It i s vain to say that huma n bei ngs ought to be s at i s f i ed with
tranquility: they mus t have acti on; and they will ma ke it if they cannot find
it. " ( C H A R L O T T E B R O N T E , 1847)
4 6
F I N D I N G F L O W
Not all acti on, however, will work. Cha s i ng af t er weal th and prest i ge, for
exampl e, will usual l y backf i re. Peopl e who report t he great est i nt erest i n
The Pursuit of Ha-ppiness 9 i
at t ai ni ng money, f a me , or beaut y ar e cons i s t ent l y f ound t o be l e s s happy,
a nd even l es s healthy, t han t hos e who pur s ue l es s mat eri al i s t i c goa l s .
4 7
So
what i s t he right ki nd of acti vi ty? Wha t i s V i n t he ha ppi ne s s f o r mul a ?
The tool that hel ped ps ychol ogi s t s a ns wer that ques t i on i s t he " experi -
e nc e s ampl i ng me t hod, " i nvent ed by Mi hal yi Cs i ks zent mi hal yi ( pr onounc e d
" c heeks sent me hi gh"), t he Hungar i an- bor n c of ounde r of pos i t i ve ps ychol -
ogy. I n Cs i ks zent mi hal yi ' s s t udi e s ,
4 8
pe opl e carry wi th t he m a pa g e r t hat
be e ps several t i mes a day. At ea c h beep, t he s ubj ect pul l s out a s mal l not e-
book a nd records what s he i s doi ng at that mome nt , and how mu c h s he i s
enj oyi ng it. Thr ough this " beepi ng" of t hous a nds of pe opl e t ens of t hous a nds
of t i mes , Cs i ks zent mi hal yi f ound out what pe opl e really enj oy doi ng, not j us t
what they remember havi ng enj oyed. He di s cover ed that t here ar e t wo di f f er-
ent ki nds of enj oyment . On e i s physi cal or bodily pl eas ur e. At me a l t i mes ,
peopl e report t he hi ghes t l evel s of happi nes s , on average. Peopl e real l y enj oy
eat i ng, es peci al l y i n t he c ompa ny of ot hers , a nd t hey hat e t o be i nt er r upt ed
by t el ephone cal l s ( and per ha ps Cs i ks zent mi hal yi ' s be e ps ) dur i ng me a l s , or
( worst of all) dur i ng sex. But you can' t enj oy physi cal pl e a s ur e all day l ong.
By their very nat ure, f ood a nd sex sat i at e. To cont i nue eat i ng or havi ng sex
beyond a cert ai n level of s at i s f act i on c a n l ead to di s gus t .
4 9
Cs i ks z e nt mi ha l yi ' s bi g di s cover y i s t hat t her e i s a s t a t e ma n y p e o p l e
va l ue even mor e t han c hoc ol a t e af t er sex. I t i s t he s t at e of total i mme r s i on
i n a t as k t hat i s chal l engi ng yet cl os el y ma t c he d to one' s abi l i t i es . It i s wha t
pe opl e s o me t i me s cal l " bei ng i n t he z one. " Cs i ks zent mi hal yi c a l l ed i t " f l ow"
b e c a u s e i t of t en f eel s l i ke ef f or t l es s move me nt : Fl ow ha ppe ns , a nd you go
wi th it. Fl ow of t en oc c ur s dur i ng phys i cal move me nt s ki i ng , dr i vi ng f as t
on a curvy count r y r oad, or pl ayi ng t e a m s por t s . Fl ow i s a i de d by mu s i c or
by t he act i on of ot her peopl e, bot h of whi ch provi de a t empor a l s t r uc t ur e
for one' s own behavi or (f or exa mpl e, s i ngi ng i n a choi r, da nc i ng, or j us t hav-
i ng an i nt e ns e conver s at i on wi th a f r i end) . And f l ow c a n ha p p e n dur i ng
sol i tary creat i ve act i vi t i es , s uc h as pai nt i ng, wri ti ng, or phot ogr aphy. Th e
keys t o f l ow: Ther e' s a cl ear c ha l l enge t hat f ul l y e ng a g e s your a t t ent i on;
you have t he ski l l s t o meet t he chal l enge; a nd you get i mme d i a t e f e e d b a c k
a bout how you ar e doi ng at e a c h s t ep ( t he pr ogr es s pr i nci pl e) . You get f l as h
af t er f l as h of pos i t i ve f eel i ng wi th ea c h t urn negot i at ed, ea c h hi gh not e cor-
rectl y s ung, or e a c h br us hs t r oke t hat f al l s i nt o t he ri ght pl a c e . I n t he f l ow
9 6 ' I ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
experi ence, el ephant and rider are i n per f ect harmony. The el ephant (auto-
mat i c pr oces s es ) i s doi ng mos t of t he work, r unni ng s moot hl y t hrough the
f orest , whi l e the ri der ( cons ci ous t hought ) i s compl et el y abs or bed i n look-
ing out for pr obl ems and opport uni t i es, hel pi ng wherever he can.
Drawi ng on Csiksz. entmihalyi' s work, Sel i gma n pr opos es a f undament al
di st i nct i on bet ween pl eas ur es and gr at i f i cat i ons . Pl eas ur es are " del i ght s
that have cl ear sensory and strong emot i onal c ompone nt s , "
5 0
s uch as may
be derived f rom f ood, sex, backr ubs , and cool breezes . Grat i f i cat i ons are
acti vi ti es that engage you fully, draw on your s t rengt hs , and al l ow you to
l ose s el f - cons ci ous nes s . Grat i f i cat i ons can l ead t o flow. Sel i gman pr opos es
that V (voluntary acti vi ti es) is largely a mat t er of arrangi ng your day and
your envi ronment t o i ncr eas e both pl eas ur es and grat i f i cat i ons. Pl eas ur es
mus t be s paced to mai nt ai n their potency. Eat i ng a quart of i ce cr eam i n
an af t ernoon or l i steni ng to a new CD ten t i mes i n a row are good ways
t o overdose and deaden yoursel f t o f ut ur e pl eas ur e. Here' s wher e t he rider
has an i mport ant role to play: Be c a us e the el ephant has a t endency to over-
i ndul ge, t he rider needs to encour age i t to get up and move on to anot her
activity.
Pl easures shoul d be bot h savored and vari ed. The French know how t o
do this: They eat many fatty f oods , yet they end up thi nner and heal thi er
than Ameri cans, and they deri ve a great deal mor e pl eas ur e f rom their f ood
by eati ng slowly and payi ng more attenti on to t he f ood as they eat it.
51
Be-
c a us e they savor, they ul ti matel y eat l es s . Amer i c a ns , i n cont r as t , shovel
enormous servings of high-fat and hi gh-carbohydrat e food into their mout hs
whi l e doi ng other thi ngs. The Fr ench al s o vary their pl eas ur e by servi ng
many small cours es ; Ameri cans are s e duc e d by rest aurant s that serve large
portions. Variety is the s pi ce of life be c a us e it is t he natural enemy of adap-
tation. Super-si zi ng porti ons, on the other hand, maxi mi zes adapt at i on. Epi -
curus , one of the f ew anci ent phi l os ophers t o e mbr a c e s ens ual pl eas ure,
endorsed the French way when he sai d that the wi s e man " choos es not the
greatest quanti ty of f ood but the mos t tasty. "
52
One reason for the wi des pread phi l os ophi cal wari ness of s ens ual pl ea-
s ure is that it gives no l asti ng benef i t. Pl eas ur e f eel s good in t he moment ,
but sensual memori es f ade quickly, and t he per s on i s no wi ser or stronger
The Pursuit of Ha-ppiness 9 i
af t er war ds . Eve n wor s e, pl eas ur e beckons pe opl e back f or mor e, a wa y f r om
acti vi ti es that mi ght be bet t er for t hem i n t he l ong run. But gr at i f i cat i ons
are di f f erent . Gr at i f i cat i ons a s k mor e of us ; they chal l enge us a nd ma k e us
ext end ours el ves . Gr at i f i cat i ons of t en c o me f r om a c c ompl i s hi ng s ome t hi ng ,
l earni ng s omet hi ng, or i mpr ovi ng s omet hi ng. Wh e n we ent er a s t a t e of flow,
hard work be c ome s ef f ort l es s . We want t o ke e p exert i ng our s el ves , honi ng
our ski l l s, us i ng our s t r engt hs . Se l i gma n s ug g e s t s t hat t he key t o f i ndi ng
your own grat i f i cat i ons i s t o know your own s t r engt hs .
5 3
On e of t he bi g ac-
c ompl i s hme nt s of pos i t i ve ps ychol ogy has be e n t he de ve l opme nt of a cat a-
l og of s t rengt hs . \ o u c a n f i nd out your s t r engt hs by t aki ng an onl i ne t es t at
www. aut hent i chappi nes s . or g.
Recent l y I a s ke d t he 3 5 0 s t udent s i n my i nt roduct ory ps ychol ogy c l a s s
t o t ake t he s t r engt hs t est a nd t hen, a we e k later, t o e ng a g e i n f our act i vi t i es
over a f e w days . On e of t he act i vi t i es wa s t o i ndul ge t he s e ns e s , as by tak-
i ng a br eak f or i ce c r e a m i n t he mi ddl e of t he af t er noon, a nd t hen s a vor i ng
t he i ce c r e a m. Thi s acti vi ty wa s t he mos t enj oyabl e at t he t i me; but , l i ke all
pl ea s ur es , i t f a de d qui ckl y. Th e ot her t hr ee act i vi t i es we r e pot ent i al grat i f i -
cat i ons : At t end a l ect ur e or cl as s t hat you don' t normal l y go to; p e r f o r m an
act of ki ndne s s f or a f r i end who c oul d us e s o me c he e r i ng up; a n d wr i t e
down t he r ea s ons you ar e grat ef ul t o s o me o ne a nd l at er cal l or vi s i t that
per s on t o expr es s your grat i t ude. Th e l eas t enj oyabl e of t he f our act i vi t i es
wa s goi ng t o a l ect ur e except for t hos e who s e s t r engt hs i nc l uded cur i os -
ity a nd l ove of l earni ng. The y got a lot mor e out of it. T h e bi g f i ndi ng was
t hat pe o pl e e xpe r i e nc e d l onger - l as t i ng i mpr o v e me nt s i n mo o d f r o m t he
ki ndnes s and gr at i t ude act i vi t i es t han f r om t hos e i n whi ch t hey i ndul g e d
t hems el ves . Eve n t hough peopl e wer e mos t ner vous a bout doi ng t he ki nd-
ne s s a nd gr at i t ude act i vi t i es, whi ch r equi r ed t hem t o vi ol at e s oci al nor ms
a nd ri sk e mba r r a s s me nt , o nc e t hey act ual l y di d t he act i vi t i es t hey f el t bet -
ter f or t he rest of t he day. Ma ny s t udent s even s ai d thei r good f e e l i ng s con-
t i nued on i nt o t he next da ywhi c h nobody s ai d a bout eat i ng i ce c r e a m.
Fur t he r mo r e , t he s e be ne f i t s we r e mo s t p r o n o u n c e d f or t hos e wh o s e
s t r engt hs i ncl uded ki ndnes s a nd gr at i t ude.
So V ( vol unt ary acti vi ty) i s real , a nd it's not j us t about d e t a c hme nt . You
c a n i ncr eas e your ha ppi ne s s i f you us e your s t r engt hs , part i cul arl y i n t he
9 8 ' I ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
s er vi ce of s t r engt heni ng c o nne c t i o ns he l p i ng f r i e nds , e xpr e s s i ng grati -
t ude t o benef act or s . Per f or mi ng a r andom act of ki ndnes s every day coul d
get t edi ous , but i f you know your s t r engt hs a nd dr aw up a list of f i ve activi-
ti es that engage t hem, you c a n surel y a dd at l eas t one grat i f i cat i on t o every
day. St udi es that have as s i gned peopl e t o pe r f or m a r a ndom act of ki ndne s s
every week, or t o count thei r bl es s i ngs r egul ar l y f or s ever al we e ks , f i nd
s mal l but s us t ai ned i ncr eas es i n ha ppi ne s s .
5 4
So t ake t he i ni ti ati ve! Cho o s e
your own grat i f yi ng acti vi ti es, do t hem regul arl y ( but not t o t he poi nt of te-
di um) , a nd rai s e your overall level of ha ppi ne s s .
M I S G U I D E D P U R S U I T S
An axi om of economi cs i s that peopl e pur s ue their i nt erest s mor e or l ess ra-
tionally, and that' s what makes market s wor kAda m Smi t h' s "i nvi si bl e hand"
of sel f-i nterest. But i n the 1980s , a f ew ec onomi s t s began s t udyi ng psychol -
ogy and mes s i ng up t he prevailing model s . Lea di ng t he way was t he Cornel l
economi s t Robert Frank, whos e 1987 book Passions Within Reason anal yzed
s ome of the things peopl e do that j us t don' t fit into e c onomi c model s of pur e
s el f - i nt er es t s uch as ti ppi ng i n r es t aur ant s when f ar f r om home , s eeki ng
costl y revenge, and stayi ng loyal to f ri ends and s pous e s when bet t er opport u-
ni ti es c o me al ong. Frank argued that t he s e behavi or s ma k e s e ns e onl y as
product s of moral emot i ons ( s uch as love, s ha me , vengeance, or gui l t), and
t hes e moral emot i ons ma ke s ens e only as pr oduct s of evol uti on. Evol ut i on
s e e ms t o have ma de us "strategically i rrati onal " at t i mes for our own good;
for exampl e, a per s on who get s angry when c he a t e d, and who will pur s ue
vengeance regardl ess of the cost , earns a reput at i on that di s cour ages woul d-
be cheat ers . A person who pur s ued vengeance only when t he benef i t s out-
wei ghed the cos t s coul d be cheat ed with i mpuni t y i n many si t uat i ons.
In hi s mor e r ecent book, Luxury Fever,
55
Fr ank us e d t he s a me a ppr oa c h
t o under s t and anot her kind of i rrati onal i ty: t he vi gor wi th whi ch pe opl e
pur s ue ma ny goal s that work agai ns t t hei r own ha ppi ne s s . Fr a nk begi ns
with t he ques t i on of why, as nat i ons ri s e i n weal t h, thei r ci t i zens b e c o me
no happi er, and he cons i der s t he pos s i bi l i t y t hat onc e bas i c ne e ds are met ,
The Pursuit of Ha-ppiness 9 i
mone y s i mpl y c a nnot buy addi t i onal ha ppi ne s s . Af t er a c a r ef ul r evi ew of
t he evi dence, however, Fr ank c onc l ude s t hat t hos e who t hi nk mo ne y can' t
buy ha ppi ne s s j us t don' t know wher e t o s hop. S o me p ur c ha s e s ar e mu c h
l es s s ubj ec t t o t he adapt at i on pri nci pl e. Fr ank wa nt s t o know why pe opl e
ar e s o devot ed t o s pe ndi ng mone y on l uxuri es a nd ot her goods , t o whi c h
t hey a da pt compl et el y, rat her t han on t hi ngs t hat woul d ma ke t he m l ast-
ingly happi er. For exa mpl e, pe opl e woul d be happi er a nd heal t hi er i f t hey
t ook mor e t i me of f a nd " s pe nt " i t wi th thei r f ami l y a nd f r i ends , yet Ame r i c a
has l ong be e n he a di ng i n t he oppos i t e di rect i on. Peopl e woul d be ha ppi e r
i f they r e duc e d t hei r c o mmut i ng t i me, even i f i t me a nt l i vi ng i n s ma l l e r
hous e s , yet Ame r i c a n t r ends ar e t oward ever l arger hous e s a nd ever l onger
c o mmut e s . Peopl e woul d be happi er and heal t hi er i f t hey t ook l onger vaca-
t i ons , even i f that me a nt ear ni ng l es s , yet vacat i on t i mes ar e s hr i nki ng i n
t he Uni t ed St a t e s , a nd i n Eur o p e as wel l . Peopl e woul d be happi er , a nd
i n t he l ong run weal t hi er, i f t hey bought bas i c, f unct i onal a ppl i a nc e s , aut o-
mobi l es , a nd wr i s t wat ches , and i nves t ed t he mone y t hey s aved f or f ut ur e
c o ns umpt i o n; yet , Ame r i c a ns i n par t i cul ar s p e nd a l mos t ever yt hi ng t hey
ha v e a nd s ome t i me s mo r e o n goods f or pr es ent c ons umpt i on, of t e n pay-
i ng a l arge pr e mi um for des i gner na me s a nd s upe r f l uous f eat ur es .
Frank' s expl anat i on i s s i mpl e: Co ns p i c uo us a nd i nc ons pi c uous c o n s u mp -
tion f ol l ow di f f er ent ps ychol ogi cal rul es. Co ns p i c uo us c o ns umpt i o n r ef er s
t o t hi ngs that are vi si bl e t o ot hers a nd that ar e t aken as mar ker s of a per s on' s
rel ati ve s uc c e s s . Th e s e goods are s ubj ect t o a ki nd of a r ms race, whe r e t hei r
val ue c o me s not s o muc h f r om their obj ect i ve pr oper t i es as f r om t he s t at e-
me nt they ma k e about thei r owner. Whe n everyone wor e Ti me x wa t c he s ,
t he first per s on i n t he of f i ce buy a Rol ex s t ood out . Wh e n ever yone moved
up to Rol ex, i t t ook a $ 2 0 , 0 0 0 Pat ek Phi l i p to achi eve hi gh s t a t us , a nd a
Rol ex no l onger gave a s mu c h s at i s f act i on. Co n s p i c u o u s c o ns u mp t i o n i s
a zer o- s um g a me : Ea c h pers on' s move up deval ues t he pos s e s s i ons of ot h-
ers. Fur t her mor e, it's di f f i cul t t o pe r s ua de an ent i re gr oup or s ubc ul t ur e t o
rat chet down, even t hough everyone woul d be bet t er of f , on aver age, i f t hey
all went ba c k t o s i mpl e wat ches . I nc ons pi c uous c ons umpt i on, on t he ot her
hand, ref ers t o goods and acti vi ti es that ar e val ued for t hems el ves , t hat are
usual l y c o ns ume d mor e privately, and that are not bought for t he p ur p o s e of
100 ' I ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
achi evi ng st at us. Bec a us e Amer i cans , at l east , gai n no prest i ge f rom taki ng
the longest vacat i ons or having the shortest c ommut e s , t hes e i ncons pi cuous
cons umabl es are not subj ect to an ar ms race.
J us t try this thought experi ment . Whi c h j ob woul d you rat her have: one
i n whi ch you earned $90, 000 a year and your coworkers ear ned on average
$70, 000, or one i n whi ch you ear ned $ 1 0 0 , 0 0 0 but your coworkers earned
on average $ 1 5 0 , 0 0 0 ? Many peopl e c hoos e t he first j ob, t hereby reveal i ng
that relative posi ti on i s worth at l east $ 1 0 , 0 0 0 to t hem. No w try this one:
Woul d you rather work for a c ompa ny that gave you two weeks of vacati on
a year, but ot her empl oyees were given, on average, only one; or woul d you
pref er a company that gave you f our weeks of vacat i on a year, but other
empl oyees were given, on average, six? The great maj ori ty of peopl e choos e
the l onger abs ol ut e t i me.
5 6
Ti me of f i s i nc ons pi c uous c ons umpt i on, al-
though peopl e can easily turn a vacat i on into c ons pi c uous cons umpt i on by
s pendi ng vast a mount s of money t o i mpr e s s ot hers i ns t ead of us i ng t he
t i me to rej uvenat e t hems el ves .
Frank' s concl us i ons are bol s t ered by r ecent r es ear ch on the benef i t s of
"doi ng vers us havi ng. " The ps ychol ogi s t s Lea f van Boven and Tom Gi l ovi ch
as ked peopl e to think back to a t i me when they s pent more t han a hundr ed
dol l ars wi th t he i ntenti on of i ncr eas i ng thei r ha ppi ne s s and enj oyment .
One group of s ubj ect s was as ked to pi ck a mat eri al pos s es s i on; the other
was asked to pi ck an experi ence or activity they had pai d for. Af t er descri b-
ing their pur chas es , s ubj ect s were as ked to fill out a ques t i onnai re. Thos e
who des cr i bed buyi ng an exper i ence ( s uc h as a ski trip, a concer t , or a
great meal ) were happi er when t hi nki ng about their pur chas e, and thought
that their money was better s pent , than t hos e who des cr i bed buyi ng a ma-
terial obj ect ( s uch as cl othi ng, j ewelry, or el ect r oni cs ) .
5 7
Af t er conduct i ng
several vari ati ons of this experi ment wi th si mi l ar f i ndi ngs e a c h ti me. Van
Boven and Gi l ovi ch concl uded that exper i ences gi ve mor e happi nes s i n
part be c a us e they have greater soci al val ue: Mos t acti vi ti es that cost mor e
than a hundred dol l ars are thi ngs we do with other peopl e, but expensi ve
material pos s es s i ons are of t en pur c ha s ed i n part to im-press other peopl e.
Activities connect us t o others; obj ect s of t en s epar at e us.
So now you know where to s hop. St op trying to keep up with the J ones es .
St op wasti ng your money on c ons pi c uous cons umpt i on. As a fi rst step, work
The Pursuit of Ha-ppiness 9 i
l es s , earn l es s , a c c umul a t e l ess, a nd " c o ns ume " mor e f ami l y t i me, vacat i ons ,
a nd ot her enj oyabl e acti vi ti es. Th e Chi ne s e s age La o Tz u wa r ned pe opl e t o
ma ke their own c hoi c es and not pur s ue t he mat eri al obj ect s ever yone el s e
wa s pur s ui ng:
Raci ng and hunt i ng madden t he mi nd.
Preci ous things l ead one astray.
Theref ore the s age i s gui ded by what he f eel s and not by what he s ees .
He lets go of that and choos es thi s.
5 8
Unf ort unat el y, l et t i ng go of one thi ng a nd choos i ng anot her i s di f f i cul t i f
t he el ephant wr aps hi s t runk ar ound t he " pr eci ous t hi ng" a nd r e f us e s t o let
go. The el ephant wa s s ha pe d by nat ural s el ect i on t o wi n at t he g a me of l i fe,
a nd part of its strategy i s t o i mpr es s ot her s , gai n thei r admi r at i on, a nd ri se i n
rel ati ve rank. The elephant cares about prestige, not happiness,
59
a nd it l ooks
eternal l y t o ot hers t o f i gure out what i s pr es t i gi ous . The el ephant will pur-
s ue its evol ut i onary goal s even when gr eat er ha ppi ne s s can be f o und el s e-
wher e. I f everyone i s chas i ng t he s a me l i mi t ed a mount of pr es t i ge, t hen all
are s t uck i n a zer o- s um g a me , an et ernal a r ms race, a worl d i n whi c h ri s i ng
weal t h does not bri ng ri si ng happi nes s . T h e pur s ui t of l uxury g oods i s a hap-
pi nes s trap; i t i s a de a d end that peopl e r ace t oward i n t he mi s t a ke n bel i ef
that i t will ma ke t hem ha ppy
Mo de r n l i fe ha s ma ny ot her t raps . Her e' s s o me bai t . Of t he f ol l owi ng
words , pi ck t he one that is mos t appeal i ng to you: constraint, limit, barrier,
choice. Od d s are you c hos e choice, be c a us e t he first t hree gave you a f l as h of
negati ve af f ect ( r emember the l i ke-o-meter). Choi c e and its f r e que nt as s oci -
a t e f r e e dom are unque s t i one d g oods of mode r n l i fe. Mo s t p e o p l e woul d
rather s hop at a s uper mar ket that s t ocks t en i t ems i n e a c h f ood cat egor y t han
at a smal l st ore that s t ocks j us t two. Mos t peopl e woul d pref er to i nvest thei r
ret i rement savi ngs t hrough a c ompa ny t hat of f ers forty f unds t han one that
of f ers four. Yet, when peopl e are actual l y gi ven a l arger array of c ho i c e s f o r
exampl e, an as s or t ment of thirty (rather t han six) gour met c hoc ol a t e s f r om
whi ch to c hoos e t he y are l es s likely to ma ke a choi ce; a nd i f t hey do, t hey
are l es s sat i sf i ed with i t.
6 0
The mor e c hoi c es t here are, t he mor e you expect
to f i nd a per f ect fit; yet, at t he s a me t i me, t he larger t he array, t he l es s likely i t
102 ' I ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
becomes that you pi cked the bes t item. You l eave the store l ess conf i dent in
your choi ce, more likely to feel regret, and mor e likely to think about the op-
tions you didn't choose. If you can avoid maki ng a choi ce, you are more likely
to do so. The psychol ogi st Barry Schwart z calls this the "paradox of choi ce" :
6 1
We val ue choi ce and put ours el ves i n s i t uat i ons of choi ce, even t hough
choi ce of t en under cut s our happi nes s . But Schwar t z and hi s col l eagues
6 2
fi nd that the paradox mostly appl i es to peopl e they call " maxi mi zers " t hos e
who habitually try to eval uate all the opti ons, s eek out more i nformati on, and
make the best choi ce (or "maxi mi ze their utility," as economi s t s woul d say).
Other peopl e" s at i s f i cers " are more laid back about choi ce. They eval uat e
an array of opti ons until they fi nd one that is good enough, and then they
stop looking. Sat i sf i cers are not hurt by a surfei t of opti ons. Maxi mi zers end
up maki ng slightly better deci si ons than sati sf i cers, on average (all that worry
and information-gathering does hel p), but they are l ess happy with their deci -
si ons, and they are more inclined to depres s i on and anxiety.
In one clever study,
63
maxi mi zers and sati sf i cers were as ked to solve ana-
grams while sitting next to another s ubj ect (really a co-experi ment er) who
was solving them either much faster or much slower. Sat i sf i cers were rela-
tively unfazed by the experi ence. Thei r ratings of their own ability, and of how
much they enj oyed the study, were barely af f ect ed by what the other subj ect
did. But maximizers were thrown for a l oop when the other s ubj ect was f ast er
than they were. They later reported lower es t i mat es of their own abilities and
higher levels of negative emot i ons. ( Bei ng pai red with a sl ower peer didn' t
have much ef f ect anot her i nst ance of negati ve events bei ng stronger than
positive). The point here is that maxi mi zers engage in more social compari -
son, and are theref ore more easily drawn i nto c ons pi c uous cons umpt i on.
Paradoxically, maxi mi zers get l ess pl eas ure per dollar they s pend.
Moder n life i s full of traps. S o me of t hes e t raps are s et by mar ket er s and
adverti sers who know j us t what the el ephant wa nt s a nd i t isn't happi nes s .
T H E H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S R E C O N S I D E R E D
When I began writing this book, I thought that Buddha woul d be a strong
cont ender for the " Bes t Ps ychol ogi s t of the La s t Thr e e Tho us a nd Years"
The Pursuit of Ha-ppiness 9 i
award. To me , hi s di agnos i s of the futility of stri vi ng fel t so ri ght , hi s pr omi s e
of tranqui l i ty so al l uri ng. But i n doi ng res earch f or t he book, I began to t hi nk
that Buddhi s m mi ght be ba s ed on an overreact i on, pe r ha ps even an error.
Ac c or di ng t o l e g e nd,
6 4
Bud d ha wa s t he s on of a ki ng i n nor t her n I ndi a.
Whe n he was born ( as Si ddhar t ha Ga ut a ma ) , t he ki ng hear d a pr ophec y that
hi s s on was des t i ned t o leave, t o go i nto t he f orest a nd turn his back on t he
ki ngdom. So as t he boy grew i nto adul t hood, hi s f at her tri ed t o tie hi m down
wi th s ens ual pl eas ur es and hi de f rom hi m anyt hi ng that mi ght di s t ur b hi s
mi nd. Th e young pr i nce was marri ed t o a beaut i f ul pr i nces s and rai s ed on
t he uppe r f l oors of t he pa l a c e, s ur r ounded by a ha r em of ot her bea ut i f ul
women. But he grew bor ed ( t he adapt at i on pri nci pl e) and cur i ous a bout t he
worl d out s i de. Eventual l y, he prevai l ed upon his f at her to let hi m go f or a
chari ot ri de. On t he mor ni ng of t he ri de, t he ki ng ordered that all pe opl e who
were ol d, si ck, or cri ppl ed wer e t o retreat i ndoors. Yet one ol d ma n r e ma i ne d
on t he road, a nd t he pri nce s aw hi m. The pr i nce as ked hi s chari ot dri ver t o
expl ai n t he odd-l ooki ng creat ure, and t he driver told hi m that everyone gr ows
old. St unned, t he young pr i nce ret urned t o his pal ace. On t he next day' s ex-
curs i on, he s aw a s i ck ma n, hi s body hobbl ed by di s eas e. Mo r e expl anat i on,
mor e retreati ng t o t he pal ace. On t he third day, t he pr i nce s aw a c or ps e be-
i ng carri ed t hr ough t he s t reet s . Thi s wa s t he last straw. Up o n di s cover i ng
that old age, di s eas e, and deat h ar e t he des t i ny of all peopl e, t he pr i nce cri ed,
" Tur n ba c k t he chari ot! ' l l i i s i s no t i me or pl a c e f or pl eas ur e excur s i ons . Ho w
coul d an i ntel l i gent per s on pay no heed at a t i me of di saster, when he knows
of his i mpendi ng des t r uct i on? "
6 5
Th e pr i nce t hen l eft hi s wi f e, hi s ha r em,
and, as pr ophes i ed, hi s royal f ut ure. He went into t he f ores t and be ga n hi s
j our ney t o enl i ght enment . Af t er hi s enl i ght enment , Bu d d ha
6 6
( t he " awak-
ened one" ) pr ea c hed that life i s s uf f eri ng, and that t he onl y way t o e s c a p e
thi s s uf f e r i ng i s by br ea ki ng t he a t t a c hme nt s t hat bi nd us t o p l e a s ur e ,
achi evement , reput at i on, and life.
But what woul d have ha p p e ne d i f t he yo ung pr i nc e ha d a c t ua l l y de-
s c e nde d f r om hi s gi l ded chari ot and t al ked t o t he pe opl e he a s s u me d wer e
so mi s er abl e? Wha t i f he had i nt ervi ewed t he poor, t he elderly, t he cr i ppl ed,
a nd t he s i ck? On e of t he mos t a dve nt ur ous young ps yc hol ogi s t s , Rober t
Ui s was - Di ener ( s on of t he ha ppi ne s s pi oneer Ed Di e ne r ) , has d o ne j us t
that. He has t ravel ed t he worl d i nt ervi ewi ng pe opl e a bout thei r l i ves a nd
104 ' I ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
how sat i sf i ed they are with t hem. Wher ever he goes , f r om Gr eenl and t o
Kenya to Cal i f orni a, he f i nds that mos t peopl e (with the except i on of home-
l ess peopl e) are more sat i sf i ed than di s s at i s f i ed with their l i ves.
6 7
He even
interviewed sex workers i n the s l ums of Cal cut t a, f orced by poverty to sell
their bodi es and sacri f i ce their f ut ur es to di s eas e. Al though t hes e women
were s ubs t ant i al l y l es s s at i s f i ed wi t h thei r lives t han wa s a compa r i s on
group of col l ege s t udent s in Cal cut t a, they still (on average) rated their sat-
i sfacti on with each of twelve s peci f i c a s pec t s of their lives as mor e sati sfi ed
than di ssati sf i ed, or el s e as neutral ( nei t her sati sf i ed nor di ssat i sf i ed) . Yes,
they s uf f ered privations that s e e m to us i n the Wes t unbear abl e, but they
al so had cl ose f ri ends with whom they s pent much of their t i me, and most
of t hem stayed i n t ouch with their f ami l i es . Bi s was -Di ener concl udes that
"while the poor of Cal cut t a do not l ead envi abl e lives, they do l ead mean-
ingful lives. They capi tal i ze on the non-mat eri al res ources avai l abl e to them
and find sat i sf act i on i n many areas of their lives. "
68
Li ke quadri pl egi cs , the
elderly, or any other cl ass of peopl e t he young Buddha mi ght have pitied,
the lives of t hes e pros t i t ut es are mu c h bet t er f r om t he i ns i de t han they
s eem f rom the out si de.
Another reason for Buddha' s emphas i s on det achment may have been the
turbul ent t i mes he lived in: Ki ngs a nd ci t y-st at es were ma ki ng war, and
people' s lives and fortunes coul d be burned up overnight. Whe n life is unpre-
di ctabl e and danger ous (as i t was for t he St oi c phi l os ophers , living under
capricious Roman emperors), it might be foolish to seek happi nes s by control-
ling one's external world. But now it is not. Peopl e living in weal thy democra-
ci es can set long-term goal s and expect to meet t hem. We are i mmuni zed
against di sease, sheltered f rom st orms, and i nsured agai nst fire, theft, and col-
lision. For the first time in human history, most peopl e (in wealthy countries)
will live past the age of seventy and will not s ee any of their children die be-
fore them. Al though all of us will get unwant ed surpri ses al ong the way, we'll
adapt and cope with nearly all of t hem, and many of us will believe we are
better off for having suf f ered. So to cut off all at t achment s, to shun the plea-
sures of sensual i ty and tri umph in an effort to es cape the pai ns of loss and
def eat t hi s now strikes me as an i nappropri ate r es pons e to the inevitable
presence of some sufferi ng in every life.
The Pursuit of Ha-ppiness 9 i
Ma ny West ern thi nkers have l ooked at the s a me af f l i ct i ons as B u d d h a
s i cknes s , agi ng, and mort al i t yand c o me t o a very di f f erent concl us i on f r om
his: Thr ough pas s i onat e at t achment s t o peopl e, goal s, and pl eas ur es , l i fe mus t
be lived to the f ul l est . I once heard a talk by the phi l os opher Rober t S ol omon,
who di rectl y chal l enged the phi l os ophy of nonat t achment as an af f r ont t o hu-
ma n nat ur e.
6 9
The life of cerebral ref l ect i on and emot i onal i ndi f f er ence (ap-
atheia) advocat ed by many Gr e e k a nd Roma n phi l os ophers a nd that of c a l m
nonstri vi ng advocat ed by Buddha are lives des i gned to avoi d pas s i on, a nd a
life wi thout pas s i on is not a huma n life. "Ves, at t achment s bri ng pai n, but they
al s o bri ng our great est j oys, and there i s val ue i n t he very vari ati on t hat the
phi l os ophers are trying to avoi d. I was s t unned to hear a phi l os opher r ej ect so
muc h of anci ent philosophy, but I was al s o i nspi red in a way that I had never
been as an undergraduat e s t udent of phi l osophy. I wal ked out of t he l ect ur e
hall f eel i ng that I want ed to do s omet hi ng then a nd there to e mbr a c e life.
Sol omon' s me s s a g e was unort hodox i n phi l osophy, but i t i s c o mmo n i n t he
work of romant i c poet s , novel i st s, and nat ur e wri t ers: " We do not live but a
quart er part of our l i f ewhy do we not let on t he f l oodr a i s e t he g a t e s &
s et our wheel s i n mo t i o nHe that hat h ears t o hear let hi m hear. Empl o y
your s ens es . " ( H E N R Y D A V I D T H O R E A U , 1851)
70
Eve n a f ut ur e j us t i c e of t he U. S . S u p r e me Co u r t a body de vot e d t o
r e a s oni s s ue d this opi ni on: "I thi nk that, as l i fe i s act i on a nd pa s s i on, i t i s
requi red of a ma n that he s houl d s har e t he pa s s i on a nd act i on of hi s t i me at
peril of bei ng j udg e d not to have l i ved. " ( O L I V E R W E N D E L L H O L M E S , J R . ,
I 884 ) 71
Buddha , La o Tzu, and ot her s ages of t he Ea s t di s covered a pat h t o pe a c e
a nd tranquility, t he pat h of l etti ng go. They told us how t o f ol l ow t he pa t h us-
ing medi t at i on and sti l l ness. Mi l l i ons of peopl e i n t he Wes t have f ol l owed,
and al t hough few, i f any, have r eached Ni rvana, ma ny have f ound s o me de-
gree of pe a c e , happi nes s , a nd spi ri tual growth. So I do not me a n t o que s t i on
t he val ue or rel evance of Buddhi s m i n the moder n worl d, or t he i mpor t a nc e
of worki ng on yoursel f i n an ef f ort to f i nd happi nes s . Rather, I woul d like to
s ugges t that t he happi nes s hypot hes i s be e x t e nde df or no wi nt o a yin-
ya ng f o r mul a t i o n: Happiness comes from within, and happiness comes from
xvithout. (In chapt er 10, I'll s ugges t a f urt her r ef i nement of t he hypot hes i s . )
1 2 2 T H E H A P P I N E S S H Y P O ' T H E S I S
To live both the yin and the yang, we need gui dance. Buddha i s history's
most percepti ve gui de to the first half; he is a cons t ant but ge nde remi nder
of the yin of internal work. But I believe that the Western i deal of action,
striving, and passi onat e at t achment i s not as mi s gui ded as Buddhi s m sug-
gests. We j ust need s ome bal ance ( f rom the Eas t ) and s ome speci f i c guid-
ance (from modern psychology) about what to strive for.
Love and Attachments
No one can live happily who has regard to himself alone and
transforms everything into a question of his own utility; you
must live for your neighbour, if you would live for yourself.
S E N E C A I
No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of
the continent, a part of the main.
J O H N D O N N E 2
IN 1931, AT THE AGE of four, my f at her wa s di a gnos ed wi t h pol i o. He wa s
i mmedi at el y put i nto an i soJati on r oom at t he l ocal hos pi t al i n Brookl yn,
Ne w York. The r e was no cur e and no vacci ne for pol i o at that t i me, a nd ci ty
dwel l ers l i ved i n f ear of its s pr ead. For several we e ks my f at her ha d no hu-
man cont act , s ave f or an occas i onal visit by a ma s ke d nur s e. Hi s mot he r
c a me t o s ee hi m every day, but that' s all s he c oul d d o wa v e t o hi m a nd try
t o tal k t o hi m t hrough t he gl as s pa ne on t he door. My f at her r e me mb e r s
cal l i ng out t o her, beggi ng her t o c o me in. It mus t have br oken her hear t ,
and one day s he i gnored t he rul es and went in. S he wa s c a ught a nd s t ernl y
r epr i manded. My f at her recovered wi t h no paral ysi s, but thi s i ma g e has al-
ways s t ayed wi th me : a s mal l boy al one i n a r oom, gazi ng at hi s mot he r
t hrough a pa ne of gl as s .
107
108 ' I ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
My father had the bad luck to be born at the conf l uence point of three
big ideas. The first was germ theory, pr opos ed in the 1840s by Ignaz Sem-
melweis and incorporated into hospi tal s and homes with gradually increas-
ing ferocity over the next century. When they began to collect statistics from
orphanages and foundl i ng homes in t he 1920s, pedi atri ci ans came to fear
germs above all el se. As far back as records went, they showed that most
children dropped off at foundl i ng homes died within one year. In 1915, a
New York physician, Henry Chapi n, reported to the Ameri can Pediatric So-
ciety that out of the ten foundl i ng homes he had exami ned, in all but one of
them all the chi l dren had di ed before their second birthday.
3
As pediatri-
ci ans came to grips with the deadly ef f ect s of institutions on young chil-
dren, they reacted in a logical way by l aunchi ng a crus ade agai nst germs. It
became a priority in orphanages and hospi tal s to isolate chi l dren as much as
possible in clean cubi cl es to prevent t hem from i nfecti ng each other. Beds
were separated, dividers were pl aced bet ween beds, nur s es retreated be-
hind masks and gloves, and mothers were scol ded for violating quarantine.
The other two big ideas were psychoanal ysi s and behavi ori sm. Thes e two
theories agreed on very little, but they both agreed that the infant's attach-
ment to its mother is based on milk. Freud thought that the infant's libido
(desire for pl easure) is first sati sfi ed by the breast, and therefore the infant
develops its first attachment (psychological need) to the breast. Only gradu-
ally does the child generalize that desi re to the woman who owns the breast.
The behaviorists didn't care about libido, but they, too, s aw the breast as the
first reinforcer, the first reward (milk) for the first behavior (sucking). The
heart of behaviorism, if it had one, was condi ti oni ngthe i dea that ^earning
occurs when rewards are conditional upon behaviors. Uncondi ti onal l ove
holding, nuzzling, and cuddl i ng chi l dren for no r eas onwas seen as the
surest way to make children lazy, spoi l ed, and weak. Freudi ans and behav-
iorists were united in their belief that highly af f ecti onate motheri ng dam-
ages children, and that sci enti f i c pri nci pl es coul d i mprove child rearing.
Three years before my father entered the hospital, John Wat son, the leading
Ameri can behavi ori st (in the years bef or e B. F. Ski nner) , publ i s hed the
be s t - s e l l e r Psychological Care of Infant and Child.
4
Wa t s o n wr o t e of hi s
dream that one day babi es would be raised in baby f arms , away from the
corrupting i nf l uences of parents. But until that day arrived, parents were
Love and Attachments ' J 27
urged t o us e behavi ori st t ec hni ques t o rear s t rong chi l dren: Don' t pi ck t he m
up when they cry, don' t c uddl e or c oddl e t hem, j us t dol e out be ne f i t s a nd
puni s hme nt s for e a c h good and bad act i on.
How coul d s c i enc e have got t en i t s o wr ong? Ho w coul d doct or s a nd ps y-
chol ogi s t s not have s een t hat chi l dren need l ove as well as mi l k? Thi s c ha p-
ter i s a bout that ne e d t he ne e d f or ot her peopl e, f or t ouch, a nd f or c l os e
rel at i ons hi ps . No ma n, woma n, or chi l d i s an i s l and. Sci ent i s t s have c o me a
l ong way s i nce J ohn Wat s on, a nd t here i s now a mu c h mor e h u ma n e sci -
e nc e of love. Th e story of thi s s c i e nc e begi ns wi th or phans a nd r he s us mon-
keys and e nds wi th a chal l enge t o t he di s mal vi ew of l ove hel d by ma ny of
t he anci ent s , Ea s t and Wes t . Th e her oes of thi s story ar e t wo ps ychol ogi s t s
who r ej ect ed t he cent ral t enet s of thei r trai ni ng: Harry Ha r l ow a nd J o hn
Bowlby. Th e s e t wo me n knew that s omet hi ng wa s mi s s i ng i n behavi or i s m
and i n ps ychoanal ys i s , respecti vel y. Agai ns t great odds t hey c ha ng e d t hei r
f i el ds, t hey humani zed t he t r eat ment of chi l dren, a nd they ma d e i t pos s i bl e
f or s c i e nc e t o greatl y i mpr ove upon t he wi s dom of t he anci ent s .
T o H A V E A N D T O H O L D
Harry Ha r l ow
5
ea r ned his Ph. D. i n 1930 at St a nf or d, whe r e he wr ot e hi s
di s s er t at i on on t he f eedi ng behavi or of baby rat s. He t ook a j o b at t he Uni -
versity of Wi s c ons i n, wher e he f ound hi ms el f ove r whe l me d wi th t e a c hi ng
and unde r s uppl i e d wi t h r es ear ch s u b j e c t s he had no l ab s pa c e , no rat s ,
no way t o per f or m t he exper i ment s he wa s e xpe c t e d t o publ i s h. Ou t of de s -
perat i on, Har l ow t ook hi s s t ude nt s t o t he little zoo i n Ma di s o n, Wi s c o ns i n,
whi ch ha d a s mal l numbe r of pr i mat es . Ha r l ow a nd hi s f i rst g r a dua t e s t u-
dent , Ab e Mas l ow, coul dn' t r un cont r ol l ed exper i ment s us i ng s o f e w ani -
mal s . The y wer e f or ced i ns t ead t o obs er ve, t o ke e p thei r mi nds o pe n, a nd
t o l earn f r om s pe c i e s cl os el y rel at ed t o huma n bei ngs . And one of t he f i rs t
t hi ngs t hey s a w wa s curi osi ty. Th e a p e s and monke ys l i ked t o s ol ve puzzl es
( t he h u ma n s ga ve t he m t es t s t o me a s u r e phys i c a l dext er i t y a nd i nt el l i -
gence) , a nd woul d work at t as ks for what s e e me d t o be t he s heer pl e a s ur e
of it. Be ha vi or i s m, i n cont r as t , s ai d t hat a ni ma l s will onl y do wha t t hey
have been r ei nf or ced for doi ng.
10 ' i ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
Harl ow s ens ed he had f ound a f l aw i n behavi ori sm, but he couldn' t
prove it with anecdot es from the local zoo. He desperatel y want ed a lab in
which to study pri mat es, not rats, so he built one hi msel fl i teral l y built it,
in the shell of an abandoned building, with the hel p of his s t udent s . In that
makeshi ft lab, for the-next thirty years, Harl ow and his s t udent s infuriated
behaviorists by demonst rat i ng with ever more preci si on that monkeys are
curious, intelligent creatures who like to fi gure things out. They follow the
laws of-rei nforcement to s ome degree, as do humans , but there i s much
more going on in a monkey brain t han the brain of a behavi ori st coul d
grasp. For exampl e, giving monkeys rai si ns as a reward for each correct
step in solving a puzzle (such as openi ng a mechani cal latch with several
moving parts) actually interferes with the solving, becaus e it di stracts the
monkeys.
6
They enjoy the task for its own sake.
As Harlow' s lab grew, he f aced perenni al shortages of monkeys. They
were hard to import and, when they arrived they were of t en sick, bringing a
stream of new i nfecti ons into the lab. In 1955, Harl ow concei ved the bold
idea of starting his own breedi ng col ony of rhesus monkeys. Nobody had
ever created a sel f -sustai ni ng breedi ng colony of monkeys in the Uni ted
St at es , let al one i n the col d cl i mat e of Wi sconsi n, but Harl ow was un-
deterred. He allowed his rhesus monkeys to mate, and t hen he took away
the children within hours of their bi rt ht o save them from infections in
the crowded lab. After much experi mentati on, he and his st udent s created
an artificial baby formul a full of nutri ents and anti bi oti cs. They found the
opti mum pattern of feedi ng, light and dark cycles, and temperature. Each
baby was raised in its own cage, s af e f rom di sease. Harl ow had in a way re-
alized Watson' s dream of a baby f arm, and the crop grew large and healthy-
looking. But when the farm-raised monkeys were brought into the company
of others, they were st unned and unnerved. They never devel oped normal
social or problem-solving skills, so they were usel ess for experi ments. Har-
low and his st udent s were s t umped. WTiat had they forgotten?
The cl ue was in plain sight, cl ut ched in the monkeys' hands , until finally
a grad s t udent , Bill Ma s on, not i ced it: di apers . The c a g e s i n the baby
hatchery were s omet i mes lined with old di apers to provide' beddi ng mate-
rial and protect the babi es f rom the col d floor. The monkeys cl ung to the
diapers, especi al l y when they were af rai d, and took them al ong when they
Love and Attachments ' J 27
were car r i ed t o ne w cages . Ma s o n pr opos e d a t es t t o Har l ow: Let ' s e x p o s e
s o me young monke ys t o a bundl e of cl ot h a nd a bundl e of wood. Let ' s s e e
whe t he r t he mo nk e y s j u s t ne e d t o hol d on t o s o me t hi ng , a nyt hi ng , or
whet her t here' s s ome t hi ng s peci al a bout t he s of t ne s s of t he cl ot h. Ha r l ow
l oved t he i dea, and, as he t hought i t over, he s a w an even gr ander que s t i on:
Were t he di aper s real l y s ubs t i t ut es f or mot her s ? Di d t he monke ys have an
i nnat e ne e d t o hol d a nd be hel d, a ne e d that was utterl y s t ar ved i n t he ba by
f ar m? I f so, how coul d he pr ove it? Harl ow' s pr oof b e c a me one of t he mo s t
f a mous exper i ment s i n all of psychol ogy.
Har l ow put t he mi l k hypot hes i s t o a di rect t est . He cr eat ed t wo ki nds of
s urrogat e mot her, ea c h one a cyl i nder a bout t he si ze of an adul t f e ma l e rhe-
s us monkey, c ompl e t e with a woode n head that had eyes a nd a mout h. On e
kind wa s ma d e of wi re mes h, t he other wa s cover ed wi th a layer of f o a m a nd
t hen a l ayer of s of t t errycl ot h. E a c h of ei ght ba by r he s us mo nk e y s wa s
rai sed al one i n a c a g e with t wo s ur r ogat e mot her s , one of e a c h ki nd. For
four of t he monkeys , mi l k wa s del i vered onl y f r om a t ube c o mi ng t hr ough
t he ches t of t he wi re mother. For t he ot her four, t he t ube c a me t hr ough t he
ches t of t he cl ot h mother. I f Fr eud a nd Wa t s on wer e right t hat mi l k wa s
t he c a us e of a t t a c hment , t he monkeys s houl d at t ach t o thei r mi l k gi vers .
Rut that' s not what ha ppe ne d. All t he monkeys s pe nt nearl y all thei r t i me
cl i ngi ng to, cl i mbi ng on, a nd pus hi ng t hems el ves i nt o t he s of t f ol ds of t he
cl ot h mot her. Harl ow' s exper i ment
7
i s s o el egant a nd s o convi nci ng t hat you
don' t need t o s ee st at i st i cs t o under s t and the r es ul t s . You j us t ne e d t o s e e
t he f a mo us phot o, now i ncl uded i n every i nt roduct ory ps ychol ogy book, i n
whi ch a baby monkey cl i ngs t o t he cl ot h mot her wi th its hi nd l egs whi l e
s t ret chi ng over t o f eed f rom t he t ube pr ot r udi ng f r om t he wi re mot her .
Har l ow a r gued t hat " cont act c omf or t " i s a bas i c ne e d t hat young ma m-
mal s have f or phys i cal cont act wi th thei r mot her. In t he a b s e nc e of a real
mother, young ma mma l s will s e e k out what ever f eel s mos t l i ke a mot her .
I l arl ow c ho s e t he t er m caref ul l y, be c a us e t he mot her , even a cl ot h mot her ,
provi des c omf or t whe n i t i s mos t ne e de d, a nd t hat c omf or t c o me s mos t l y
from di rect cont act .
Di s pl ays of f ami l i al love of t en move pe opl e t o t ears , a nd De bor a h Bl um' s
wonderf ul bi ography of Harl ow, Love at Goon Park,
s
is ful l of t ouc hi ng ex-
pres s i ons of f ami l i al love. It i s an upl i f t i ng story, ul ti matel y, but a l ong t he
112 ' i ' l l H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
way it is full of s adnes s and unrequi ted love. The cover of the hook, for ex-
ampl e, shows a pi cture of a young rhes us monkey al one in a cage, gazing at
its cloth "mother" through a pane of gl ass.
L O V E C O N Q U E R S F E A R
J ohn Bowlby's life followed an entirely di f f erent path f rom Harlow' s, even
though it led, ultimately, to the s a me discovery.
9
Bowl by was an Engl i sh
aristocrat, raised by a nanny, and sent to boardi ng school . He studi ed med-
icine and became a psychoanal yst, but duri ng his early training years, he
did s ome volunteer work that s haped the rest of his career. He worked at
two homes for mal adj ust ed chi l dren, many of whom had no real contact
with their parents. Some were al oof and uncommuni cat i ve; others were
hopelessly clingy, following him around anxiously if he pai d the slightest
attention to them. After serving in Worl d War II, Bowl by returned to En-
gland to run the children' s clinic in a hospi tal . He began to do research on
how separati on from parents af f ect s chi l dren. Eur ope at that t i me had j ust
experi enced more parent-child separat i ons than had any pl ace in all of hu-
man history. The war had creat ed vast number s of orphans, ref ugees, and
children sent away to the countrysi de for their own safety. The new World
Heal th Organization commi s s i oned Bowl by to write a report on the best
way to deal with t hese children. Bowl by toured hospi tal s and orphanages,
and his report, publ i shed in 1951, was a passi onat e argument against pre-
vailing notions that separati on and isolation are harml ess, and that biologi-
cal needs such as nutrition are paramount . Chi l dren need love to develop
properly, he argued; children need mot hers .
Throughout the 1950s, Bowlby devel oped his i deas and weathered the
scorn of psychoanal yst s s uch as Anna Fr eud and Mel ani e Kl ei n, whos e
theories (about libido and breasts) he contradi cted. He had the good luck
to meet a l eadi ng ethol ogi st of t he day, Robert Hi nde, who taught hi m
about new research on ani mal behavior. Konrad Lorenz, for exampl e, had
demonst rat ed that duckl i ngs, ten to twel ve hours after they hatch, will lock
onto whatever duck-si zed thing moves around i n their envi ronment and
then follow it around for mont hs .
1 0
In nature this thing is always mom, but
Love and Attachments ' J 27
i n Lorenz' s demons t r at i ons , anyt hi ng he moved ar ound wor ke de ve n hi s
own boot s (with hi m i n t hem) . Thi s vi sual "i mpri nt i ng" me c ha ni s m i s qui t e
di f f erent f r om what ha ppe ns i n peopl e, but once Bowl by began t o t hi nk
about how evol uti on cr eat es me c ha ni s ms t o make s ure that mot her s and
chi l dren stay together, the way was open for an enti rel y new a ppr oa c h t o
human parent -chi l d rel at i onshi ps. There' s no need t o deri ve t he bond f r om
mi l k, r ei nf or cement , l i bi do, or anyt hi ng el s e. Rat her, t he a t t a c hme nt of
mot her and chi l d i s so enor mous l y i mport ant for the survival of t he chi l d
that a dedi cat ed s ys t em i s built into mot her and chi l d i n all s pe c i e s t hat
rely on mat ernal care. As Bowl by began to pay mor e at t ent i on to ani mal be-
havior, he s aw many si mi l ari ti es bet ween t he behavi ors of baby monke ys
and baby huma ns : cl i ngi ng, s ucki ng, cryi ng when l ef t behi nd, f ol l owi ng
whenever possi bl e. All t hes e behavi ors f unct i oned i n ot her pr i mat es to keep
the chi l d cl os e t o mom, and all were vi si bl e i n huma n chi l dren, even t he
"pi ck me up" si gnal of ups t ret ched ar ms .
In 1 957, Hi nde l earned about Harl ow' s not -yet -publ i shed cl ot h- mot her
s t udi es and told Bowlby, who wrote to Harl ow and later vi si ted hi m i n Wi s -
cons i n. The t wo me n b e c a me great al l i es a nd s uppor t er s of e a c h other.
Bowlby, t he great theorist, creat ed the f ramework that has uni f i ed mos t s ub-
s equent research on parent-chi l d rel ati ons; and Harl ow, the great experi -
mental i st, provi ded t he first i rref utabl e l ab demons t r at i ons of t he theory.
Bowlby' s grand synthesi s i s cal l ed at t achment theory.
11
It borrows f r om
the s ci ence of cyber net i cs t he s t udy of how mechani cal a nd bi ol ogi cal
s ys t ems can regul at e t hems el ves t o achi eve preset goal s whi l e the envi ron-
ment around and i nsi de t hem changes . Bowl by' s fi rst me t a phor wa s t he
si mpl est cybernet i c syst em of al l a t hermost at that t urns on a heat er when
the t emperat ure drops bel ow a set point.
At t achment theory begi ns with the idea that two bas i c goal s gui de chil-
dren' s behavi or: s af et y and expl orati on. A chi l d who st ays s af e s urvi ves ; a
child who expl ores and plays devel ops the skills and i ntel l i gence ne e de d f or
adul t life. (Thi s is why all mammal babi es play; and t he larger their frontal
cortex, the more they need t o pl ay).
1 2
The s e two needs are of t en oppos e d,
however, so they are regul ated by a kind of t hermost at that moni t ors t he level
of ambi ent safety. When the safety level i s adequat e, the chi l d pl ays and ex-
plores. But as soon as it drops too low, it's as though a swi tch were t hrown
114 ' i ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
and suddenl y safety needs bec ome par amount . The child s t ops playing and
moves toward mom. If mom i s unr eachabl e, the chi l d cri es, and with in-
creasi ng des perat i on; when mom ret urns , the chi l d s eeks t ouch, or s ome
other reassurance, bef ore the s ys t em can reset and play can r es ume. Thi s i s
an i nstance of the " desi gn" principle I di s cus s ed in chapt er 2: oppos i ng sys-
t ems pus h against each other to reach a bal ance point. ( Fat hers make per-
f ectl y good a t t a c hme nt f i gures , but Bowl by f oc us e d on mot her-chi l d
at t achment s, which usually get off to a f as t er start. )
If you want to s ee the s ys t em in act i on, j us t try engagi ng a two-year-old
in play. If you go to a friend' s hous e a nd meet her chi l d for t he first ti me, it
shoul d take only a mi nut e. The chi l d f eel s s ecur e i n his f ami l i ar surround-
ings, and his mot her f unct i ons as what Bowl by cal l ed a " s ec ur e bas e" an
at t achment f i gure whos e pr e s e nc e gua r a nt e e s safety, t urns of f fear, and
thereby enabl es the^ expl orati ons that l ead to heal thy devel opment . But if
your fri end bri ngs her son over to your hous e for the first t i me, it will take
longer. You'll probabl y have to wal k ar ound your fri end j us t to f i nd the little
head hi di ng behi nd her t hi ghs . And t hen, i f you s u c c e e d i n s t ar t i ng a
ga me ma ki ng f aces at hi m t o make hi m l augh, pe r ha ps j us t wat ch what
happens when hi s mot her goes to t he ki t chen to get a gl ass of water. The
t hermost at cl i cks, t he game ends , and your pl ay part ner s c a mpe r s of f t o
the ki tchen, too. Harl ow had s hown all t he s a me behavi or i n monkeys .
1 3
Young monkeys pl aced with their cl ot h mot her i n t he cent er of an open
room full of toys eventual l y cl i mbed down f rom mom to expl ore, but they
ret urned of t en t o t ouch her and r ec onnec t . If t he cl ot h mot her was re-
moved f rom the room, all play s t opped and f ranti c s cr eami ng ens ued.
. When chi l dren are s epar at ed f r om thei r at t achment f i gur es for a l ong
time, as in a hospital stay, they qui ckl y des cend into passivity and despair.
When they are deni ed a stabl e and endur i ng at t achment rel ati onshi p (raised,
for exampl e, by a s ucces s i on of f oster parent s or nurses), they are likely to be
damaged for life, Bowl by sai d. They mi ght be c ome the al oof l oners or hope-
less di nger s that Bowl by had s een in hi s vol unteer work. Bowlby' s theory di-
rectly contradi cted Watson as well as the Fr euds ( Si gmund and Anna) : If you
want your chi l dren to grow up to be heal t hy and i ndependent , you shoul d
hold them, hug t hem, cuddl e them, and love t hem. Gi ve t hem a s ecure base
and they will explore and then conquer t he world on their own. The power of
Lcrve and Attachments 1 115
love over f ear was well expr es s ed i n t he Ne w Tes t a ment : " The r e i s no f ear i n
love, but per f ect love cas t s out f ear " ( I J O H N 4 : 1 8 ) .
T H E P R O O F I S I N T H E P A R T I N G
If you' re goi ng t o cont r adi ct t he prevai l i ng wi s dom of your day, you' d bet t er
have dar n good evi dence. Harl ow' s s t udi e s wer e dar n good, but s ke pt i c s
cl ai med t hey di dn' t appl y t o peopl e. Bowl by ne e de d mor e proof , a nd he got
i t f r om a Ca na d i a n wo ma n who ha ppe ne d t o a ns wer an ad he pl a c e d f or a
r es ear ch a s s i s t a nt i n 1950. Ma r y Ai ns wor t h, who ha d moved t o L o n d o n
wi th her hus ba nd, s pe nt t hree years wor ki ng wi th Bowl by on hi s earl y s t ud-
i es of hos pi t al i zed chi l dren. Wh e n her hus ba nd t ook an a c a d e mi c j o b i n
Ug a nda , Ai ns wor t h went wi th hi m agai n a nd t ook a dva nt a g e of t he oppor -
tuni ty t o ma k e car ef ul obs er vat i ons of chi l dr en i n Ug a nd a n vi l l ages . Eve n
i n a cul t ur e wher e wo me n s har e mot her i ng dut i es f or all t he chi l dr en i n
t he e x t e nde d f ami l y hous e hol d, Ai ns wor t h obs e r ve d a s pe c i a l b o nd be-
t ween a chi l d a nd hi s own mot her. T h e mot her was mu c h mor e e f f e c t i ve as
a s e c ur e b a s e t han we r e ot her wome n. Ai ns wor t h t hen moved t o t he J o hns
Hopki ns Uni ver s i t y i n Bal t i mor e, a nd af t er t hat t o t he Uni ver s i t y of Vir-
gi ni a, whe r e s he t hought a bout how t o t es t Bowl by' s i dea s , a nd her own,
about t he mot her - chi l d rel at i ons hi p.
In Bowl by' s cyber net i c theory, t he act i on i s i n t he c ha ng e s . You can' t j us t
wat ch a chi l d pl ay; you have t o l ook at how t he expl or at i on a nd s af et y goal s
shi f t i n r e s pons e t o c ha ngi ng condi t i ons . So Ai ns wor t h devel oped a l i ttl e
dr ama, l ater cal l ed t he " St r a nge Si t uat i on, " and c a s t t he chi l d i n t he st ar-
ri ng r ol e.
1 4
I n e s s e nc e , s he r e- cr eat ed t he e xpe r i me nt s i n whi c h Ha r l ow
had pl a c e d monke ys i n an ope n r oom wi th novel toys. I n t he f i rst s c e ne ,
t he mot her a nd her chi l d ent er a c omf or t a bl e r oom, ful l of t oys. Mo s t chi l -
dr en i n t he exper i ment s oon crawl or t oddl e of f t o expl or e. In s c e ne t wo, a
f ri endl y wo ma n ent er s , tal ks wi th t he mot her f or a f e w mi nut e s , a nd t hen
j oi ns t he chi l d i n play. I n s c e ne t hree, t he mot her get s up a nd l eaves t he
chi l d a l one f or a f ew mi nut es wi t h t he st ranger. I n s c e n e four, s he r et ur ns
and t he s t r anger l eaves . I n s c e ne f i ve, t he mot her l eaves agai n, a nd t he
chi l d i s all a l one i n t he r oom. I n s c e ne six, t he s t r a nger r et ur ns ; a nd i n
116 ' i ' l l H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
s cene seven, t he mot her returns for good. The play i s des i gned t o ratchet
up the child' s s t res s level i n order to s e e how the child' s a t t a chment syst em
manages the s c ene changes . Ai ns wort h f ound three c o mmo n pat t erns of
managi ng.
I n about t wo-t hi rds of Amer i c a n chi l dr en, t he s ys t em does j us t what
Bowl by sai d i t s houl d, that is, shi ft s moot hl y bet ween pl ay and security-
seeki ng as the si tuati on changes . Chi l dr en followi ng this pat t ern, cal l ed "se-
cure" at t achment , r educe or s t op thei r play when their mot hers leave, and
t hen s how anxiety, whi ch t he s t r anger cannot ful l y rel i eve. In t he two
s cenes where mom returns, t hes e chi l dren show del i ght, of t en movi ng to-
ward her or t ouchi ng her to reest abl i sh cont act with their s ecur e bas e; but
then they qui ckl y settl e down and ret urn to play. In the ot her third of chil-
dren, the s c ene changes are more awkwar d; t hes e chi l dren have one of tvyo
types of i ns ecure at t achment . The maj ori ty of t hem don' t s e e m to care very
much whether mom c ome s or goes , al t hough s ubs equent physiological re-
search s howed that they are i ndeed di s t r es s ed by t he s eparat i on. Rather,
t hese children s e e m to be s uppr es s i ng their di stress by trying to manage i t
on their own i nst ead of relying upon mo m for comf ort . Ai nswort h cal l ed this
pattern "avoi dant" at t achment . The remai ni ng chi l dren, about 12 percent i n
the Uni ted St at es , are anxi ous and cl i ngy throughout t he study. They be-
c ome extremely ups et when s epar at ed f rom mom, they s omet i mes resist her
efforts to comf ort t hem when s he ret urns , and they never fully settl e down
to play in the unf ami l i ar room. Ai nswort h cal l ed this pat t ern "resi stant. "
1 5
Ainsworth first thought t hes e di f f erences were caus ed entirely by good or
bad mothering. S he observed mot her s at home and f ound that those who
were warm and highly responsi ve to their children were mos t likely to have
children who s howed s ecur e at t achment i n the strange si tuati on. Thes e chil-
dren had l earned that they coul d count on their mothers, and were therefore
the most bold and confi dent. Mot her s who were aloof and unresponsi ve were
more likely to have avoidant chi l dren, who had learned not to expect much
help and comf ort from mom. Mot her s whos e res pons es were erratic and un-
predi ctabl e were more likely to have resi stant children, who had learned that
their efforts to elicit comfort s omet i mes pai d off, but s omet i mes not.
But whenever I hear about correl at i ons bet ween mot her and child, I' m
skeptical. Twin st udi es al most al ways s how that personal i ty traits are due
Love and Attachments ' J 27
mor e t o genet i cs t han t o pa r ent i ng.
1 6
Ma y b e it's j us t t hat happy wo me n ,
t hos e who won t he corti cal lottery, are wa r m a nd l ovi ng, a nd t hey p a s s on
their happy ge ne s t o their chi l dr en, who t hen s how up as s ecur el y a t t a c he d.
Or ma ybe t he correl ati on r uns i n reverse: Chi l dr e n do have s t abl e i nbor n
t e mpe r a me nt s
1 7
s unny, cranky, or a nx i ous a nd t he s unny one s ar e j us t s o
muc h f un that t hei r mot her s want t o be mor e r es pons i ve. My s ke pt i c i s m i s
bol s t ered by t he f act that s t udi es done af t er Ai ns wort h' s ho me s t udy have
general l y f ound onl y s mal l cor r el at i ons be t we e n mot her s ' r e s po ns i v e ne s s
and, t he a t t a c hment style of thei r chi l dr en.
1 8
On t he ot her hand, t wi n s t ud-
ies have f ound that genes pl ay onl y a s mal l rol e i n det er mi ni ng a t t a c hme nt
s t yl e.
1 9
So now we have a real puzzl e, a trait t hat cor r el at es wea kl y wi t h
mot her i ng a nd weakl y wi th genes . Whe r e doe s i t c o me f r om?
Bowl by' s cyber net i c theory f or ces us t o t hi nk out s i de t he us ual nat ur e-
nur t ur e di chot omy. You have t o s e e a t t a c hme nt st yl e as a pr oper t y t hat
emer ges gradual l y duri ng t hous ands of i nt eract i ons. A chi l d wi th a par t i cul ar
(geneti cal l y i nf l uenced) t emper a ment ma ke s bi ds f or prot ect i on. A mot he r
with a part i cul ar (geneti cal l y i nf l uenced) t emper a ment r es ponds , or does n' t
res pond, ba s ed on her mood, on how overworked s he is, or on what c hi l dc a r e
guru s he has been readi ng. No one event i s parti cul arl y i mport ant , but over
l i me t he chi l d bui l ds up what Bowl by cal l ed an "i nternal worki ng mo d e l " of
hi msel f , hi s mot her, and their rel at i onshi p. If t he model says that mo m i s al-
ways t here for you, you'll be bol der i n your pl ay a nd expl orat i ons. Ro u nd af t er
round, pr edi ct abl e and reci procal i nt eract i ons bui l d trust and s t r engt hen t he
rel ati onshi p. Chi l dr en with s unny di s pos i t i ons who have happy mot he r s ar e
al most cert ai n t o pl ay t he g a me well and devel op a s ecur e a t t a c hme nt styl e,
but a de di c a t e d mot her c a n ove r c ome ei t her her own or her chi l d' s l es s
pl easant di sposi t i on and f os t er a s ecur e i nternal worki ng model of t hei r rela-
l i onshi p. ( Everyt hi ng I have report ed above i s t rue for f at her s too, but mos t
chi l dren i n all cul t ur es s pend mor e t i me with their mot her s . )
I T ' S N O T J U S T F O R C H I L D R E N
When I s t ar t ed wri ti ng thi s chapt er, I pl anned to revi ew a t t a c hme nt t heor y
m a pa g e or t wo a nd t hen move on t o t he s t uf f t hat we a dul t s real l y c a r e
1 1 8 ' i ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
about . Whe n we hear t he word "l ove, " we think of romant i c love. We mi ght
hear an occas i onal s ong about l ove be t we e n par ent s and chi l dren on a
country mus i c radi o stati on, but anywher e el s e on the dial love means the
kind of love you fall into and t hen st ruggl e to hol d onto. T h e mor e I del ved
into the research, however, the mor e I realized t hat Harl ow, Bowlby, and
Ai nsworth can hel p us under s t and grown- up love. S e e for yoursel f . Whi ch
of the fol l owi ng s t at ement s bes t des cr i bes you i n romant i c rel at i onshi ps?
1. I f i nd it relatively easy to get cl os e to ot hers and am comf or t abl e
dependi ng on t hem and havi ng t hem depend on me. I don' t of t en
worry about bei ng abandoned or about s omeone get t i ng too cl os e
to me.
2. I am somewhat uncomf ort abl e bei ng cl ose to others; I fi nd it diffi-
cult to trust them completely, di ffi cul t to allow mysel f to depend on
them. I am nervous when anyone get s too cl ose, and of t en love part-
ners want me to be more i nti mate t han I feel comf ort abl e being.
3. I fi nd that others are rel uct ant to get as cl os e as I woul d like. I of-
ten worry that my part ner doesn' t really love me or won' t want to
stay with me. I want to mer ge compl et el y with anot her pers on,
and this desi re s omet i mes s car es peopl e away.
2 0
The at t achment res earchers Ci ndy Ha z a n and Phil Shaver devel oped
this s i mpl e test to s ee whet her Ai nswort h' s t hree styl es were still at work
when adul t s try t o f orm rel at i onshi ps. The y are. S o me peopl e change style
as they grow up, but the great maj ori ty of adul t s choos e t he descri pt or that
mat ched the way they were as a chi l d.
2 1
( The t hree choi ces above corre-
s pond t o Ai nswort h' s s ecur e, avoi dant , and r es i s t ant pa t t er ns . ) Internal
worki ng mode l s are fai rl y s t a bl e ( t hough not unc ha ng e a bl e ) , gui di ng
peopl e i n their mos t i mport ant r el at i ons hi ps t hr oughout thei r lives. And
j ust as s ecur e babi es are happi er a nd mor e wel l -adj ust ed, s ecur e adul t s en-
j oy happi er, longer rel at i onshi ps as well as lower rates of di vorce.
2 2
But does adul t romanti c love really grow out of the s a me psychol ogi cal
system that at t aches chi ldren to their mot hers ? To find out , Hazan traced the
process by whi ch chi l dhood at t achment changes with age. Bowl by had been
speci fi c about the four def i ni ng f eat ur es of at t achment rel ati onshi ps:
2 3
Lcrve and Attachments 1 119
1. proxi mi t y ma i nt e na nc e ( t he chi l d want s a nd st ri ves t o be ne a r t he
par ent )
2. s epar at i on di s t r es s ( s el f -expl anat ory)
3. s a f e haven ( t he chi l d, when f r i ght ened or di s t r es s ed, c o me s t o t he
par ent f or c omf or t )
4. s e c ur e ba s e ( t he chi l d us e s t he pa r ent as a ba s e f r om whi c h t o
l aunch expl orat i on a nd per s onal gr owt h)
Ha z a n a nd her c ol l e a gue s
2 4
s ur veyed hundr e ds of pe opl e f r om t he a g e s
of six t hr ough ei ght y-t wo, as ki ng whi ch pe opl e i n thei r li ves f ul f i l l ed e a c h
of t he f our def i ni ng f eat ur es of a t t a c hme nt (f or exa mpl e: " Wh o m do you
mos t l i ke t o s pe nd t i me wi t h? " "WTiom do you t urn t o whe n you are f e e l i ng
ups et ? " ) . I f ba bi e s coul d t ake t he survey, t hey woul d nomi na t e mo m or da d
as t he a ns we r t o all ques t i ons , but by t he t i me t hey ar e ei ght , chi l dr en wa nt
mos t strongl y t o s pe nd t i me wi th thei r peer s . ( Whe n chi l dr en r es i s t l eavi ng
thei r f r i ends t o c o me ho me for di nner, that' s proxi mi t y ma i nt e na nc e . ) Be-
t ween t he a ges of ei ght a nd f our t een, s a f e ha v e n e xpa nds f r om pa r e nt s t o
i ncl ude peer s as a dol e s c e nt s begi n t ur ni ng t o e a c h ot her f or e mot i ona l s up-
port. But it's onl y at t he end of a dol e s c e nc e , a r ound t he a g e s f i f t een t o s ev-
ent een, that all f our c o mpo ne nt s of a t t a c hme nt c a n be s a t i s f i ed by a peer,
s peci f i cal l y a r omant i c part ner. T h e Ne w Te s t a me nt r e c or ds t hi s nor ma l
t r ans f er ence of a t t a c hme nt : " For thi s r eas on a ma n shal l l eave hi s f a t her
jind mot her a nd be j oi ned t o his wi f e, a nd t he t wo shal l b e c o me o ne f l es h.
S o t hey are no l onger t wo, but one f l es h" ( M A R K 1 0 : 7 9 ) .
Evi de nc e t hat r omant i c par t ner s b e c o me t r ue a t t a c hme nt f i gur es , l i ke
parent s , c o me s f r om a review
25
, of r es ear ch on how pe opl e c o p e wi t h t he
deat h of a s pous e , or a l ong s epar at i on. Th e revi ew f ound t hat adul t s experi -
e nc e t he s a me s e q ue nc e Bowl by had obs er ved i n chi l dr en pl a c e d i n hos pi -
tals: initial anxi ety a nd pani c, f ol l owed by l ethargy and depr es s i on, f ol l owed
by recovery t hrough emot i onal de t a c hme nt . Fur t her mor e, t he revi ew f o und
that cont act wi t h cl os e f ri ends was of little hel p i n bl unt i ng t he pai n, but re-
newed cont act wi t h one' s parents was mu c h mor e ef f ect i ve.
Onc e you thi nk about it, t he si mi l ari ti es bet ween r omant i c r el at i ons hi ps
and parent -i nf ant rel at i onshi ps are obvi ous. Lovers i n t he first rus h of l ove
s pend endl es s hours i n f ace- t o- f ace mut ual gaze, hol di ng ea c h ot her , nuzzl i ng
1 2 0 ' i ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
and cuddling, kissing, using baby voices, and enjoying the s ame release of the
hormone oxytocin that bi nds mothers and babies to each other in a kind of
addiction. Oxytocin prepares f emal e mammal s to give birth (triggering uter-
ine contractions and milk release), but it also af f ect s their brains, fostering
nurturant behaviors and reduci ng feelings of stress when mothers are in con-
tact with their children.
26
Thi s powerful at t achment of mot hers to infants-often cal l ed the "care-
giving s ys t em" i s a di f f erent psychol ogi cal syst em f rom the at t achment
system in i nfants, but the two s ys t ems obviously evol ved in t andem. The
infant' s di stress si gnal s are ef f ect i ve only becaus d they trigger caregiving
desi res in the mother. Oxytoci n is the gl ue that makes the two parts stick
together. Oxytocin has been oversi mpl i fi ed in the popul ar press as a hor-
mone that makes peopl e (even ornery men) suddenl y sweet and affecti on-
ate, but more recent work s ugges t s that it can al so be thought of as a stress
hormone i n wome n:
2 7
It i s s ecr et ed when women are under stress and
their at t achment needs are not bei ng met , caus i ng a need for contact with
a loved one. On the other hand, when oxytocin f l oods the brain (mal e or
f emal e) while two peopl e are in skin-to-skin cont act , the ef f ect is soothi ng
and cal mi ng, and it strengthens the bond bet ween t hem. For adul ts, the
biggest rush of oxytoci nother than giving birth and nur s i ngcomes f rom
sex.
28
Sexual activity, especi al l y if it i ncl udes cuddl i ng, extended touchi ng,
and orgasm, turns on many of the s a me circuits that are us ed to bond in-
fants and parents. It's no wonder that childhood at t achment styles persist
i n adul thood: The whole at t achment syst em persi sts.
L O V E A N D T H E S W E L L E D H E A D
Adult love relationships are therefore built out of two anci ent and interlock-
ing systems: an attachment system that bonds child to mother and a care-
giving system that bonds mot her to child. The s e s ys t ems are as old as
mammal sol der perhaps, becaus e birds have them, too. But we still have to
add somethi ng el se to explain why sex is related to love. No problem; nature
was motivating animals to seek each other out for sex long before mammal s
or birds existed. The "mati ng syst em" is completely separate from the other
Lcrve and Attachments 1 121
i wo s ys t ems , and i t involves di sti ncti ve brai n ar eas and hor mone s .
2 9
In s o me
ani mal s , s uc h as rats, t he mat i ng s ys t em dr aws mal e and f emal e t oget her j us t
long enough for t hem t o copul at e. I n ot her s peci es , s uc h as e l e pha nt s , ma l e
and f emal e are drawn t oget her for several da ys t he durat i on of t he ferti l e
pe r i oddur i ng whi c h t hey s har e t ender c a r e s s e s , pl ay j oyf ul l y, a nd s how
ma ny ot her s i gns t hat r e mi nd huma n obs er ver s of mut ua l i nf a t ua t i o n.
3 0
What ever the durat i on, for mos t ma mma l s ( ot her t han huma ns ) t he t hr ee sys-
t ems are s t rung together with perf ect predictability. Fi rst, hor monal c ha ng e s
i n t he f emal e around t he t i me of ovul ati on trigger adver t i s ement s of her fertil-
ity: Fe ma l e dogs and cat s , for exampl e, r el eas e phe r omone s ; f e ma l e c hi m-
panzees and bonobos exhi bi t enor mous red geni tal swel l i ngs. Next , t he ma l e s
be c ome t urned on a nd c ompe t e (in s ome s peci es ) t o s ee who get s t o ma t e .
The f emal e makes s ome sort of choi ce (in mo s t s peci es ) , whi ch i n t urn acti -
vates her own mat i ng s ys t em; and then, s o me mont hs later, birth act i vat es t he
caregi vi ng s ys t em i n t he mot her and the at t achment s ys t em i n the. chi l d. Da d
i s l eft out i n t he col d, wher e he s pe nds hi s t i me s ni f f i ng f or mo r e pher o-
mones , or s canni ng for more swel l i ngs. Sex i s f or reproduct i on; l as t i ng l ove i s
for mot hers and chi l dren. So why are peopl e s o di f f erent ? Ho w di d h u ma n f e-
mal es c ome to hi de all si gns of ovul ati on a nd get me n to fall i n love wi t h t he m
and their chi l dren?
No bo dy knows , but t he mos t pl a us i bl e t heor y
3 1
i n my opi ni on b e g i ns
with t he e no r mo us e xpa ns i on of t he h u ma n br ai n t hat I t a l ked a b o u t i n
chapt er s 1 and 3. Whe n t he first homi ni ds spli t of f f r om t he a nc e s t o r s of
mode r n c hi mp a nz e e s , t hei r br ai ns we r e no bi gger t ha n t ho s e of c h i m-
panzees . The s e huma n ances t or s wer e bas i cal l y j us t bi pedal a pe s . Bu t t he n,
ar ound 3 mi l l i on years ago, s omet hi ng c ha nge d. Some t hi ng i n t he envi r on-
ment , or pe r ha ps an i ncr eas e i n tool us e ma d e pos s i bl e by i ncr eas i ngl y dex-
trous hands , ma de i t highly adapt i ve t o have a mu c h l arger brai n a n d mu c h
hi gher i nt el l i gence. However , brai n growt h f a c e d a literal bot t l e ne c k: t he
birth canal . The r e wer e phys i cal l i mi ts t o how l arge a head homi ni d f e ma l e s
coul d gi ve bi rth t o and still have a pel vi s t hat woul d al l ow t he m t o wa l k up -
right. At l east one s pe c i e s of homi ni dour a nc es t or evol ved a novel t e c h-
ni que that got ar ound thi s l i mi tati on by s e ndi ng ba bi es out of t he ut e r us
l ong bef or e thei r brai ns wer e devel oped e nough t o cont rol thei r bodi e s . I n
all ot her pr i mat e s pec i es , brai n growt h s l ows dramat i cal l y s oon a f t er bi r t h
122 ' i ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
becaus e the brai n i s mostl y compl et e and ready for servi ce; onl y s ome f i ne
tuni ng duri ng a f ew years of chi l dhood pl ay and l earni ng i s needed. In hu-
ma ns , however, the rapi d rat e of embr yoni c brai n growt h cont i nues f or
about two years after birth, f ol l owed by a sl ower but cont i nuous i ncrease
i n brain weight for anot her twenty year s .
3 2
Huma ns are t he only creat ures
on Earth whos e young are utterly hel pl es s f or years, and heavily dependent
on adul t care for more than a decade.
Gi ven the enor mous burden that i s the human chi l d, wome n can' t do i t
on their own. St udi es of hunt er-gat herer s oci et i es s how that mot hers of
young chi l dr en cannot col l ect e no ug h cal or i es t o ke e p t hems el ves and
their chi l dren al i ve.
3 3
They rely on t he l arge quant i t y of f ood as well as the
protecti on provi ded by mal es i n their pe a k years of productivity. Bi g brai ns,
so us ef ul for gos s i p and soci al mani pul at i on (as well as hunt i ng and gather-
ing), coul d theref ore have evol ved only i f men began chi ppi ng in. But i n
the compet i t i ve ga me of evol uti on, it's a l osi ng move for a mal e to provide
r es our ces t o a chi l d who i s not hi s own. So act i ve f at her s , mal e- f emal e
pai r-bonds, mal e sexual j eal ousy, and bi g-headed babi es all co-evol ved
that is, aros e gradual l y but together. A ma n who felt s ome desi re to stay
with a woman, guard her fidelity, and cont r i but e to the reari ng of their chil-
dren coul d pr oduce s mart er chi l dren t han coul d his l ess pat ernal compet i -
tors. In envi r onment s i n whi ch i nt el l i gence was hi ghl y adapt i ve ( whi ch
may have been all huma n envi r onment s , onc e we began maki ng tool s) ,
mal e i nvest ment i n chi l dren may have pai d of f for the me n t hems el ves (for
their genes , that is), and t heref ore b e c a me more c o mmo n with each s uc-
ces s i ve generat i on.
But f rom what raw materi al coul d a tie evolve bet ween me n and women
where one di d not exi st bef or e? Evol ut i on cannot des i gn anyt hi ng f rom
scrat ch. Evol uti on i s a pr oces s i n whi ch bones and hor mones and behav-
ioral pat t erns that were al ready c ode d for by t he genes are changed slightly
(by random mut at i on of t hos e genes ) and then s el ect ed i f they conf er an
advant age on an individual. It didn' t t ake muc h c ha nge to modi f y the at-
t achment s ys t em, whi ch every ma n and every woma n had us ed as a chi l d
to at t ach to mom, and have i t link up with the mat i ng s ys t em, whi ch was
al ready turni ng on i n each young per s on at t he t i me of puberty.
Love and Attachments ' J 27
Gr a nt e d, thi s t heory i s s pecul at i ve ( t he f os s i l i zed bone s of a c o mmi t t e d
f at her l ook no di f f er ent f r om t hos e of an i ndi f f er ent one) , but i t do e s ti e to-
get her neat l y many of t he di s t i nct i ve f e a t ur e s of h u ma n l i f e, s u c h as our
pai nf ul chi l dbi r t h, l ong i nf ancy, l arge br ai ns , a nd hi gh i nt el l i genc e. T h e
theory c onne c t s t he s e bi ol ogi cal qui r ks about huma n be i ngs t o s o me of t he
mos t i mpor t ant emot i onal oddi t i es of our s pe c i e s : t he e xi s t e nc e of s t r ong
a nd ( of t en) endur i ng emot i onal bonds be t we e n me n a nd wo me n, a nd be-
t ween me n a nd chi l dren. Be c a us e me n a nd wo me n i n a r el at i ons hi p have
many conf l i ct i ng i nt eres t s , evol ut i onary t heory doe s not vi ew l ove rel ati on-
s hi ps as ha r moni ous par t ner s hi ps f or chi l dr ear i ng;
3 4
but a uni ver s al f eat ur e
of huma n cul t ur es i s that me n a nd wo me n f or m r el at i ons hi ps i nt ended t o
last f or years ( mar r i age) that cons t r ai n t hei r s exual behavi or i n s o me way
a nd i ns t i t ut i onal i ze t hei r ti es t o chi l dr en and t o e a c h other.
T w o L O V E S , T W O E R R O R S
f a ke one anci ent a t t a c hment s ys t em, mi x wi th an e qua l me a s u r e of care-
gi vi ng s ys t em, t hrow i n a modi f i ed ma t i ng s ys t em a nd voi l a, t hat ' s r omant i c
love. I s e e m t o have l ost s ome t hi ng her e; r omant i c l ove i s s o mu c h mor e
t han t he s u m of i ts par t s . I t i s an ext r aor di nar y ps yc hol ogi c a l s t a t e that
l a unc he d t he Tr oj an war, i ns pi r ed mu c h of t he worl d' s be s t ( a nd worst )
mus i c a nd l i t erat ure, a nd gave ma ny of us t he mos t pe r f e c t da ys of our
lives. But I t hi nk that r omant i c l ove i s wi del y mi s unde r s t ood, a nd looking
at its ps ychol ogi cal s ub c o mp o ne nt s c a n cl ear up s o me puzzl es a nd gui de
the way ar ound love' s pi t f al l s.
In s o me cor ner s of uni versi t i es, t he pr of es s or s tell thei r s t ude nt s that ro-
mant i c l ove i s a s oci al cons t r uct i on, i nvent ed by t he Fr e nc h t r oubadour s of
t he t wel f t h cent ur y wi th thei r st ori es of chivalry, i deal i zat i on of wome n, and
t he upl i f t i ng a c he of u n c o n s u mma t e d des i r e. It's cert ai nl y t r ue that cul-
t ures cr eat e t hei r own unde r s t a ndi ngs of ps ychol ogi ca l p he no me na , but
many of t hos e phe no me na will oc c ur r egar dl es s of what pe opl e t hi nk about
t hem. ( For exa mpl e, deat h i s soci al l y c ons t r uc t e d by every cul t ur e, but bod-
ies di e wi t hout cons ul t i ng t hos e cons t r uct i ons . ) A survey of et hnogr aphi es
1 2 4 ' i ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
f rom 166 huma n cul t ur es
3 5
f ound cl ear evi dence of romant i c love i n 88
percent of t hem; for the rest, the et hnographi c record was too thin to he
sure ei ther way.
What the t roubadours di d give us is a parti cul ar myth of "true" l ovet he
idea that real love burns brightly and passi onatel y, and then it j ust keeps on
burni ng until deat h, and then i t j us t keeps on burni ng af t er deat h as the
lovers are reuni ted i n heaven. Thi s myth s e e ms to have grown and di f f us ed
in modern t i mes into a s et of i nterrel ated i deas about love and marri age. As
I see it, the modern myth of true love involves t hes e bel i ef s: True love is
pas s i onat e love that never f ades ; if you are in true love, you shoul d marry
that person; if love ends , you s houl d leave that person be c a us e it was not
true love; and if you can f i nd the right person, you will have true love for-
ever. You mi ght not bel i eve this myt h yoursel f, particularly if you are older
than thirty; but many young peopl e i n Western nati ons are rai sed on it, and
it act s as an ideal that they uncons ci ous l y carry with t hem even if they s cof f
at it. (It's not j us t Hol l ywood that perpet rat es the myth; Bollywood, the In-
dian film industry, is even more romant i ci zed. )
But if true love is def i ned as et ernal pas s i on, it is bi ologi cally i mpos s i bl e.
To s ee this, and to save t he dignity of love, you have to under s t and the dif-
f er ence bet ween two ki nds of love: pas s i onat e and compani onat e. Accord-
ing to the love res earchers El l en Ber s chei d and El ai ne Wal ster, pas s i onat e
love is a "wildly emot i onal s t at e in whi ch t ender and sexual f eel i ngs, el ati on
and pai n, anxiety and relief, al t rui s m and j eal ous y coexi st i n a conf us i on of
f eel i ngs . "
3 6
Pas s i onat e l ove i s t he l ove you fall i nto. It i s what ha ppe ns
when Cupi d' s gol den arrow hi ts your heart, and, i n an i nstant, the world
around you is t rans f ormed. You crave uni on with your bel oved. You want ,
somehow, to crawl into e a c h other. Thi s i s t he urge that Pl ato capt ur ed i n
The Symposium, in whi ch Ari s t ophanes ' toast to love is a myth about its ori-
gi ns. Ari s t ophanes says that peopl e originally had f our l egs, four ar ms , and
two f aces , but one day t he gods felt t hreat ened by the power and arrogance
of huma n bei ngs and dec i ded t o cut t hem i n hal f. Ever s i nce that day,
peopl e have wander ed the worl d s ear chi ng for their ot her hal ves. ( S ome
peopl e originally had two mal e f aces , s ome two f emal e, and the rest a mal e
and a f emal e, t hereby expl ai ni ng t he di versi ty of sexual ori ent at i on. ) As
proof , Ari s t ophanes as ks us t o i magi ne that He pha e s t us (the god of f i re
Love and Attachments 125
I
a nd he nc e of bl a c ks mi t hs ) we r e t o c o me upo n t wo l overs a s t hey l ay to-
ge t he r i n an e mb r a c e , a nd s ay t o t he m:
Wha t i s i t you huma n bei ngs really wa nt f r om e a c h ot her ? . . . I s t hi s
your heart' s des i re, t he nf or the t wo of you t o b e c o me part s of t he s a me
whol e, as near as c a n be, and never t o s epar at e, day or ni ght ? Be c a u s e i f
that' s your des i re, I'd like t o wel d you t oget her and j oi n you i nt o s ome -
thi ng that i s natural l y whol e, so that t he t wo of you are ma d e i nt o one.
Then t he t wo of you woul d s hare-one l i fe, as l ong as you l i ved, b e c a u s e
you woul d be one bei ng, and by t he s a me t oken, when you di ed, you
woul d be one a nd not two i n Ha de s , havi ng di ed a si ngl e deat h. Lo o k at
your love, and s e e i f thi s i s what you des i r e.
3 7
Ar i s t opha ne s s a ys t hat no l overs wo ul d t ur n do wn s uc h a n of f er .
Be r s c he i d a nd Wa l s t e r de f i ne c o mp a n i o n a t e l ove, i n c ont r a s t , a s " t he
a f f e c t i on we f eel f or t hos e wi t h who m o ur l i ves ar e de e pl y i nt e r t wi ne d . "
3 8
Co mp a n i o n a t e l ove gr ows s l owl y over t he year s as l overs a ppl y t hei r a t t a c h-
me nt a nd car egi vi ng s ys t e ms t o e a c h ot her, a nd a s t hey begi n t o rel y u p o n,
c a r e for, a nd t rust e a c h ot her. I f t he me t a p ho r f or p a s s i o na t e l ove i s f i re,
I he me t a p ho r f or c o mp a n i o n a t e l ove i s vi ne s gr owi ng, i nt e r t wi ni ng , a n d
gr adual l y bi ndi ng t wo pe o pl e t oget her. T h e c ont r a s t of wi l d a nd c a l m f o r ms
of l ove ha s oc c ur r e d t o pe o pl e i n ma ny c ul t ur e s . As a wo ma n i n a hunt e r -
gat her er t ri be i n Na mi b i a put it: " Wh e n t wo p e o p l e c o me t og e t he r t hei r
hear t s ar e on f i r e a nd t hei r pa s s i o n i s very gr eat . Af t e r a whi l e, t he f i r e c o o l s
a nd that' s how i t s t a ys . "
3 9
Pas s i onat e l ove i s a drug. Its s y mp t o ms overl ap wi th t hos e of her oi n ( eu-
phori c wel l -bei ng, s o me t i me s de s c r i be d i n s exual t er ms ) a nd c o c a i ne ( e upho-
ria c o mbi ne d wi th gi ddi nes s a nd ener gy) .
4 0
It's no wonder : Pa s s i ona t e l ove
al t ers t he acti vi ty of several par t s of t he brai n, i ncl udi ng par t s t hat a r e in-
vol ved i n t he r el eas e of dopa mi ne .
4 1
Any e xpe r i e nc e that f eel s i nt ens el y g ood
r el eas es dopa mi ne , a nd t he dopa mi ne l i nk i s cr uci al her e b e c a u s e dr ug s t hat
arti fi ci al l y rai s e d o p a mi ne l evel s, as do heroi n a nd c oc a i ne, put you at ri s k of
addi ct i on. I f you t ake c oc a i ne o nc e a mont h, you won' t b e c o me a ddi c t e d, but
i l you t ake i t every day, you will. No dr ug c a n ke e p you c ont i nuous l y hi gh.
' I' he brai n r eact s t o a chr oni c s ur pl us of dopa mi ne , devel ops ne ur o c he mi c a l
1 2 6 ' i ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
reactions that oppos e it, and restores its own equi l i bri um. At that point, toler-
ance has set in, and when the drug is wi thdrawn, the brain is unbal anced in
the opposi te direction: pai n, lethargy, and despai r follow withdrawal f rom co-
cai ne or f rom passi onat e love.
So if pas s i onat e love is a drugl i t eral l y a dr ugi t has to wear off even-
tually. Nobody can stay high f orever ( al t hough if you f i nd pas s i onat e love in
a l ong-di st ance rel ati onshi p, it's like t aki ng cocai ne once a mont h; the dr ug
can retain its pot ency be c a us e of your s uf f er i ng bet ween dos es ) . If passi on-
at e love is al l owed to run its j oyous cour s e, there mus t c o me a day when it
weakens . One of the lovers usual l y f eel s the change fi rst. It's like waki ng
up from a shared dr eam to s ee your s l eepi ng part ner drool i ng. In t hose mo-
ment s of returni ng sanity, the lover may s ee f l aws and def ect s t o whi ch s he
was bl i nd bef ore. The bel oved fal l s of f t he pedes t al , and t hen, bec a us e our
mi nds are so sensi ti ve to changes , her change i n f eel i ng can take on exag-
gerated i mport ance. " Oh, my Go d, " s he thi nks, " t he magi c has worn o f f
I'm not in love with hi m anymor e. " If s he s ubs cr i bes to t he myth of t rue
love, s he mi ght even cons i der breaki ng up with hi m. Af t er all, i f the magi c
ended, i t can' t be true love. But i f s he does end t he rel at i onshi p, s he might
be maki ng a mi s t ake.
Pas s i onat e love does not turn i nto compani onat e love. Passi onat e love
and compani onat e love are t wo s epar at e pr oces s es , and they have di f f erent
ti me cour s es . Thei r di vergi ng pat hs pr oduc e two danger poi nt s , two pl aces
where many peopl e make grave mi s t akes . In f i gure 6. 1, I've drawn out how
the intensity of pas s i onat e and compani onat e love mi ght vary i n one per-
son' s rel ati onshi p over the cour s e of six mont hs . Pas s i onat e love i gni tes, it
burns, and i t can reach its ma xi mum t emper at ur e wi thi n days. Duri ng its
weeks or mont hs of ma dne s s , lovers can' t hel p but thi nk about marri age,
and of t en they talk about it, too. S o me t i me s they even a c c ept Hephaes t us ' s
of f er and commi t to marri age. Thi s i s of t en a mi s t ake. Nobody can think
straight when high on pas s i onat e love. The rider i s as bes ot t ed as t he el e-
phant. Peopl e are not al l owed to si gn cont ract s when they are drunk, and I
s omet i mes wi sh we coul d prevent peopl e f r om pr opos i ng marri age when
they are high on pas s i onat e l ove be c a us e once a marri age proposal i s ac-
cept ed, f ami l i es are not i f i ed, and a dat e i s set , it's very hard to s t op t he
train. The drug i s likely to wear off at s ome poi nt duri ng t he st ressf ul wed-
Love and Attachments ' J 27
Fig. 6. 1 The Ti me Cour s e of the Two Ki nds of Love ( Short Run)
di ng pl anni ng pha s e , a nd many of t hes e c oupl e s will wal k down t he ai s l e
with doubt i n thei r hear t s a nd di vorce i n t hei r f ut ur e.
Th e ot her danger poi nt i s t he day t he dr ug we a ke ns its gri p. Pa s s i ona t e
l ove does n' t e nd on t hat day, but t he crazy a nd obs e s s i ona l hi gh pe r i od
does . The ri der regai ns hi s s e ns e s and ca n, f or t he f i rst t i me, a s s e s s whe r e
t he el epha nt ha s t aken t he m. Br e a kups of t en ha ppe n at t hi s poi nt , a nd f or
many c oupl e s that' s a good thi ng. Cu p i d i s us ual l y port rayed as an i mpi s h
f el l ow b e c a us e he' s s o f ond of j oi ni ng t oget her t he mos t i na ppr opr i a t e c ou-
pl es. But s ome t i me s br eaki ng up i s pr e ma t ur e , b e c a u s e i f t he l over s had
s t uck i t out , i f they had gi ven c ompa ni ona t e l ove a c ha nc e to grow, t hey
mi ght have f ound t rue l ove.
Tr ue love exi st s, I bel i eve, but i t i s no t c a nno t b e p a s s i o n t hat l as t s
f orever. Tr ue l ove, t he l ove t hat unde r g i r ds s t r ong ma r r i a g e s , i s s i mp l y
s t rong c ompa ni ona t e l ove, wi th s o me a dde d pas s i on, be t we e n t wo pe opl e
who are fi rml y c ommi t t e d t o e a c h ot her.
4 2
Co mp a ni o na t e l ove l ooks we a k
i n t he graph above be c a us e i t c a n never at t ai n t he i nt ens i t y of pa s s i o na t e
love. But i f we c ha nge t he t i me s cal e f r om six mont hs t o sixty year s , as i n
I lie next f i gure, i t i s pa s s i ona t e love that s e e ms t ri vi al a f l as h i n t he p a n
whi l e c ompa ni ona t e love c a n last a l i f et i me. Whe n we a dmi r e a c o u p l e still
In love on t hei r f i f t i et h anni versary, i t i s thi s bl end of l o v e s mo s t l y c o m-
pa ni ona t et ha t we ar e admi r i ng.
128 ' i ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
Fig. 6. 2 The Ti me Cour s e of the Two Ki nds of Love ( Long Run)
W H Y D O P H I L O S O P H E R S H A T E L O V E ?
If you are i n pas s i onat e love and want to cel ebr at e your pas s i on, read po-
etry. If your ardor has cal med and you want to under s t and your evolving re-
l ati onshi p, read psychology. But i f you have j us t ended a rel ati onshi p and
woul d like to bel i eve you are bet t er of f wi t hout love, read philosophy. Oh,
there i s pl ent y of work ext ol l i ng t he vi rt ues of love, but when you look
closely, you find a deep ambi val ence. Love of God, love of nei ghbor, love of
truth, love of beaut yal l of t hes e are urged upon us. But t he pas s i onat e,
eroti c love of a real person? He a ve ns no!
In the anci ent Eas t , the probl em with love is obvious: Love is attachment.
Attachments, particularly sensual and sexual at t achment s, mus t be broken to
permit spiritual progress. Buddha sai d, " So l ong as l ustful desi re, however
small, of man for women is not controlled, so long the mi nd of man is not free,
but is bound like a calf tied to a cow. "
43
'The Laws of Manu, an ancient Hi ndu
treati se on how young Br ahmi n me n shoul d live, was even more negative
about women: "It is the very nat ure of women to corrupt men here on earth. "
44
Even Conf uci us , who was not f ocus ed on breaking at t achment s , saw roman-
tic love and sexuality as threats to the hi gher virtues of filial piety and loyalty to
one's superiors: "I have never s een anyone who loved virtue as much as sex. "
45
(Of course, Buddhi s m and Hi ndui s m are diverse, and both have changed with
time and place. Some modern l eaders, such as the Dalai La ma , accept roman-
Love and Attachments ' J 27
tic love a nd its at t endant sexual i ty as an i mport ant part of life. But t he spirit of
the anci ent religious a nd phi l osophi cal texts i s muc h mor e negat i ve. )
4 6
In t he Wes t , t he story i s a bit di f f er ent : Love i s wi del y c e l e b r a t e d by
t he poet s f r om Ho me r onwar ds . Love l a unc hes t he dr a ma of t he Iliad, a nd
the Odyssey e nds with t he l usty return of Odys s e us t o Penel ope. Wh e n t he
Gr e e k a nd Ro ma n phi l os opher s get hol d of r omant i c l ove, however , t hey
usual l y ei t her des pi s e it or try to t urn it i nto s omet hi ng el s e. Pl at o' s Sympo-
sium, for exampl e, i s an ent i re di al ogue devot ed to t he pr ai s e of l ove. But
you never know what posi t i on Pl at o hol ds until Socr at es s pea ks , a nd whe n
Socr at es s peaks , he t ras hes t he eul ogi es t o love t hat Ar i s t ophanes a nd ot her s
have j us t gi ven. He des cr i bes how l ove pr oduc e s a " di s e a s e " a mo ng t he ani -
mal s : " Fi rs t they ar e s i ck for i nt er cour s e with ea c h other, t hen f or nur t ur i ng
their young. "
4 7
( Not e: Ma t i ng s ys t em l eads t o caregi vi ng s ys t em. ) For Pl at o,
when huma n l ove r es embl es ani mal love, i t i s degradi ng. The l ove of a ma n
for a woman, as i t ai ms at procreat i on, i s t heref ore a de ba s e d ki nd of l ove.
Plato' s Soc r a t es t hen s hows how love can t r ans cend its ani mal or i gi ns by
ai mi ng at s omet hi ng higher. Whe n an ol der ma n l oves a young ma n, t hei r
l ove c a n be el evat i ng f or bot h b e c a u s e t he ol der ma n c a n, i n b e t we e n
r ounds of i nt er cour s e, t each t he young ma n about vi rt ue a nd phi l os ophy.
But even this love mus t be a s t eppi ng s t one only: Whe n a ma n l oves a be a u-
tiful body he mus t l e a m t o l ove beaut y i n general , not t he beaut y of o ne par-
ti cul ar body. He mus t c o me t o f i nd beaut y i n men' s s oul s , a nd t hen i n i de a s
and phi l osophy. Ul t i mat el y he c ome s t o know t he f or m of beaut y i t sel f :
The result is that he will see the beauty of knowl edge and be looking mai nl y
not at beaut y in a si ngl e exampl eas a servant woul d who f avored t he
beauty of a little boy or a man or a single cus t om . . . but t he lover is t urned
to the great sea of beauty, and, gazing upon this, he gives birth to many glo-
riously beautiful ideas and theories, in unstinting love of wi sdom. . . ,
4 8
The es s ent i al nat ur e of l ove as an a t t a c hme nt be t we e n t wo p e o p l e i s re-
j ect ed; l ove c a n be di gni f i ed onl y whe n i t i s conver t ed i nt o an a ppr e c i a t i on
of beaut y i n gener al .
T h e l at er St oi c s al s o obj ec t t o t he par t i cul ar i t y of l ove, t o t he wa y i t
pl aces t he s our c e of one' s ha ppi nes s i n t he hands of anot her pe r s on, wh o m
1 3 0 ' i ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
one cannot fully control. Even t he Epi cur eans , whos e phi l osophy was bas ed
on the pursui t of pl eas ure, val ue f ri ends hi p but oppos e romant i c love. In De
Rerutn Natura, the phi l osophi cal poet Lucr et i us lays out t he f ul l est surviv-
ing s t at ement of the phi l osophy of Epi cur us . The end of Book 4 i s widely
known as the " Ti rade Agai nst Love, " i n whi ch Lucr et i us compar es love to a
wound, a cancer, and a s i cknes s . The Epi cur eans were expert s on desi re
and its sati sf acti on; they obj ect ed to pas s i onat e love be c a us e i t cannot be
sati sfi ed:
When two lie tasting, limb by limb
life's bloom, when flesh gives foretaste of delight,
and Venus is ready to sow the female field,
they hungrily seize each other, mouth to mouth
the spittle flows, they pant, press tooth to l i p -
vainly, for they can chafe no substance off
nor pierce and be gone, one body in the other.
For often this seems to be their wish, their goal,
so greedily do they cling in passion's bond.
49
Christianity brought f orward ma ny of t hese cl assi cal f ears of love. J e s us
c omma nds his followers to love God, us i ng the same"words as Mos es ("With
all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mi ght , " M A T T H E W ,
2 2 : 3 7 , in referri ng to D E U T E R O N O M Y 6 : 5 ) . J es us ' s econd commandment is
to love one another: "You shall love your nei ghbor as yoursel f " ( M A T T H E W
2 . 2 : 3 9 ) . But what can it me a n to love-others as one loves ones el f ? The psy-
chological origins of love are in at t achment to parents and sexual partners.
We do not attach to oursel ves; we do not s eek security and ful fi l l ment i n our-
selves. What J es us s eems to mean i s that we shoul d value others as much as
we val ue oursel ves; we shoul d be kind and generous even to strangers and
even to our enemi es . Thi s upl i fti ng mes s age i s relevant to the i ssues of reci-
procity and hypocrisy that I talked about in chapt ers 3 and 4, but it has little
to do with the psychol ogi cal s ys t ems I have been coveri ng in this chapter.
Rather, Chri sti an love has f ocus ed on two key words:- caritas and agape. Cari-
tas (the origin of our word "chari ty") is a ki nd of i nt ense benevol ence and
good will; agape is a Gr eek word that ref ers to a kind of sel f l ess, spiritual love
Lcrve and Attachments 1 131
with no sexuality, no cl i ngi ng t o a part i cul ar ot her pers on. ( Of c our s e, Chr i s -
tianity endor s es the love of a ma n and a wo ma n wi thi n marri age, but even
this love i s i deal i zed as t he love of Chr i s t f or hi s churchEPHESI ANS 5:25)
As i n Pl ato, Chr i s t i an love i s love st ri pped of its es s ent i al parti cul ari ty, i ts fo-
c us on a specific ot her pers on. Love is r emodel ed i nto a general at t i t ude to-
ward a muc h larger, even i nfi ni te, cl as s of obj ect s .
Ca r i t a s a nd a ga pe ar e beaut i f ul , but t hey ar e not rel at ed t o or der i ved
Irom the ki nds of love that peopl e need. Al t hough I woul d like to l i ve in a
worl d i n whi ch everyone radi at es benevol ence toward everyone el s e, I woul d
rather live i n a world i n whi ch t here was at l east one per s on who l oved me
speci fi cal l y, a nd whom I loVed i n return. S u p p o s e Har l ow had r ai s ed r hes us
monkeys under two condi t i ons . For t he first group, ea c h was r ear ed i n i ts
own cage, but each day Har l ow put i n a new but very nurt uri ng adul t f e ma l e
monkey as a c ompa ni on. For t he s econd gr oup, ea c h was reared i n a c a g e
with its own mother, a nd then each day Har l ow put i n a new and not par-
ticularly ni ce other monkey. Th e monkeys i n t he first gr oup got s ome t hi ng
like c a r i t a s be ne vol e nc e wi t hout par t i cul ar i t yand they woul d pr obabl y
e me r ge emot i onal l y da ma g e d. Wi t hout havi ng f or med an a t t a c hme nt rela-
ti onshi p, they woul d likely be f earf ul of ne w exper i ences and una bl e t o l ove
or car e for other monkeys . The monkeys i n t he s ec ond gr oup woul d have had
s omet hi ng cl os er t o a normal r hes us monkey chi l dhood, and woul d pr obabl y
emer ge heal thy and abl e t o love. Monkeys a nd peopl e ne e d c l os e a nd l ong-
l ast i ng a t t a c hme nt s to part i cul ar ot hers . In c ha pt er 9, I will pr o po s e t hat
iigape i s real, but usual l y short-l i ved. It can c ha nge lives a nd enri ch l i ves, but
i t cannot s ubs t i t ut e for t he ki nds of love ba s ed on at t achment s .
There are several r eas ons why real huma n love mi ght ma ke phi l os ophe r s
uncomf or t abl e. Fi rst, pas s i onat e love i s not or i ous for maki ng pe opl e illogi-
cal and irrational, and Wes t er n phi l os opher s have l ong t hought t hat moral i t y
i s gr ounded i n rationality. (In chapt er 8, I will ar gue agai ns t thi s vi ew. ) Love
i s a ki nd of insanity, a nd many peopl e have, whi l e cr azed wi th pa s s i on, ru-
ined thei r lives a nd t hos e of ot hers . Mu c h of t he phi l os ophi cal oppos i t i on t o
love may t her ef or e be wel l -i nt ent i oned advi ce by t he s a ge s t o t he young:
Shut your ears t o t he si rens' decei t f ul s ong.
I t hi nk, however, t hat at l eas t t wo l es s benevol ent mot i va t i ons a r e at
work. Fi rst, t here may be a ki nd of hypocri t i cal sel f -i nt erest i n whi c h t he
1 3 2 ' i ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
older generati on says, " Do as we say, not as we di d. " Buddha and St . Augus-
tine, for exampl e, drank their fill of pas s i onat e love as young me n and c a me
out only much later as opponent s of sexual at t achment s . Mor al codes are
desi gned to keep order within soci ety; they urge us to rein i n our desi res and
play our assi gned roles. Romant i c love i s not ori ous for maki ng young peopl e
give l ess than a damn about the rul es and convent i ons of their society, about
cast e lines, or about f euds bet ween Ca pul e t s and Mont agues . So the sages'
cons t ant a t t empt s t o r edef i ne l ove as s ome t hi ng spi ri t ual a nd pros oci al
sound to me like the moral i sm of par ent s who, havi ng enj oyed a variety of
love af f ai rs when they were young, now try to expl ai n to their daught er why
she shoul d save hersel f for marri age.
A . second motivation is the f ear of deat h. J a mi e Gol denber g
5 0
at the Uni -
versity of Col or ado has shown that when peopl e are as ked to refl ect on their
own mortality, they fi nd the physi cal as pect s of sexuality more di sgusti ng,
and they are l ess likely to agree with an es s ay argui ng for the essenti al simi-
larity of peopl e and ani mal s . Gol de nbe r g and her col l eagues believe that
peopl e in all cul t ures have a pervasi ve f ear of deat h. Huma n bei ngs all know
that they are goi ng do die, and so huma n cul t ures go to great l engths to con-
struct s ys t ems of meani ng that di gni fy life and convi nce peopl e that their
lives have more meani ng than t hos e of the ani mal s that di e all around t hem.
The extensi ve regulation of sex i n many cul t ures , the at t empt to link love to
God and then to cut away the sex, i s part of an el aborat e def ens e agai nst the
gnawi ng f ear of mortality.
51
If this is true, if the s ages have a vari ety of uns t at ed r eas ons for warni ng
us away f rom pas s i onat e love and at t achment s of many ki nds, per haps we
shoul d be sel ecti ve i n heedi ng their advi ce. Perhaps we need to look at our
own lives, lived in a world very di f f erent f r om thei rs, and al s o at the evi-
dence about whet her at t achment s are good or bad for us.
F R E E D O M C A N B E
H A Z A R D O U S T O Y O U R H E A L T H
I n t he l at e ni net eent h cent ury, one of t he f ounde r s of soci ol ogy, Emi l e
Durkhei m, per f or med a schol arl y mi r acl e. He gat hered dat a f rom acr os s
Lcrve and Attachments 1 33
Eur ope t o s t udy t he f act or s that af f ect t he s ui ci de rat e. Hi s f i ndi ngs c a n he
s umma r i z e d i n one word: cons t r ai nt s . No ma t t er how he pa r s e d t he dat a,
peopl e who had f ewer s oci al cons t r ai nt s , bonds , a nd obl i gat i ons we r e mor e
likely to kill t hems el ves . Dur khei m l ooked at t he " degr ee of i nt egr at i on of
rel i gi ous s oci et y" a nd f ound that Pr ot es t ant s , who lived t he l eas t de ma nd-
ing rel i gi ous lives at t he t i me, had hi gher s ui c i de rat es t han di d Ca t hol i c s ;
J e ws , wi th t he de ns e s t net wor k of soci al a nd rel i gi ous obl i gat i ons , ha d t he
l owest . He exa mi ned t he " degr ee of i nt egrat i on of dome s t i c s oc i e t y" t he
f a mi l ya nd f ound t he s a me thi ng: Peopl e l i vi ng al one wer e mos t likely t o
kill t he ms e l ve s ; mar r i ed peopl e, l es s ; mar r i ed pe opl e wi t h c hi l dr e n, still
l es s . Dur khe i m c o nc l u d e d t hat pe opl e ne e d obl i gat i ons a nd c ons t r a i nt s
t o provi de s t r uct ur e a nd me a ni ng t o thei r l i ves: " The mor e we a k e ne d t he
gr oups t o whi ch [ a ma n] bel ongs , t he l es s he de pe nds on t he m, t he mor e
he c ons equent l y de pe nds onl y on hi ms el f a nd r ecogni zes no ot her r ul es of
c onduc t t han what are f ounde d on hi s pri vat e i nt er es t s . "
5 2
A hundr ed years of f ur t her s t udi es have c onf i r me d Dur khei m' s di agno-
si s. If you want t o pr edi ct how happy s o me o ne is, or how l ong s he will live
( a nd i f you a r e not al l owed t o a s k a bout her g e ne s or per s ona l i t y) , you
s houl d f i nd out a bout her soci al r el at i ons hi ps . Ha vi ng s t r ong s oci al rel a-
t i ons hi ps s t r engt hens t he i mmu n e s ys t em, e xt e nds l i f e ( mor e t ha n do e s
qui t t i ng s moki ng) , s p e e ds recovery f rom surgery, a nd r e duc e s t he r i s ks of
depr es s i on a nd anxi ety di s or der s .
5 3
It's not j us t that ext rovert s ar e nat ural l y
happi er and heal t hi er; whe n i ntroverts ar e f or ced t o be mor e out goi ng, t hey
usual l y enj oy i t and f i nd t hat i t boos t s thei r mo o d.
5 4
Eve n pe opl e who t hi nk
i hey don' t want a lot of s oci al cont act still benef i t f r om it. And it's not j us t
I hat " we all ne e d s o me b o d y t o l ean on" ; r e c e nt wor k on giving s uppor t
s ho ws t hat c a r i ng f or ot he r s i s of t e n mo r e be ne f i c i a l t han i s r e c e i vi ng
hel p.
5 5
We ne e d t o i nt er act a nd i nt er t wi ne wi th ot her s ; we ne e d t he gi ve
and t he t ake; we need t o bel ong.
5 6
An i deol ogy of ext r eme pe r s ona l f ree-
d o m c a n be da nger ous b e c a u s e i t e nc our a g e s pe opl e t o l eave ho me s , j obs ,
ci t i es , and ma r r i a ge s i n s e a r c h of per s ona l a nd pr of e s s i ona l f ul f i l l me nt ,
t hereby br eaki ng t he r el at i ons hi ps that wer e pr obabl y t hei r bes t hope f or
s uc h f ul f i l l ment .
S e ne c a wa s right: " No one c a n live happi l y who has regard t o hi ms e l f
al one and t r ans f or ms everyt hi ng i nto a que s t i on of hi s own utility. " J o hn
134 ' i ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
Do nne wa s right: No ma n, woma n, or chi l d i s an i s l and. Ar i s t opha ne s was
right: We need ot hers t o c ompl e t e us . We ar e an ul t ras oci al s pe c i e s , ful l of
emot i ons f i nel y t uned f or l ovi ng, bef r i endi ng, hel pi ng, s har i ng, a nd other-
wi s e i nt ert wi ni ng our l i ves wi t h ot her s . At t a c hme nt s and r el at i ons hi ps can
bri ng us pai n: As a char act er i n J ea n- Pa ul Sart re' s pl ay No Exit sai d, " Hel l
i s ot her pe opl e . "
5 7
But s o i s heaven.
The Uses of Adversity
When heaven is about to confer a great responsibility on any
man, it will exercise his mind with suffering, subject his
sinews and bones to hard work, expose his body to hunger,
put him to poverty, place obstacles in the paths of his deeds,
so as to stimulate his mind, harden his nature, and improve
wherever he is incompetent.
M E N G T Z U ,
1
C H I N A , 3 R D C E N T , B C E
What doesn't kill me makes me stronger.
N I E T S Z C H E
2
IV1 ANY TRADI TI ONS HAVE a not i on of f at e, pr edes t i nat i on, or di vi ne f ore-
knowl edge. Hi ndus have a folk bel i ef that on the day of birth, Go d wr i t es t he
destiny of each chi l d upon hi s or her f or ehead. S uppo s e that on t he day your
child i s born, you are gi ven two gi fts: a pai r of gl as s es that al l ows you to read
this f orecast , and a penci l that al l ows you to edit it. ( S uppos e f urt her that t he
gilts c ome f r om God, with full per mi s s i on t o us e t hem as you pl eas e. ) Wh a t
would you do? You read t he list: At age ni ne: best f ri end di es of cancer . At
ei ghteen: gr aduat es hi gh school at t op of cl as s . At twenty: car acci dent whi l e
driving drunk l eads t o amput at i on of l eft leg. At twenty-four: b e c o me s s i ngl e
|uirent. At twenty-ni ne: marri es. At thirty-two: publ i s hes s uc c e s s f ul novel . At
1 3 5
1 3 6 ' i ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
thirty-three: di vorces; and so on. How pai nf ul you' d find it to s ee your child's
f uture suf f eri ng written out bef ore you! What parent coul d resist the urge to
cross off the t raumas, to correct the sel f-i nfl i cted wounds ?
But be caref ul with that penci l . Your good i nt ent i ons coul d make thi ngs
worse. If Ni et zs che is right that what doesn' t kill you ma ke s you stronger,
then t he c ompl e t e er as ur e of s er i ous advers i t y f r om your chi l d' s f ut ur e
woul d l eave hi m or her wea k and under devel oped. Thi s chapt er i s about
what we might call the "adversi ty hypot hes i s , " whi ch says that peopl e need
adversity, s et backs , and per haps even t r auma to reach t he hi ghest levels of
strength, f ul f i l l ment , and personal devel opment .
Ni et zsche' s di ct um can' t be literally true, at l east, not all the ti me. Peopl e
who f a c e the real and present threat of their own deat hs , or who wi t ness the
violent deat hs of others, s omet i mes devel op pos t t r aumat i c st ress di sorder
( PTS D) , a debi l i tati ng condi t i on that l eaves its vi ct i ms anxi ous and over-
reacti ve. Peopl e who s uf f er f r om P T S D are changed, s ome t i me s perma-
nently: They pani c or cr umbl e mor e easi l y when f aced with later adversity.
Even i f we t ake Ni et zs che fi gurati vel y ( whi ch he woul d have muc h pre-
ferred anyway), fifty years of res earch on stress shows that st ressors are gen-
erally bad for peopl e,
3
cont r i but i ng t o depr es s i on, anxi ety di s orders , and
heart di sease. So let's be caut i ous about accept i ng the adversi ty hypothesi s.
Let' s look to sci enti fi c research to f i gure out when adversi ty i s benef i ci al ,
and when it is harmf ul . The ans wer is not j ust "adversi ty within l i mi ts. " It's a
much more i nteresti ng story, one that reveal s how human bei ngs grow and
thrive, and how you (and your chi l d) can best profit f rom the adversity that
surely lies in your f ut ure.
P O S T T R A U M A T I C G R O W T H
Greg' s life fell apart on April 8, 1999. On that day, his wi f e and two chil-
dren, ages f our and seven, di s appear ed. It took Gr e g t hree days j us t t o f i nd
out that they had not di ed i n a car cr as h; Amy had t aken t he chi l dren and
run off with a man s he had met in a s hoppi ng mall a f ew weeks earlier. The
f our of t hem were now dri vi ng around t he count ry and had been spot t ed i n
several Western st at es. The pri vate det ect i ve Gr e g hi red qui ckl y di scovered
The Uses of Adversity 1 39
that t he ma n who had r ui ned Greg' s l i fe ear ned hi s l i vi ng as a c on art i st
iind pet t y cr i mi nal . Ho w c oul d t hi s ha ve ha p p e n e d ? Gr e g f el t l i ke J o b ,
s t r i pped i n one day of all he l oved mos t . And l i ke J ob, he ha d no expl ana-
ti on f or what had bef al l en hi m.
Gr e g ,
4
an ol d f r i end of mi ne, cal l ed me t o s e e whet her I , as a ps yc hol o-
gi st , coul d of f er i ns i ght i nto how his wi f e had f al l en under t he i nf l ue nc e of
s uc h a f r aud. The one i nsi ght I coul d of f er wa s that t he ma n s o u nd e d l i ke a
ps ychopat h. Mo s t ps yc hopa t hs are not vi ol ent ( al t hough mos t seri al mur -
der er s and seri al r api s t s are ps yc hopa t hs ) . The y ar e peopl e, mos t l y me n,
who have no moral emot i ons , no a t t a c hme nt s ys t ems , a nd no c o nc e r ns f or
ot her s .
5
Be c a us e t hey f eel no s ha me , e mba r r a s s me nt , or gui l t, t hey f i nd i t
eas y t o ma ni pul a t e pe opl e i nto gi vi ng t he m money, sex, a nd t r us t . I t ol d
Gr e g that i f thi s ma n was i ndeed a ps yc hopa t h, he wa s i nc a pa bl e of l ove
and woul d s oon tire of Amy and t he ki ds . Gr e g woul d pr obabl y s e e hi s chi l -
dr en agai n s oon.
Two mont hs l ater, Amy r et ur ned. T h e pol i ce r es t or ed t he c hi l dr e n t o
Gr eg' s cus t ody. Gr eg' s pani c p ha s e wa s over, but s o was hi s ma r r i a ge, a nd
Gr e g began t he l ong and pai nf ul pr oc e s s of r ebui l di ng hi s l i f e. He wa s now
a s i ngl e par ent living on an as s i s t ant pr of es s or ' s salary, a nd he f a c e d year s
of legal e xpe ns e s f i ght i ng Amy over t he c us t ody of thei r chi l dr en. He ha d
little hope of f i ni s hi ng t he book his a c a d e mi c car eer d e p e nd e d upo n, a nd
he worri ed about hi s chi l dren' s ment al heal t h, and hi s own. Wh a t wa s he
goi ng t o do?
I vi si ted Gr e g a f e w mont hs later. It wa s a beaut i f ul Aug us t eveni ng, a nd
as we sat on hi s por c h, Gr e g tol d me a bout how t he cri s i s ha d a f f e c t e d
hi m. He was still i n pai n, but he had l ear ned that ma ny pe opl e c a r e d a bout
hi m a nd wer e t here t o hel p hi m. Fami l i es f r om hi s c hur c h we r e br i ngi ng
hi m mea l s a nd hel pi ng out wi th chi l dcar e. Hi s par ent s wer e s el l i ng t hei r
hous e i n Ut a h a nd movi ng t o Char l ot t es vi l l e t o hel p hi m rai s e t he c hi l dr e n.
Al so, Gr e g s ai d that t he exper i ence ha d radi cal l y c ha ng e d hi s pe r s pe c t i ve
about what ma t t e r e d i n l i fe. As l ong as he had hi s chi l dr en ba c k, c a r e e r
s u c c e s s wa s no l onger s o i mpor t a nt t o hi m. Gr e g s a i d he now t r e a t e d
peopl e di f f erentl y, a c ha ng e rel at ed t o hi s c ha ng e i n val ues : He f o und hi m-
sel f r eact i ng t o ot her s wi th mu c h great er sympat hy, love, a nd f or gi venes s .
I l e j us t coul dn' t get ma d at pe opl e f or l i ttl e t hi ngs anymor e. And t hen Gr e g
1 3 8 ' i ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
s ai d s omet hi ng so powerf ul that I c hoke d up. Ref erri ng to t he of t en sad
and movi ng sol o that i s at the heart of ma ny oper as , he sai d: " Thi s i s my
mohnent to si ng t he aria. I don' t want to, I don' t want to have thi s chance,
hut it's here now, and what am I goi ng to do about it? Am I goi ng to rise to
the occas i on? "
To have f r amed thi ngs i n s uch a way s howed that he was al ready rising.
Wi th the hel p of family, f ri ends, and de e p rel i gi ous fai th, Gr e g rebuilt his
life, f i ni s hed his book, and two years l ater f ound a bet t er j ob. Whe n 1 s poke
t o hi m recently, he told me he still f eel s wounded by what ha ppe ne d. But
he al so sai d that many of the posi t i ve cha nges had endur ed, and that he
now experi ences more j oy f rom each day with hi s chi l dren t han he did be-
f ore t he cri si s.
For de c a de s , r es ear ch i n heal t h ps ychol ogy f oc us e d on s t r es s and its
damagi ng ef f ect s . A maj or concer n i n thi s r es ear ch l i t erat ure has al ways
heen r es i l i encet he ways peopl e c o pe wi th adversi ty, f end of f damage,
and " bounce back" to normal f unct i oni ng. But it's onl y i n t he l ast f i f teen
years that researchers have gone beyond res i l i ence and begun t o f ocus on
the benefits of severe st ress. The s e benef i t s are s ome t i me s ref erred to col-
l ecti vel y as " pos t t r aumat i c gr owt h, "
6
i n di rect cont r as t t o pos t t r aumat i c
st ress disorder. Res ear cher s have now s t udi ed peopl e f aci ng many ki nds of
adversity, i ncl udi ng cancer, heart di s eas e, HIV, rape, as s aul t , paral ysi s, in-
fertility, hous e f i res, pl ane c r a s he s , a nd e a r t hqua ke s . Re s e a r c he r s have
st udi ed how peopl e cope with t he l os s of their st rongest at t achment s : chi b
dren, s pous es or part ners, and parent s . Thi s l arge body of r es ear ch shows
that al t hough t r aumas , cr i s es , and t r agedi es c o me i n a t hous a nd f or ms ,
peopl e benef i t f rom t hem i n t hree pri mary wa ys t he s a me ones that Gr eg
talked about .
The first benef i t i s that ri si ng to a chal l enge reveal s your hi dden abili-
t i es, a nd s e e i ng t hes e abi l i t i es c ha ng e s your s e l f - c onc e pt . No n e of us
knows what we are really capabl e of endur i ng. You mi ght say to yoursel f, "I
woul d di e if I lost X, " or "I coul d never survi ve what Y is goi ng through, " yet
t hes e are s t at ement s s pun out of thin ai r by the rider. If you did l ose X, or
f i nd yoursel f i n the s a me posi t i on as Y, your heart woul d not st op beati ng.
You woul d r es pond t o t he worl d as you f ound it, and mos t of t hos e re-
s pons es woul d be aut omat i c. Peopl e s ome t i me s say they are numb or on
The Uses of Adversity 1 39
aut opi l ot af t er a t erri bl e l oss or t r auma. Co ns c i o u s ne s s i s s everel y al t er ed,
yet s o me ho w t he body keeps movi ng. Over t he next f e w weeks s o me de-
gr ee of nor mal cy r et ur ns as one s t r uggl es t o ma ke s e ns e of t he l os s a nd of
one' s al t ered c i r c ums t a nc e s . Wha t does n' t kill you ma k e s you, by def i ni -
tion, a survivor, a bout who m pe opl e t hen say, "I coul d never survi ve wha t Y
i s goi ng t hr ough. " On e of t he mos t c o mmo n l es s ons pe opl e dr aw f r om be-
r eavement or t r auma i s that t hey ar e mu c h s t r onger t han t hey real i zed, a nd
t his new appr eci at i on of thei r s t r engt h t hen gi ves t he m c o nf i d e nc e t o f a c e
f ut ur e c ha l l e ng e s . And t hey a r e not j us t c o nf a bul a t i ng a si l ver l i ni ng t o
wr ap ar ound a dark cl oud; pe opl e who have s uf f er ed t hr ough bat t l e, r a pe,
concent r at i on c a mp s , or t r aumat i c per s onal l os s es of t en s e e m t o be i noc u-
l at ed
7
a ga i ns t f ut ur e s t r es s : The y r ecover mor e qui ckl y, i n par t b e c a u s e
I hey know t hey c a n c ope. Rel i gi ous l eader s have of t en poi nt e d t o exact l y
I his benef i t of s uf f er i ng. As Paul sai d i n hi s Let t er to t he Ro ma n s ( 5: 34) :
" S uf f e r i ng p r o d uc e s e ndur a nc e , a nd e nd ur a nc e p r o d uc e s c ha r a c t er , a nd
char act er pr o duc e s hope . " Mo r e recentl y, t he Dal ai L a ma s ai d: " T h e per -
s on who has had mor e exper i ence of ha r ds hi ps c a n s t a nd mor e f i r ml y i n
t he f a c e of pr obl e ms t han t he per s on who ha s never exper i enced s uf f er i ng.
I rom thi s angl e, t hen, s o me s uf f er i ng c a n be a good l es s on f or l i f e. "
8
The s e c ond cl as s of benef i t c onc er ns rel at i ons hi ps . Adversi t y i s a filter.
Whe n a per s on i s di agnos ed wi th cancer , or a c oupl e l os es a chi l d, s o me
l ri ends a nd f ami l y me mbe r s ri se t o t he oc c a s i on a nd l ook f or any way t hey
can t o expr es s s uppor t or t o be hel pf ul . Ot he r s turn away, pe r ha ps uns ur e of
what t o say or una bl e t o over come thei r own di s comf or t wi th t he s i t uat i on.
Rut adversi ty doesn' t j us t s epar at e t he f ai r-weat her f r i ends f r om t he t r ue; i t
s t r engt hens rel at i ons hi ps and i t opens peopl e' s heart s t o one anot her. We of-
ten devel op love for t hos e we car e for, and we usual l y f eel l ove a nd gr at i t ude
toward t hos e who car ed for us i n a t i me of need. In a l arge s t udy of ber ea ve-
ment , S us a n No l e n- Ho e k s e ma and her c ol l ea gues at St a nf or d Uni ver s i t y
f ound t hat one of t he mos t c o mmo n ef f ec t s of l os i ng a l oved one wa s t hat
t he be r e a ve d ha d a gr ea t er a ppr e c i a t i on of a nd t ol e r a nc e f or t he o t he r
peopl e i n his or her li fe. A woma n i n t he study, whos e par t ner had di ed of
cancer, expl ai ned: " [ The l os s ] e nha nc e d my rel at i ons hi p wi th ot her pe o pl e
be c a us e I real i ze t hat t i me i s s o i mpor t ant , a nd you c a n wa s t e s o mu c h
effort on s mal l , i ns i gni f i cant event s or f eel i ngs . "
9
Li ke Gr eg, thi s ber ea ved
140 ' i ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
woman f ound hersel f relating to ot hers in a more loving and l ess petty way.
Tr auma s eems to shut off t he mot i vat i on to pl ay Machi avel l i an tit for tat
with its emphas i s on sel f -promoti on and compet i t i on.
Thi s c ha nge i n ways of rel at i ng poi nt s t o t he thi rd c o mmo n benef i t :
Tr auma changes priorities and phi l os ophi es toward the pres ent ("Live each
day to the ful l est") and toward other peopl e. We have all heard stories about
rich and powerf ul peopl e who had a moral convers i on when f aced with
death. In 1993, I saw one of the gr andes t s uch stori es written in the rocks
out si de the Indian city of Bhubanes war, where I spent three mont hs study-
ing cul ture and morality. Ki ngAs hoka, af t er as s umi ng control of the Maurya
empi re (in central India) around 272 BCE, set out to expand his territory by
conques t . He was s ucces s f ul , s ubdui ng by sl aughter many of the peopl es
and ki ngdoms around hi m. But af t er a parti cul arl y bl oody victory over the
Kalinga peopl e, near what i s now Bhubanes war , he was sei zed with horror
and remorse. He converted to Buddhi s m, renounced all f urt her conques t by
vi ol ence, and devot ed his life to creat i ng a ki ngdom bas ed on j us t i ce and
res pect for dharma (the cos mi c law of Hi ndui s m and Buddhi s m) . He wrote
out his vision of a j us t society and hi s rul es for vi rtuous behavi or, and had
t hese edi ct s carved into rock walls t hroughout his ki ngdom. He sent emi s-
sari es as far away as Gr e e c e to s pr ead hi s vision of peace, virtue, and reli-
gi ous tol erance. Ashoka' s conversi on was c a us e d by victory, not adversity, yet
peopl e are of t en t r aumat i zedas moder n research on s ol di ers
1 0
i ndi cat es
by killing as well as by f aci ng the threat of deat h. Li ke so many who expe-
ri ence post t raumat i c growth, As hoka under went a prof ound transf ormati on.
In his edi ct s, he des cri bed hi ms el f as havi ng bec ome more forgiving, com-
passi onat e, and tolerant of t hos e who di f f ered with hi m.
Few peopl e have the chance to go f r om ma s s murderer to patron of hu-
manity, but a great many peopl e f aci ng deat h report changes in val ues and
perspect i ves. A di agnosi s of cancer is of t en des cr i bed, in ret rospect , as a
wake- up cal l , a reality check, or a t ur ni ng poi nt . Ma ny pe opl e cons i der
changi ng careers or reduci ng the t i me they s pend at work. The reality that
peopl e of t en wake up t o i s that l i f e i s a gi f t they have be e n t aki ng for
grant ed, and that peopl e mat t er mor e t han money. Cha r l e s Di ckens ' s A
Christmas Carol capt ures a deep truth about the ef f ect s of f aci ng mortality:
A few mi nut es with the ghost of " Chr i s t ma s Yet to Co me " convert s Scrooge,
The Uses of Adversity 1 39
t he ul t i mat e mi ser, i nto a gener ous ma n who t akes del i ght i n hi s f ami l y, hi s
empl oyees , a nd t he s t rangers he p a s s e s on t he st reet .
I don' t want to cel ebr at e s uf f er i ng, pr es cr i be i t f or ever yone, or mi ni mi z e
the moral i mper at i ve t o r e duc e i t whe r e we c a n. I don' t wa nt t o i gnore t he
pai n that r i ppl es out f r om e a c h di agnos i s of cancer , s pr e a di ng f ear a l o n g
l i nes of ki ns hi p a nd f r i ends hi p. I wa nt onl y t o ma ke t he poi nt that s uf f e r i ng
i s not al ways all bad f or all peopl e. The r e i s usual l y s o me good mi xe d i n
wi th t he bad, and t hos e who f i nd i t have f ound s o me t hi ng pr eci ous : a key
t o moral and spi ri t ual devel opment . As S ha ke s pe a r e wr ot e:
Sweet are the uses of adversity,
Which like the toad, ugly and venomous,
Wears yet a precious jewel in his head.
11
M U S T W E S U F F E R ?
I he adversi ty hypot hes i s has a wea k a nd a s t rong ver s i on. In t he we a k ver-
si on, adversi t y can l ead to growth, s t rengt h, joy, a nd s el f - i ni pr ovement , by
the t hree me c ha ni s ms of pos t t r aumat i c growt h de s c r i be d above. Th e we a k
versi on i s wel l - s uppor t ed by r es ear ch, but i t ha s f e w c l e a r i mpl i cat i ons f or
how we s houl d live our lives. The s t r ong versi on of t he hypot hes i s i s mo r e
unset t l i ng: It s t at es that peopl e must e ndur e adversi t y t o grow, and t hat t he
hi ghest l evel s of growt h a nd devel opment are only ope n t o t hos e who ha v e
l aced and over c ome great adversity. I f t he st rong vers i on of t he hypot hes i s i s
valid, i t has pr of ound i mpl i cat i ons f or how we s houl d l i ve our l i ves a n d
s t ruct ure our s oci et i es . I t me a ns that we s houl d t ake mo r e c ha nc e s a nd s uf -
fer mor e def eat s . I t me a ns that we mi ght be danger ous l y over pr ot ect i ng our
chi l dren, of f eri ng t hem li ves of bl and s af et y a nd t oo mu c h c ouns e l i ng whi l e
depri vi ng t hem of t he "cri ti cal i nc i dent s " '
2
that woul d he l p t he m t o g r ow
s t rong a nd t o devel op t he mos t i nt e ns e f r i ends hi ps . I t me a n s that he r oi c
s oci et i es , whi ch f ear di s honor mor e t han deat h, or s oc i e t i e s t hat s t r uggl e to-
get her t hrough war, mi ght pr oduce bet t er huma n bei ngs t h a n c a n a wor l d of
peace and prosperi t y i n whi ch peopl e' s expect at i ons r i s e s o hi gh t hat t hey
s ue e a c h ot her f or " emot i onal da ma g e s . "
142 ' i ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
But i s the strong versi on val i d? Peopl e of t en say that they have heen pro-
foundl y changed by adversity, yet r es ear cher s have so f ar col l ect ed little ev-
i dence of adver s i t y- i nduced per s onal i t y c ha ng e beyond s uc h r epor t s .
People' s s cores on personal i ty t est s are fairly s t abl e over t he cour s e of a f ew
years, even for peopl e who report that they have changed a great deal in
the i nteri m.
1 3
In one of the f ew s t udi es that tried to veri fy report s of growth
by aski ng the s ubj ect s ' f ri ends about t hem, the f ri ends not i ced muc h l ess
change than the s ubj ect s had r epor t ed.
1 4
Thes e studi es mi ght, however, have been looking for change i n the wrong
pl ace. Psychol ogi st s of t en appr oach personal i t y by meas ur i ng bas i c traits
s uch as the "bi g five": neurot i ci sm, extroversi on, ope nne s s to new experi-
ences , agr eeabl enes s ( war mt h/ ni cenes s ) , and c ons c i ent i ous nes s .
1 5
The s e
traits are f act s about the el ephant, about a person' s aut omat i c reacti ons to
vari ous si t uat i ons. They are fairly si mi l ar bet ween i dent i cal twi ns reared
apart, indicating that they are i nf l uenced in part by genes , al though they are
al so i nf l uenced by changes i n the condi t i ons of one' s life or the roles one
plays, s uch as becomi ng a par ent .
1 6
But psychol ogi st Da n Mc Ad a ms has
suggested that personality really has three l evel s,
17
and too much attenti on
has been pai d to the lowest level, the basi c traits. A s econd level of personal -
ity, "characteristic adaptati ons, " i ncl udes personal goal s, def ens e and copi ng
mechani s ms , val ues, beliefs, and life-stage concerns ( s uch as t hos e of parent-
hood or retirement) that peopl e devel op to s ucceed in their particular roles
and ni ches. The s e adaptati ons are i nf l uenced by bas i c traits: A person high
on neuroti ci sm will have many mo r e def ens e mechani s ms ; an extrovert will
rely more heavily on social relationships. But in this mi ddl e level, the person' s
basi c traits are ma de to mes h with f act s about the person' s envi ronment and
stage of life. When those f acts c ha ngea s after l osi ng a s pous e t he per-
son' s charact eri s t i c adapt at i ons c ha nge. The el ephant mi ght be sl ow t o
change, but the el ephant and rider, worki ng together, fi nd new ways of get-
ting through the day.
The third level of personal i ty i s that of t he "l i fe story." Hu ma n bei ngs i n
every cul t ure are f as ci nat ed by st ori es; we cr eat e t he m wherever we can.
( See t hos e seven stars up there? They are s even si sters who once . . . ) It's
no di f f erent with our own lives. We can' t s t op ours el ves f r om creat i ng what
The Uses of Adversity 1 39
Mc Ad a ms des cr i bes as an "evol vi ng story that i nt egrat es a r econs t r uct ed
past, percei ved present , and ant i ci pat ed f ut ure into a coherent and vi tal i zi ng
life myt h. "
1 8
Al t hough the lowest level of personal i ty i s most l y about t he ele-
phant, the life story i s written primarily by the ri der. \ o u creat e your story i n
cons ci ous nes s as you interpret your own behavior, and as you l i sten to ot her
people' s t hought s about you. The life story is not the work of a hi s t or i an
r emember that t he ri der has no acces s to the real caus es of your behavi or; i t
is more like a work of historical fiction that makes plenty of r ef er ences to
real event s and connect s t hem by dramat i zat i ons and i nt erpret at i ons t hat
might or mi ght not be true to t he spirit of what happened.
Fr om this three-l evel pers pect i ve, i t be c ome s cl ear why adversi ty mi ght
be neces s ar y for opt i mal huma n devel opment . Mos t of t he l i fe goal s that
peopl e pur s ue at the level of "charact eri st i c adapt at i ons " c a n be s o r t e da s
the psychol ogi st Rober t Emmo n s
1 9
has f oundi nt o f our cat egori es : wor k
and achi evement , rel at i onshi ps and intimacy, religion and spirituality, a nd
generati vi ty (l eavi ng a l egacy and cont ri but i ng s omet hi ng to s oci et y) . Al-
though i t i s general l y good for you to pur s ue goal s, not all goal s are equal .
Peopl e who st ri ve pri mari l y f or a c hi e ve me nt a nd weal t h ar e, E mmo n s
f i nds, l ess happy, on average, than t hos e whos e stri vi ngs f oc us on t he ot her
three cat egor i es .
2 0
The reason t akes us back t o happi nes s traps a nd con-
s pi cuous cons umpt i on ( s ee chapt er 5): Bec a us e huma n bei ngs were s ha pe d
by evol uti onary pr oc es s es t o pur s ue s uc c es s , not happi nes s , peopl e ent hu-
si asti cal l y pur s ue goal s that will hel p t hem win prest i ge i n zer o- s um c o m-
pet i t i ons. S u c c e s s i n t hes e compet i t i ons f eel s good but gi ves no l as t i ng
pl easure, and i t rai ses t he bar for f ut ur e s uc c e s s .
When tragedy strikes, however, it knocks you off the treadmill and f orces a
decision: Hop back on and return to busi ness as usual , or try s omet hi ng el s e?
I here is a wi ndow of t i mej us t a f ew weeks or mont hs af t er the t r agedy
during which you are more open to somet hi ng el se. Duri ng this ti me, achi eve-
ment goals of t en l ose their allure, s omet i mes comi ng to s eem poi ndes s . If you
shift toward other goal sfami l y, religion, or hel pi ng ot hers you shi ft to in-
conspi cuous cons umpt i on, and the pl easures derived al ong the way are not
fully s ubj ect t o adapt at i on ( t readmi l l ) ef f ect s . The pur s ui t of t hes e goal s
therefore l eads to more happi nes s but l ess Wealth (on average). Many peopl e
144 ' i ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
change their goals in the wake of adversity; they resolve to work less, to love
and play more. If in those first f ew mont hs you take act i onyou do some-
thing that changes your daily l i f et hen the changes might stick. But if you
do nothing more than make a resolution ("I mus t never forget my new outlook
on life"), then you will soon slip hack into old hahits and pur s ue old goals. The
rider can exert s ome i nf l uence at forks in the road; but the el ephant handles
daily life, respondi ng automati cal l y to the envi ronment. Adversity may be nec-
essary for growth becaus e it f orces you to st op s peedi ng al ong the road of life,
allowing you to notice the pat hs that were branchi ng off all al ong, and to think
about where you really want to end up.
At the third level of personality, the need for adversi ty is even more obvi-
ous: You need i nteresti ng materi al to write a good story. Mc Ad a ms says that
stori es are" " f undament al l y about the vi ci s s i t udes of huma n i ntenti on orga-
nized in t i me. "
2 1
You can' t have a good life story wi t hout vi ci s s i t udes , and if
the best you can c ome up with i s t hat your parent s r ef us ed to buy you a
sports car for your si xteenth birthday, nobody will want to read your mem-
oirs. In the t hous ands of life stori es Mc Ad a ms has gat hered, several genres
are as s oci at ed with wel l -bei ng. For exampl e, i n the " c ommi t me nt story,"
the protagoni st has a support i ve f ami l y backgr ound, is sensi t i zed early in
life to the suf f eri ngs of others, i s gui ded by a cl ear and compel l i ng personal
ideology, and, at s ome poi nt, t r ans f or ms or r edeems f ai l ures, mi s t akes , or
cri ses into a posi ti ve out come, a pr oc es s that of t en i nvol ves set t i ng new
goal s that commi t the self to hel pi ng ot hers. The life of t he Buddha i s a
cl assi c exampl e.
In cont rast , s ome peopl e' s life st ori es s how a " cont ami nat i on" s equence
i n whi ch emot i onal l y pos i t i ve event s go bad a nd ever yt hi ng i s s poi l ed.
Peopl e who tell s uc h st ori es are, not surpri si ngl y, mor e likely t o be de-
pr es s ed.
2 2
I ndeed, part of the pat hol ogy of depr es s i on i s that, whi l e rumi -
nati ng, the depr es s ed pers on reworks her life narrati ve by us i ng the tools of
Beck' s negati ve triad: I' m bad, the worl d i s bad, and my f ut ur e i s dark. Al-
t hough adversi t y that i s not ove r c ome c a n cr ea t e a st ory of depr es s i ng
bl eakness, s ubs t ant i al adversi ty mi ght be neces s ar y for a meani ngf ul story.
McAdams ' s i deas are prof oundl y i mport ant for under s t andi ng posttrau-
mat i c growth. Hi s three levels of personal i t y al l ow us to thi nk about coher-
The Uses of Adversity 1 39
ence a mo ng t he l evel s. Wha t ha ppe ns when t he t hr ee l evel s of per s onal i t y
don' t ma t c h up? I ma gi ne a wo ma n whos e bas i c trai ts ar e wa r m and gr egar -
i ous but who s t ri ves f or s u c c e s s i n a car eer t hat of f e r s f e w c ha nc e s f o r
c l os e c ont a c t s wi t h peopl e, a nd who s e l i fe story i s a bout an art i st f or ced by
her par ent s t o pur s ue a pr act i cal career. S he i s a me s s of mi s ma t c he d mo -
tives a nd s t ori es , a nd i t may be that onl y t hrough advers i t y will s he be a b l e
t o ma ke t he radi cal c ha ng e s s he woul d ne e d t o a c hi e ve c o he r e nc e a mo n g
l evel s. Th e ps yc hol ogi s t s Ken S he l do n a nd Ti m Ka s s e r ha ve f ound t ha t
peopl e who are ment al l y heal t hy and ha ppy have a hi gher de g r e e of " vert i -
cal c ohe r e nc e " a mo n g t hei r g oa l s t ha t is, hi gher-l evel ( l ong t er m) g o a l s
a nd l ower-l evel ( i mmedi a t e) goal s all fit t oget her wel l s o t hat pur s ui ng one ' s
s hort -t erm goal s a dva nc e s t he pur s ui t of l ong- t erm goa l s .
2 3
Tr a uma of t en s hat t er s bel i ef s ys t ems a nd robs pe opl e of t hei r s e ns e of
meani ng. I n so doi ng, i t f orces peopl e t o put t he pi e c e s ba c k together, a n d
of t en they do so by us i ng Go d or s ome ot her hi gher pur pos e as a uni f yi ng
pri nci pl e.
2 4
London a nd Chi c a g o sei zed the oppor t uni t i es pr ovi ded by t hei r
great f i res t o r e ma ke t he ms e l ve s i nt o gr a nder a nd mor e c ohe r e nt c i t i e s .
Peopl e s ome t i me s sei ze s uc h opport uni t i es, too, r ebui l di ng beaut i f ul l y t ho s e
parts of thei r lives a nd life stori es that t hey coul d never have torn down vol -
untarily. Whe n peopl e report havi ng grown af t er c opi ng wi th adversity, t he y
coul d be trying t o des cr i be a new s e ns e of i nner c oher enc e. Thi s c o he r e nc e
mi ght not be vi si bl e to one' s f ri ends, but i t f eel s like growt h, st rengt h, ma t u -
rity, and wi s dom f rom t he i ns i de.
2 5
B L E S S E D A R E T H E S E N S E M A K E R S
When bad t hi ngs ha ppe n t o good peopl e, we have a pr obl em. We know c o n-
s ci ous l y that l i fe i s unfai r, but uncons ci ous l y we s e e t he wor l d t hrough t he
lens of reciprocity. The downf al l of an evil ma n (in o ur bi as ed a nd mor al i s t i c
a s s e s s me nt ) i s no puzzl e: He ha d i t c omi ng t o hi m. But whe n t he vi c t i m
was vi rt uous, we s t ruggl e t o ma ke s e ns e of hi s tragedy. At an i ntui ti ve l evel ,
we all bel i eve i n kar ma, t he Hi ndu noti on that pe o pl e r eap what they s ow.
The ps ychol ogi s t Me l Ler ner has demons t r at ed t hat we are s o mot i va t ed t o
146 ' i ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
believe that peopl e get what they deserve and deserve what they get that we
often bl ame the victim of a tragedy, particularly when we can' t achi eve j us-
tice by puni shi ng a perpetrator or compens at i ng the vi cti m.
2 6
In Lerner' s experi ments, the des per at e need to make s ens e of events can
lead peopl e to i naccurat e concl us i ons (for exampl e, a woma n "led on" a
rapist); but, in general, the ability to make s ens e of tragedy and then find
benefit in it is the key that unl ocks post t raumat i c growth.
2 7
When trauma
strikes, s ome peopl e find the key dangl i ng around their necks with instruc-
tions printed on it. Ot hers are left to f end for t hemsel ves, and they do not
f end as well. Psychol ogi sts have devot ed a great deal of ef f ort to figuring
out who benef i t s from trauma and who i s crus hed. The answer compounds
the already great unf ai rness of life: Opt i mi s t s are more likely to benef i t
than pes s i mi s t s .
2 8
Opt i mi st s are, for the mos t part, peopl e who won the
cortical lottery: They have a high happi nes s setpoi nt, they habitually look
on the bright side, and they easily fi nd silver linings. Li f e has a way of mak-
ing the rich get richer and the happy get happier.
When a crisis strikes, peopl e cope in three primary ways:
2 9
active copi ng
(taki ng di rect act i on to fix the pr obl em) , reapprai s al ( doi ng the work
wi t hi nget t i ng one' s own t hought s right and l ooki ng f or silver linings),
and avoi dance copi ng (working to blunt one' s emoti onal react i ons by deny-
ing or avoiding the events, or by drinking, drugs, and other distractions).
People who have a basic-level trait of opt i mi s m ( McAdams ' s level 1) tend
to develop a copi ng style ( McAdams ' s level 2) that al ternates between ac-
tive copi ng and reappraisal. Bec a us e opt i mi st s expect their efforts to pay
off, they go right to work fixing the probl em. But if they fail, they expect
that things usually work out for the best , and so they can' t hel p but look for
possi bl e benefi ts. When they find t hem, they write a new chapt er in their
life story ( McAdams ' s level 3), a story of conti nual overcomi ng and growth.
In contrast, peopl e who have a relatively negati ve af f ecti ve style ( compl ete
with more activity in the front right cortex than the f ront l eft) live in a
world filled with many more threats and have less conf i dence that they can
deal with them. They devel op a copi ng style that relies more heavily on
avoi dance and other def ens e mechani s ms . They work harder to manage
their pai n than to fix their pr obl ems , so their probl ems of t en get worse.
Drawi ng the l esson that the world is unj ust and uncontrol l abl e, and that
The Uses of Adversity 1 39
t hi ngs of t en wor k out f or t he worst , t hey weave thi s l e s s on i nto t hei r l i f e
story wher e i t c ont a mi na t e s t he narrat i ve.
If you are a pes s i mi s t , you ar e pr obabl y f eel i ng gl oomy right now. But
des pai r not ! T h e key t o growt h i s not opt i mi s m per s e; i t i s t he s e ns e ma k-
i ng that opt i mi s t s f i nd easy. If you c a n f i nd a way t o ma k e s e ns e of adver -
sity a nd dr aw cons t r uct i ve l es s ons f r om it, you c a n benef i t , too. An d you
c a n l earn t o b e c o me a s e ns e ma ker by r eadi ng J a mi e Pennebaker ' s Opening
Up.
30
Penneba ker began hi s r es ear ch by s t udyi ng t he r el at i ons hi p b e t we e n
t r a uma , s uc h a s c hi l dhood s exua l a b u s e , a nd l at er hea l t h p r o b l e ms .
Tr a uma and s t r es s ar e usual l y bad f or peopl e, a nd Pe nne ba ke r t hought t hat
s el f - di s cl os ur et al ki ng wi th f r i ends or t he r a pi s t s mi g ht hel p t he b o d y at
t he s a me t i me that i t hel ps t he mi nd. On e of hi s earl y hypot hes es wa s t hat
t r a uma s that carry mor e s ha me , s uc h as bei ng r aped ( as o ppo s e d t o a non-
s exual as s aul t ) or l os i ng a s po us e to s ui c i de ( rat her t han to a car a c c i de nt ) ,
woul d pr o duc e mor e i l l nes s b e c a u s e pe o pl e ar e l es s l i kel y t o t al k a b o u t
s uc h event s wi th ot her s . But t he nat ur e of t he t r a uma t ur ned out t o be al-
mos t i rrel evant. Wha t mat t er ed was what pe opl e di d af t er war d: T h o s e who
t al ked wi th thei r f r i ends or wi th a s uppor t gr oup wer e l argel y s pa r e d t he
heal t h- damagi ng e f f e c t s of t r auma.
Onc e Pennebaker had f ound a correl ati on bet ween di s cl os ur e and heal t h,
he took t he next s t ep i n t he sci ent i f i c pr oc es s a nd tri ed to create heal t h ben-
ef i ts by get t i ng peopl e t o di s cl os e their s ecr et s . Pennebaker as ked p e o p l e t o
write about " t he mos t ups et t i ng or t r aumat i c exper i ence of your ent i re l i f e, "
pref erabl y one they had not tal ked about wi t h ot hers i n great detai l . He gave
t hem pl enty of bl ank paper and as ked t hem t o keep wri ti ng for f i f t een mi n-
ut es, on f our cons ecut i ve days . Subj e c t s i n a control gr oup wer e a s k e d t o
write about s o me ot her topi c (for exampl e, their hous e s , a typical wor k day)
lor t he s a me a mount of t i me. I n each of hi s s t udi es , Pennebaker got hi s s ub-
j ect s ' per mi s s i on t o obt ai n their medi cal r ecor ds at s ome poi nt i n t he f ut ur e.
Then he wai t ed a year and obs er ved how of t en pe opl e i n t he two gr oups got
sick. The peopl e who wrot e about t r aumas went t o t he doct or or t he hos pi t al
I ewer t i mes in t he f ol l owi ng year. I di d not bel i eve this resul t whe n I f i rst
heard it. How on earth coul d one hour of wri ti ng st ave of f t he fl u six mo nt hs
Liter? Pennebaker' s res ul t s s e e me d t o s uppor t an ol d- f as hi oned Fr e udi a n no-
lion of cat hars i s : Peopl e who expres s their emot i ons , " get i t of f their c he s t s "
1 4 8 ' i ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
or "let off s t eam, " are healthier. Havi ng once revi ewed the literature on the
catharsi s hypothesi s, I knew that there was no evi dence for it.
31
Let t i ng off
st eam makes peopl e angrier, not cal mer.
Pennehaker di scovered that it's not about s t eam; it's about s ens e maki ng.
The peopl e i n his s t udi es who us ed their writing t i me to vent got no benefi t.
The peopl e who s howed deep insight i nto t he caus es and c ons e que nc e s of
the event on their first day of writing gbt no benef i t , ei ther: The y had al-
ready made s ens e of things. It was the peopl e who ma de progress acros s the
four days, who s howed i ncreasi ng i nsi ght; they were the ones whos e health
i mproved over the next year. In later s t udi es , Pennebaker as ked peopl e to
dance or si ng to express their emot i ons , but t hes e emot i onal l y expressi ve
activities gave no heal th benef i t .
3 2
You have to us e words, and the words
have to hel p you creat e a meani ngf ul story. If you can write s uch a story you
can reap the benef i t s of reapprai sal ( one of t he t wo heal thy copi ng styles)
even years after an event. You can cl os e a chapt er of your life that was still
open, still af f ect i ng your t hought s and prevent i ng you f rom movi ng on with
the larger narrative.
Anyone, theref ore, can benef i t f r om adversity, al t hough a pes s i mi s t will
have t o t ake s o me extra s t eps , s o me c ons c i ous , ri der-i ni t i at ed s t eps , t o
gui de the el ephant gently i n the right di rect i on. The first s t ep i s to do what
you can, bef ore adversi ty stri kes, to c ha nge your cogni ti ve style. If you are a
pessi mi st , consi der medi t at i on, cogni t i ve therapy, or even Prozac. All three
will make you l ess s ubj ect to negati ve rumi nat i on, mor e abl e to gui de your
thoughts i n a posi ti ve di recti on, and t her ef or e mor e abl e to wi t hst and f u-
ture adversity, f i nd meani ng i n it, and grow f rom it. The s econd s t ep i s to
cheri sh and bui l d your social s upport net work. Havi ng one or two good at-
t achment rel at i onshi ps hel ps adul t s as well as chi l dren ( and r hes us mon-
keys) to f ace threats. Trus t ed f ri ends who are good l i st eners can be a great
aid t o maki ng s ens e and f i ndi ng meani ng. Thi rd, rel i gi ous f ai th and prac-
t i ce can ai d growt h, bot h by di r ect l y f os t er i ng s e ns e ma ki ng ( rel i gi ons
provi de stori es and i nterpreti ve s c he me s for l os s es and cr i s es ) and by in-
creas i ng soci al s upport (rel i gi ous peopl e have rel at i onshi ps t hrough their
religious communi t i es , and many have a rel at i onshi p with God) . A porti on
of the benef i t s of religiosity
33
coul d al s o be a resul t of the conf es s i on and
The Uses of Adversity 1 39
di s cl os ur e of i nner t urmoi l , ei t her t o Go d or t o a rel i gi ous aut hor i t y t hat
ma ny rel i gi ons encour age.
And finally, no mat t er how wel l or poorl y pr epar ed you ar e whe n t r oubl e
st ri kes, at s o me poi nt i n t he mont hs af t er war ds , pul l out a p i e c e of pa pe r
and start wri t i ng. Penneba ker s ug g e s t s
3 4
t hat you wri t e c o nt i nuo us l y f or
f i f t een mi nut e s a day, for several days . Don' t edi t or c e ns or your s el f ; don' t
worry a bout g r a mma r or s e nt e nc e s t r uct ur e; j us t ke e p wri t i ng. Wr i t e a bout
what ha ppe ne d, how you f eel a bout it, a nd why you f eel t hat way. I f you
hat e t o wri te, you c a n talk i nto a t ape recorder. Th e cr uci al t hi ng i s t o get
your t hought s a nd f eel i ngs out wi t hout i mpos i ng any or der on t h e mb u t
i n s uc h a way t hat , af t er a f e w days , s o me order i s likely to e me r g e on its
own. Bef or e you c onc l ude your l ast s es s i on, be s ur e you have d o ne your
bes t t o a ns we r t he s e t wo q ue s t i o ns : Why di d t hi s h a p p e n ? Wh a t g ood
mi ght I deri ve f r om it?
F O R E V E R Y T H I N G T H E R E I S A S E A S O N
If t he advers i t y hypot hes i s i s t rue, and i f t he me c ha ni s m of benef i t ha s t o
do wi t h s e ns e ma ki ng a nd get t i ng t hos e t hree l evel s of per s onal i t y t o co-
here, t hen t her e s houl d be t i mes i n l i f e whe n adversi t y will be mo r e or l es s
benef i ci al . Per haps t he s t rong vers i on of t he hypot hes i s i s t r ue dur i ng onl y
a part of t he l i fe c our s e ?
The r e ar e ma ny r eas ons f or t hi nki ng t hat chi l dr en ar e par t i cul ar l y vul -
ner abl e t o adversi t y. Ge n e s g ui de br ai n de v e l o p me nt t hr oug hout chi l d-
hood, but that de ve l opme nt i s al s o a f f e c t e d by envi r onment al c ont ext , a nd
one of t he mos t i mpor t ant cont ext ual f act or s i s t he overal l l evel of s a f et y
ver s us t hreat . Go o d par ent i ng c a n hel p t une up t he a t t a c hme nt s y s t e m t o
make a chi l d mor e advent ur ous ; yet, even beyond s uc h e f f e c t s , i f a chi l d' s
envi r onment f eel s s a f e a nd cont rol l abl e, t he chi l d will ( on aver age) de ve l op
a mor e pos i t i ve af f ect i ve style, and will be l es s anxi ous as an a dul t .
3 S
Bu t i f
( he envi r onment of f er s dai l y uncont r ol l abl e t hr eat s ( f r om pr e da t or s , bul -
lies, or r a ndom vi ol ence) , t he chi l d' s brai n wi l l be al t er ed, s et t o be l e s s
t rus t i ng and mor e vi gi l ant .
3 6
Gi ven that mos t pe opl e i n mode r n We s t e r n
150 ' i ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
nations live in saf e worlds where opt i mi s m and approach moti vati ons gen-
erally pay off, and given that most peopl e in psychotherapy need loosening
up, not tightening up, it is probably bes t for children to devel op the most
positive affecti ve style, or the hi ghest set range (S from chapt er 5), that
their genes will allow. Maj or adversi ty is unlikely to have manyor per-
haps anybenef i ci al ef f ect s for chi l dren. ( On the other hand, children are
amazingly resilient and are not as easi l y damaged by one-ti me events, even
by sexual abus e, as mos t peopl e t hi nk.
3 7
Chr oni c condi t i ons are much
more important. ) Of course, chi l dren need limits to learn self-control, and
they need plenty of failure to learn that s ucces s takes hard work and per-
si stence. Chi l dren should be prot ect ed, but not spoiled.
Thi ngs might be di fferent for t eenagers . Younger chi l dren know s ome
stories about themsel ves, but the acti ve and chronic striving to integrate
one's past, present, and f ut ure into a coherent narrative begi ns only in the
mid to late t eens .
3 8
Thi s cl ai m is s upport ed by a curi ous f act about auto-
biographical memory calledvthe " memor y bump. " When peopl e older than
thirty are asked to remember the mos t i mportant or vivid events of their
lives, they are disproportionately likely to recall events that occurred be-
tween the ages of fi fteen and twenty-fi ve.
39
Thi s is the age when a person' s
life bl oomsf i rst love, col l ege and i ntel l ectual growth, living and perhaps
traveling i ndependent l yand it is the ti me when young peopl e (at least in
Western countri es) make many of the choi ces that will def i ne their lives. If
there is a speci al period for identify f ormati on, a time when life events are
going to have the biggest i nf l uence on the rest of the life-story, this is it. So
adversity, especi al l y if overcome fully, is probabl y most benef i ci al in the
fate teens and early twenties.
We can't ethically conduct experi ment s that i nduce t rauma at different
ages, but in a way life has perf ormed t hes e experi ments for us. The major
events of the twentieth cent uryt he Great Depressi on, World War IIhit
peopl e at di f f erent ages, and the soci ol ogi st Gl en El de r
4 0
has produced
elegant anal yses of longitudinal dat a (col l ected from the s a me peopl e over
many decades ) to fi nd out why s ome thrived and others cr umbl ed after
these adversities hit. El der once s ummari zed his f i ndi ngs this way: " There
is a storyline across all the work I've done. Events do not have meani ng in
The Uses of Adversity 1 39
t he ms e l ve s . Th o s e me a ni ng s ar e der i ved f r om t he i nt er act i ons b e t we e n
peopl e, gr oups , a nd t he exper i enc e i tsel f . Ki ds who went t hr ough very di f f i -
cul t c i r c ums t a nc e s usual l y c a me out rat her wel l . "
4
' El der f ound t hat a lot
hi nged on t he f ami l y and t he pers on' s degr ee of soci al i nt egrat i on: Ch i l d r e n
as wel l as adul t s who wea t her ed cr i s es whi l e e mb e d d e d wi t hi n s t r ong s o-
ci al gr oups and net works f ar ed mu c h bet t er; they wer e mor e likely t o c o me
out s t r onger a nd ment al l y heal t hi er t han wer e t hos e who f a c e d a dve r s i t y
wi t hout s uc h s oci al s uppor t . Soci al net wor ks di dn' t j us t r e duc e s uf f e r i ng ,
they of f er ed a ve nue s f or f i ndi ng me a ni ng and pur pos e ( as Dur khe i m c on-
c l ude d f r om hi s s t udi es of s ui c i de) .
4 2
For exa mpl e, t he wi del y s ha r e d ad-
versi ty of t he Gr e a t De pr e s s i on of f er ed ma ny young pe opl e t he c h a n c e t o
ma ke a real cont r i but i on to thei r f ami l i es by f i ndi ng a j ob t hat br ought i n a
tew dol l ars a week. The ne e d f or pe opl e t o pul l t oget her wi t hi n t hei r na-
ti ons t o f i ght Worl d War I I a ppe a r s t o have ma d e t hos e who lived t hr oug h
i t mor e r es pons i bl e and ci vi c mi nde d, at l east i n t he Uni t ed St a t es , e v e n i f
l hey pl ayed no di rect role i n t he war ef f or t .
4 3
The r e i s, however , a t i me l i mi t on f i rst adversi ty. El de r s ays t ha t l i f e
st art s t o " cryst al l i ze" by t he l at e t went i es . Even young me n who ha d not
been doi ng wel l bef or e s er vi ng i n Worl d War I I of t en t ur ned t hei r l i ves
ar ound af t er war d, but pe opl e who f a c e d thei r f i rst real l i f e t es t a f t e r t he
age of thirty (f or exampl e, c o mb a t i n t hat war, or f i nanci al rui n i n t he Gr e a t
De pr e s s i on) wer e l es s resi l i ent a nd l es s likely t o grow f r om thei r e xpe r i -
enc es . So adversi t y ma y be mos t benef i ci al f or peopl e i n t hei r l at e t e e n s
and i nt o thei r t went i es .
El der' s wor k i s ful l of r emi nder s that t he act i on i s i n t he i nt e r a c t i o ns
(hat i s, t he ways t hat one' s uni que per s onal i t y i nt eract s wi t h det ai l s a b o u t
an event a nd its s oci al cont ext t o p r o d uc e a par t i cul ar a nd of t en u np r e -
di ct abl e o u t c o me . I n t he ar ea of r e s e a r c h known as " l i f e- s pan d e v e l o p -
ment , "
4 4
t here are f ew s i mpl e rul es i n t he f or m of " X c a u s e s Y." No b o d y ,
t heref ore, c a n pr opos e an i deal l i fe c our s e wi th car ef ul l y s c he dul e d a dve r -
sity that woul d be benef i ci al f or everyone. We c a n say, however, t ha t f or
many peopl e, part i cul arl y t hos e who ove r c a me adversi t y i n thei r t we nt i e s ,
advers i t y ma d e t he m st ronger, better, a nd even happi er t han t hey wo u l d
have be e n wi t hout it.
5 2 ' i ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
E R R O R A N D W I S D O M
I expect that when I have chi l dren, I'll be no di f f erent f r om other parent s
in want i ng to edit their f or ehead wri ti ng and remove all adversity. Even if I
coul d be convi nced that a t r auma exper i enced at the age of "t went y-f our
was goi ng to t each my daught er i mport ant l es s ons and ma ke her a better
person, I'd think: Well, why can' t I j us t t each her t hos e l es s ons directly?
Isn't there s ome way s he can reap t he benef i t s wi t hout the cos t s ? But a
common pi ece of worldly wi s dom i s that life' s mos t i mport ant l es s ons can-
not be taught directly. Mar cel Proust s ai d:
We do not receive wi sdom, we must di scover it for ourselves, after a jour-
ney through the wilderness which no one el se can make for us, which no
one can spare us, for our wi sdom is the point of view f rom which we
come at last to regard the world.
45
Recent research on wi s dom proves Prous t correct . Knowl edge c omes i n
two maj or f orms : explicit and tacit. Expl i ci t knowl edge i s all the f act s you
know and can cons ci ous l y report, i ndependent of cont ext . WTierever I am,
I know that the capi tal of Bul gari a is Sof i a. Expl i ci t knowl edge is taught di-
rectly in school s. The rider gat hers it up and fi l es it away, ready for us e in
later reasoni ng. But wi s dom i s ba s e da c c or di ng to Robert St er nber g,
4 6
a
l eadi ng wi s dom r es ear cher on "taci t knowl edge. " Taci t knowl edge i s pro-
cedural (it's "knowi ng how" rather t han " knowi ng that"), it is acqui r ed with-
out di rect hel p f rom others, and it is rel at ed to goal s that a per s on val ues.
Taci t knowl edge res i des i n the el ephant . It's the skills that the el ephant ac-
qui res, gradually, f rom life experi ence. It de pe nds on cont ext : Ther e i s no
universal set of best pract i ces for endi ng a romant i c rel at i onshi p, consol i ng
a fri end, or resol vi ng a moral di s agr eement .
Wi s dom, says St ernberg, i s the tacit knowl edge that lets a pers on bal ance
two sets of things. Fi rst, wi se peopl e are abl e to bal ance their own needs ,
the needs of others, and the needs of peopl e or thi ngs beyond the i mmedi -
at e interaction (e. g. , i nsti tuti ons, the envi ronment , or peopl e who may be
adversel y af f ect ed later on) . Ignorant peopl e s ee everythi ng i n bl ack and
whi t et hey rely heavily on the myth of pur e evi l and they are strongly
The Uses of Adversity 1 39
i nf l uenced by their own sel f -i nt erest . The wi s e are abl e t o s e e t hi ngs f r om
ot hers' poi nt s of view, appr eci at e s ha de s of gray, and t hen c hoos e or a dvi s e a
c our s e of act i on t hat works out bfest f or everyone i n t he l ong run. S e c o nd ,
wi s e pe opl e are abl e t o ba l a nc e t hree r e s pons e s t o s i t uat i ons : a da pt a t i on
( changi ng t he s el f t o fit t he envi r onment ) , s ha pi ng ( c ha ngi ng t he envi r on-
ment ) , and s el ect i on ( choos i ng t o move t o a new envi r onment ) . Thi s s e c o nd
bal ance c or r es ponds roughl y t o t he f a mo us " s ereni t y prayer" : " Go d , grant
me t he sereni t y t o a c c e pt t he t hi ngs I cannot change, c our a ge t o c ha ng e t he
t hi ngs I can, a nd wi s dom t o know t he di f f er ence. "
4 7
I f you al ready know t hi s
prayer, your ri der knows i t (explicitly). If you live thi s prayer, your e l e pha nt
knows it, too (taci tl y), and you are wi s e.
St ernberg' s i deas s how why par ent s can' t t each their chi l dr en wi s dom di-
rectly. The bes t they can do i s provi de a range of l i fe exper i ences t hat will
hel p their chi l dren acqui r e tacit knowl edge i n a variety of l i f e doma i ns . Par-
ent s can al s o model wi s dom i n their own lives and gentl y e nc our a ge chi l dr en
t o thi nk about si t uat i ons, look at ot her vi ewpoi nt s , and achi eve ba l a nc e i n
chal l engi ng t i mes . Shel t er your chi l dren when young, but i f t he s hel t er i ng
goes on through t he child' s t eens and t went i es , i t may ke e p out wi s dom a nd
growth as well as pai n. Suf f er i ng of t en ma ke s peopl e mor e c ompa s s i ona t e ,
hel pi ng t hem f i nd bal ance bet ween sel f and ot hers. Suf f er i ng of t en l eads t o
acti ve copi ng ( St ernberg' s s hapi ng) , reapprai s al copi ng ( St ernberg' s adapt a-
ti on), or c ha nges i n pl ans a nd di rect i ons ( St ernberg' s s el ect i on) . Pos t t rau-
mat i c growth usual l y involves, t heref ore, the growt h of wi s dom.
The s t r ong vers i on of t he adversi t y hypot hes i s mi ght be t rue, but onl y i f
we a dd caveat s : For adversi t y t o be maxi mal l y benef i ci al , i t s houl d ha ppe n
at t he right t i me ( young adul t hood) , t o t he right pe opl e ( t hos e wi t h t he s o-
ci al a nd ps ychol ogi cal r es our c es t o ri se t o c ha l l enges a nd f i nd benef i t s ) ,
a nd t o t he r i ght degr ee (not s o s ever e as t o c a u s e P TS D) . E a c h life c our s e
i s s o unpr edi ct abl e that we c a n never know whet her a par t i cul ar s e t ba c k
will be benef i ci al t o a par t i cul ar per s on i n t he l ong run. But pe r ha ps we do
know enough t o al l ow s o me edi t i ng of a chi l d' s f or ehea d wri t i ng: Go a hea d
and er a s e s o me of t hos e early t r a uma s , but t hi nk t wi ce, or awai t f ut ur e re-
s ear ch, bef or e er as i ng t he rest .
The Felicity of Virtue
It is impossible to live the pleasant life without also living
sensibly, nobly and justly, and it is impossible to live sensibly,
nobly and justly without living pleasantly.
E P I C U R U S
1
Set your heart on doing good. Do it over and over again, and
you will be filled xvith joy. A fool is happy until his mischief
turns against him. And a good man may suffer until his good-
ness flowers.
B U D D H A 2
W F I E N SAGES AND E L DE RS urge vi rt ue on t he young, t hey s o me t i me s
sound like snake-oil s al es men. The wi s dom l i terature of ma ny cul t ur es e s -
senti al l y says, " Ga t her r ound, I have a toni c t hat will ma k e you ha ppy,
healthy, wealthy, and wi se! It will get you into heaven, and bri ng you j oy ori
earth al ong the way! J us t be vi rtuous! " Young peopl e are extremel y g o o d,
though, at rolling thei r eyes and shut t i ng their ears. Thei r i nt erest s a nd de-
sires are of t en at odds with t hos e of adul t s ; they qui ckl y f i nd ways to pur -
s ue thei r goal s a nd get t hems el ves i nt o t roubl e, whi ch of t en b e c o me s
character-bui l di ng advent ure. Huc k Fi nn runs away f r om hi s f oster mo t he r
t o raft down t he Mi s s i s s i ppi with an e s c a pe d s l ave; t he young B u d d h a
1 5 5
156 ' i ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
l eaves hi s f at her' s pa l a c e t o hegi n hi s s pi ri t ual que s t i n t he f or es t ; L u k e
Skywal ker l eaves hi s ho me pl anet t o j oi n t he gal act i c r ebel l i on. All t hree
set of f on epi c j our neys t hat ma ke e a c h i nt o an adul t , c o mp l e t e with a set
of new vi rtues. T h e s e har d- won vi r t ues ar e es peci al l y a dmi r a bl e t o us as
r ea der s b e c a u s e t hey reveal a de p t h a nd a ut hent i c i t y of c ha r a c t e r t hat
we don' t s e e i n t he obe di e nt ki d who s i mpl y a c c e pt s t he vi r t ues he wa s
rai s ed wi th.
I n thi s l i ght r Be n Fr ankl i n i s s up r e me l y admi r abl e. Bor n i n Bos t on i n
1706, he was appr ent i ced at t he age of twel ve t o his ol der brot her J a me s ,
who owned a pri nt i ng s hop. Af t er ma ny di s put es wi th ( and beat i ngs f rom) his
brother, he yearned for f r eedom, but J a me s woul d not r el eas e hi m f rom t he
legal cont ract of hi s appr ent i ces hi p. So at t he age of s event een, Ben broke
t he law and s ki pped town. He got on a boa t t o Ne w York and, fai l i ng t o fi nd
work there, kept on goi ng t o Phi l adel phi a. The r e he f ound wor k as an ap-
prent i ce pri nter and, t hrough skill and di l i gence, event ual l y opened hi s own
print s hop and publ i s hed hi s own news paper . He went on t o s pect acul ar suc-
ces s in bus i nes s (Poor Richard's Almanacka c o mp e nd i u m of sayi ngs and
ma xi ms wa s a hit in its day); in s c i e nc e ( he proved that l i ght ni ng is el ectri c-
ity, t hen t amed i t by i nvent i ng t he l i ght ni ng rod) ; i n pol i t i cs ( he hel d t oo
many of f i ces t o na me) ; and i n di pl omacy ( he per s ua ded Fr a nc e t o j oi n t he
Amer i can col oni es' war agai ns t Bri tai n, t hough Fr ance had little t o gai n f rom
the enterpri se) . He lived t o ei ghty-f our a nd enj oyed the ri de. He took pri de i n
his sci enti fi c di s coveri es a nd civic cr eat i ons ; he bas ked i n t he love and es-
t eem of Fr ance as well as of Amer i ca; a nd even as an old ma n he rel i shed t he
at t ent i ons of wome n.
Wha t wa s hi s s ec r et ? Vi r t ue. No t t he sort of upt i ght , pl ea s ur e- ha t i ng
Pur i t ani s m that s o me peopl e now a s s oc i a t e wi th t hat wor d, but a br oader
ki nd of vi rt ue t hat goe s ba c k t o a nc i e nt Gr e e c e . T h e Gr e e k word arete
meant excel l ence, vi rtue, or g o o dne s s , es peci al l y of a f unc t i ona l sort. Th e
arete of a kni f e is to c ut wel l ; t he arete of an eye is to s e e wel l ; t he arete of a
per s on i s . . . wel l , that' s one of t he ol de s t ques t i ons of phi l os ophy: Wha t i s
t he t rue nat ur e, f unct i on, or goal of a pe r s on, rel ati ve t o whi c h we c a n say
that he or s he i s l i vi ng well or badl y? T h u s i n s ayi ng that wel l bei ng or hap-
pi nes s (eudaimonia) i s " an acti vi ty of s oul i n conf or mi t y wi t h excel l ence or
7 "he Felicity of Virtue 1 5 7
vi rt ue, "
3
Ar i s t ot l e was n' t s ayi ng t hat ha ppi ne s s c o me s f r om gi vi ng t o t he
poor a nd s uppr e s s i ng your sexual i ty. He wa s s ayi ng that a good l i fe i s o n e
wher e you devel op your s t r engt hs , real i ze your pot ent i al , a nd b e c o me wh a t
i t i s i n your nat ur e to be c ome . ( Ari st ot l e bel i eved t hat all t hi ngs i n t he uni -
ver s e ha d a telos, or pur pos e t oward whi ch they a i me d, even t hough he di d
not bel i eve t hat t he gods had de s i gne d all t hi ngs . )
On e of Frankl i n' s ma ny gi f t s was hi s extraordi nary abi l i ty t o s e e pot e nt i a l
and t hen real i ze it. He s aw t he pot ent i al of paved a nd l i ght ed st reet s, v o l un-
teer f i re depa r t ment s , and publ i c l i brari es, a nd he p us he d t o ma ke t h e m al l
appear i n Phi l adel phi a. He s aw t he pot ent i al of t he young Amer i can r e p ub -
lic and pl ayed ma ny rol es i n cr eat i ng it. He al s o s a w t he pot ent i al i n hi ms e l f
for i mpr ovi ng hi s ways, and he s et out t o do so. In hi s l ate t went i es , as a
young pri nt er a nd ent repreneur, he e mba r ke d on what he cal l ed a " bol d a nd
ar duous proj ect of arriving at moral per f ect i on. "
4
He pi cked a f ew vi r t ues he
want ed t o cul t i vat e, and he tri ed t o live accordi ngl y. He di s cover ed i mme d i -
ately t he l i mi t at i ons of the rider:
Whi l e my care was empl oyed i n guardi ng agai nst one fault, I was of t en
surpri sed by another; habit took the advant age of i nattenti on; i ncl i nati on
was s omet i mes t oo strong for reason. I concl uded, at l ength, that t he
mere specul at i ve conviction that i t was our i nterest to be compl etel y vir-
t uous was not suf f i ci ent to prevent our sl i ppi ng, and that the contrary
habi ts mus t be broken, and good ones acqui red and est abl i shed, bef or e
we can have any dependence on a steady, uni f orm rect i t ude of conduct ;
5
Frankl i n wa s a brilliant i nt ui t i ve ps ychol ogi s t . He real i zed that t he r i de r
can be s uc c e s s f ul onl y t o t he ext ent that i t t rai ns t he el ephant ( t hough he
di d not us e t hos e t er ms ) , s o he devi s ed a t rai ni ng r egi men. He wrot e o u t a
list of t hi rt een vi rt ues , ea c h l i nked t o s pe c i f i c behavi or s that he s houl d or
s houl d not do. ( For exampl e: " Te mpe r a nc e : Ea t not t o dul l nes s " ; " Fr ugal i t y:
Ma k e no e x pe ns e but t o do good t o ot her s or yoursel F' ; " Chas t i t y: Ra r e l y
us e venery but f or heal t h or of f s pr i ng" ) . He t hen pr i nt ed a t abl e ma de up of
s even c o l umns ( one f or ea c h day of t he week) and t hi rt een rows ( one f or
ea c h vi rt ue) , a nd he put a bl ack s pot i n t he appr opr i at e s qua r e ea c h t i me
158 ' i ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
he fai led to live a whol e day in a c c or da nc e with a parti cul ar vi rtue. He con-
cent rat ed on only one vi rtue a week, hopi ng to keep its row cl ear of spot s
while payi ng no s peci al attenti on to the ot her vi rtues, t hough he filled i n
their rows whenever vi ol ati ons occur r ed. Over thirteen weeks , he worked
through the whol e tahle. The n he r epeat ed the pr oces s , f i ndi ng that with
repetition the tahl e got l ess and l ess spotty. Frankl i n wrote in his autobi og-
raphy that, though he fell far short of per f ect i on: "I was , by t he endeavor, a
better and a happi er man t han I ot her wi s e s houl d have been if I had not at-
t empt ed it." He went on: " My posteri ty s houl d be i nf ormed that t o this lit-
tl e art i f i ce, wi th t he bl es s i ng of Go d , t hei r a nc es t or ow' d t he cons t ant
felicity of his life, down to his 79t h year, in whi ch this is wri t t en. "
6
We can' t know whether, wi thout hi s vi rtue tabl e, Frankl i n woul d have
been any l ess happy or s ucces s f ul , but we can s earch for ot her evi dence t o
test his mai n psychol ogi cal cl ai m. Thi s cl ai m, whi ch I will cal l the "virtue
hypothesi s, " i s the s a me cl ai m ma d e by Epi cur us and t he Buddha i n the
epi graphs that open this chapt er: Cul t i vat i ng vi rtue will ma ke you happy.
Ther e are pl enty of reas ons to doubt t he virtue hypot hesi s. Frankl i n him-
self admi t t ed that he fai l ed utterly to devel op the virtue of humility, yet he
reaped great soci al gai ns by l earni ng to f ake it. Perhaps t he vi rtue hypothe-
sis will turn out to be true only in a cyni cal , Machi avel l i an way: Cul t i vat i ng
the appearance of virtue will ma ke you s uc c es s f ul , and t her ef or e happy, re-
gardl ess of your true character.
T H E V I R T U E S O F T H E A N C I E N T S
Ideas have pedi grees, i deas have baggage. Whe n we Wes t erners think about
morality, we us e concept s that are t hous ands of years ol d, but that took a
turn in their devel opment in the l ast t wo hundr ed years. We don' t realize
that our approach to morality i s odd f r om the perspect i ve of other cul tures,
or that it is bas ed on a parti cul ar set of psychol ogi cal a s s umpt i ons a set
that now appears to be wrong.
Every cul ture i s concerned about t he moral devel opment of its children,
and in every cul ture that left us mor e t han a f ew pages of writing, we find
texts that reveal its approach to morality. Speci f i c rules and prohibitions vary,
7 "he Felicity of Virtue 1 57
but t he br oad out l i nes of t hes e a ppr oa c hes have a lot i n c o mmo n. Mo s t cul -
t ur es wr ot e a bout vi r t ues t hat s houl d be cul t i vat ed, a nd ma ny of t h o s e
vi rtues were a nd still are val ued acr os s mos t cul t ur es
7
(for exampl e, hones t y,
j us t i ce, cour age, benevol ence, sel f -restrai nt, and r es pect f or authori ty). Mo s t
appr oaches t hen s peci f i ed act i ons that wer e good and bad with r e s pe c t t o
t hos e vi rtues. Mos t appr oaches wer e pract i cal , stri vi ng t o i ncul cat e vi r t ue s
that woul d benef i t t he pers on who cul t i vat es t hem.
On e of t he ol des t works of di rect moral i ns t r uct i on i s t he Teaching of
Amenemope, an Egypt i an text t hought t o have be e n wri t t en a r ound 1 3 0 0
I3CE. It begi ns by des cr i bi ng i t sel f as " i ns t r uct i on a bout l i f e" and as a " g u i d e
for wel l - bei ng, " pr omi s i ng t hat whoever c o mmi t s its l e s s ons t o hear t wi l l
" di s cover . . . a t r ea s ur e ho us e of l i f e, a nd [ hi s] body wi l l f l our i s h u p o n
ear t h. " Ame n e mo p e t hen of f er s thirty c ha pt er s of advi ce a bout how t o t r eat
ot her pe opl e , de ve l op s el f - r es t r ai nt , a nd f i nd s u c c e s s a nd c o n t e n t me n t
i n t he pr oc es s . For exampl e, af t er r epeat edl y urgi ng hones t y, par t i cul ar l y i n
r es pect i ng t he boundar y mar ker s of ot her f ar mer s , t he text says:
Plow your fields, and you'll find, what you need,
You '11 receive bread from your threshing floor.
Better is a bushel given you by God
Than five thousand through wrongdoing. . . .
Better is bread with a happy heart
Than wealth with vexation.
8
If thi s l ast l i ne s ounds f ami l i ar t o you, i t i s b e c a us e t he bi bl i cal bo o k of
I' roverbs borrowed a lot f rom Ame ne mo p e . For exampl e: " Bet t er i s a l i t t l e
with t he f ear of t he Lor d t han great t r eas ur e and t r oubl e wi t h it" ( P R O V E R B S
5 : 1 6 ) .
An addi t i onal c o mmo n f eat ur e i s that t hes e anci ent t ext s rely heavi l y on
maxi ms and rol e model s rather t han pr oof s and logic. Ma x i ms are car ef ul l y
phr as ed t o pr oduc e a f l as h of i nsi ght a nd approval . Rol e mo de l s a r e pr e-
s ent ed t o elicit admi rat i on and awe. Whe n moral i ns t ruct i on triggers e mo -
tions, i t s pea ks t o t he el ephant as well as t he rider. T h e wi s dom of Co n f u c i u s
mid Buddha, for exampl e, c o me s down t o us as lists of a phor i s ms s o t i me l e s s
unci evocati ve that peopl e still read t hem today f or pl e a s ur e and g ui da nc e ,
160 ' i ' l l H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
refer to them as "worl dwi de laws of l i fe, "
9
and write books about their scien-
tific validity.
A third f eat ure of many anci ent t ext s i s that they e mpha s i z e pract i ce
and habi t rather t han f act ual knowl edge. Conf uc i us c ompa r e d moral de-
vel opment to l earni ng how to pl ay mus i c ;
1 0
both requi re the study of texts,
obs ervance of role model s , and many years of pract i ce to devel op "virtuos-
ity." Aristotle us ed a si mi l ar met aphor :
Men become bui l ders by building hous es , and harpists by playing the
harp. Similarly, we' grow j ust by the practi ce of j ust actions, self-controlled
by exerci si ng our sel f-control , and cour ageous by perf ormi ng act s of
courage.
11
Buddha of f ered hi s f ol l owers the " Ei ght f ol d Nobl e Pat h, " a set of activi-
ties that will, with pract i ce, creat e an ethi cal pers on (by right s peech, right
acti on, right l i vel i hood), and a ment al l y di sci pl i ned pers on (by right ef f ort,
ri ght mi ndf ul nes s , right concent rat i on) .
In all t hes e ways, the anci ent s reveal a s ophi s t i cat ed under s t andi ng of
moral psychology, si mi l ar to Franklin' s. They all knew that vi rtue resi des in
a wel l -trai ned el ephant . The y all knew that trai ni ng t akes daily pract i ce
and a great deal of repeti ti on. The ri der mus t take part i n t he training, but
if moral i nst ruct i on i mpar t s only explicit knowl edge ( f act s that the rider
can state), i t will have no ef f ect on t he el ephant , and t heref ore little ef f ect
on behavior. Moral educat i on mus t al s o i mpart tacit knowl edges ki l l s of
social percept i on and soci al emot i on so finely t uned that one aut omat i cal l y
feels the right thi ng in each si tuati on, knows the right t hi ng to do, and then
wants to do it. Morality, for the anci ent s , was a kind of pract i cal wi sdom.
H o w T H E W E S T W A S L O S T
The Western appr oach to morality got of f to a great start; as i n other an-
cient cul t ures, i t f ocus ed on vi rtues. The Ol d Tes t ament , t he Ne w Testa-
ment , Homer, and Aes op all s how that our f oundi ng cul t ur es relied heavily
on proverbs, maxi ms , f abl es , and rol e model s t o i l l ustrate and t each the
The Felicity of Virtue 161
vi rt ues. Pl at o' s Republic a nd Ari st ot l e' s Nichomachean Ethics, two of t he
gr eat es t works of Gr e e k phi l os ophy, ar e es s ent i al l y t r eat i s es on t he vi r t ue s
and thei r cul t i vat i on. Eve n t he Epi c ur e a ns , who t hought pl ea s ur e wa s t he
goal of l i fe, bel i eved that pe opl e ne e de d vi rt ues t o cul t i vat e pl ea s ur es .
Yet c ont a i ned i n t hes e earl y t r i umphs of Gr e e k phi l os ophy are t he s e e d s
of l ater f ai l ure. Fi rst , t he Gr e e k mi nd that gave us mor al i nqui ry al s o g a ve
us t he begi nni ngs of s ci ent i f i c inquiry, t he a i m of whi ch i s t o s ear ch f or t he
s ma l l e s t s et of l aws t hat c a n expl ai n t he e n o r mo u s vari et y of e v e nt s i n
t he worl d. S c i e nc e val ues par s i mony, but vi rt ue t heor i es , wi th t hei r l ong
l i sts of vi r t ues , wer e never pa r s i moni ous . Ho w mu c h mo r e s a t i s f yi ng i t
woul d be t o t he s ci ent i f i c mi nd t o have one vi rt ue, pr i nci pl e, or rul e f r o m
whi ch all ot her s coul d be der i ved? S e c ond, t he wi de s pr e a d phi l os ophi c a l
wor s hi p of r eas on ma d e ma ny phi l os opher s unc o mf o r t a bl e wi th l oc a t i ng
vi rt ue i n habi t s and f eel i ngs . Al t hough Pl at o l ocat ed mos t of vi rtue i n t he
rati onal i ty of hi s chari ot eer, even he had t o c o n c e d e t hat vi rt ue r e qui r e d
t he right pa s s i ons ; he t her ef or e c a me up with t hat c ompl i c a t e d me t a p ho r
i n whi ch one of t wo hor s es c ont a i ns s o me vi rtue, but t he ot her has none. -
For Pl at o a nd many l ater t hi nker s , rati onal i ty wa s a gi ft f r om t he g o d s , a
tool t o cont rol our ani mal l us t s . Rat i onal i t y had t o be i n c ha r ge.
The s e t wo s e e ds t he que s t f or pars i mony and t he wor s hi p of r e a s o n
lay dor mant i n t he cent ur i es af t er t he fall of Rome , but they s pr out ed a nd
bl oomed i n the Eur opea n Enl i ght enment of t he ei ght eent h century. As ad-
va nc es i n t echnol ogy and c o mme r c e be ga n t o c r e a t e a ne w worl d, s o me
peopl e began t o s eek rati onal l y j us t i f i ed soci al a nd pol i t i cal a r r a ngement s ,
" f he Fr ench phi l os opher Ren6 Des car t es , writing i n t he s event eent h cent ury,
was qui t e happy t o rest his et hi cal s ys t em on t he benevol enc e of Go d , but
Enl i ght enment thi nkers s ought a f oundat i on for et hi cs that di d not d e p e nd
on di vi ne revel ati on or on God' s enf or cement . I t wa s as t hough s o me bo dy
had of f er ed a prize, like the pri zes that l ured early avi at ors to under t ake dar-
ing j ourneys : Ten t hous and p o u nd s sterl i ng t o t he fi rst phi l os opher - who c a n
c ome up with a si ngl e moral rule, t o be appl i ed t hrough t he power of r ea s on,
that can cl eanl y s epar at e good f rom bad.
Ha d t here been s uc h a pri ze, i t woul d have gone t o t he Ge r ma n phi l os o-
pher I mma nue l Kant .
1 2
Li ke Pl at o, Kant bel i eved t hat h u ma n bei ngs ha ve
a dual nat ur e: part ani mal a nd part rati onal . Th e ani mal par t of us f ol l ows
1 6 2 ' i ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
the laws of nature, j us t as does a fal l i ng rock or a lion killing its prey. Ther e
is no morality in nat ure; there is only causal i ty. But t he rati onal part of us,
Kant sai d, can follow a di f f erent ki nd of law: It can r es pect rul es of con-
duct, and so peopl e (but not l i ons) can be j udged morally for the degree t o
which they r es pect the right rul es. Wha t mi ght t hos e rul es be? Her e Kant
devi sed the cl everest trick i n all moral phi l osophy. He r eas oned that for
moral rul es to be laws, they had to be uni versal l y appl i cabl e. If gravity
worked di fferentl y for men and women, or for Ital i ans and Egypt i ans, we
coul d not s peak of it as a law. But rather t han s earchi ng for rul es to whi ch
all peopl e woul d in f act agree (a di f f i cul t task, likely to pr oduce only a f ew
bl and general i ti es), Kant t urned the pr obl em around and sai d that peopl e
shoul d think about whether the rul es gui di ng their own act i ons coul d rea-
sonably be proposed as uni versal l aws. If you are pl anni ng to break a prom-
ise that has be c ome i nconveni ent , can you really pr opos e a universal rule
that st at es peopl e ought to break pr omi s es that have be c ome i nconveni ent ?
Endors i ng s uch a rul e woul d render all pr omi s es meani ngl es s . Nor coul d
you consi stentl y will that peopl e cheat , lie, steal , or in any ot her way de-
prive ot her peopl e of their ri ght s or thei r property, for s uc h evils woul d
surely c ome back t o visit you. Thi s s i mpl e test, whi ch Kant cal l ed the "cat-
egorical i mperat i ve, " was extraordi nari l y powerf ul . It of f er ed to make et hi cs
a branch of appl i ed logic, thereby gi vi ng it the sort of certai nty that secul ar
ethi cs, wi thout recourse to a s acr ed book, had al ways f ound el usi ve.
Over the fol l owi ng decades , the Engl i s h phi l os opher J er emy Bent ham
chal l enged Kant for the ( hypot het i cal ) prize. Whe n Be nt ha m be c a me a
lawyer i n 1767, he was appal l ed by the compl exi t i es and i nef f i ci enci es of
English law. He set out, with typical enl i ght enment bol dnes s , to re-concei ve
the entire legal and legislative s ys t em by stati ng cl ear goal s and proposi ng the
most rational means of achi evi ng t hose goal s. The ul ti mate goal of all legis-
lation, he concl uded, was the good of the peopl e; and the mor e good, the
better. Bent ham was the father of uti li tari ani sm, the doctri ne that in all deci-
si onmaki ng (legal and personal ), our goal shoul d be the maxi mum total ben-
efit (utility), but who gets the benef i t is of little concer n.
1 3
The argument between Kant and Bent ham has cont i nued ever si nce. De-
scendant s of Kant (known as "deont ol ogi st s" from the Gr eek deon, obligation)
try to el aborate the duti es and obl i gati ons that ethical peopl e mus t respect,
The Felicity of Virtue 163
even when their act i ons l ead t o bad out c ome s (for exampl e, you mus t never
kill an i nnocent per s on, even i f doi ng so will s ave a hundr ed l i ves). De s c e n-
dant s of Bent ha m ( known as " cons equent i al i s t s " be c a us e they eval uat e ac-
ti ons only by their c ons e que nc e s ) try to work out t he rul es a nd pol i ci es t hat
will bri ng about t he great es t good, even when doi ng so will s ome t i me s vi ol at e
ot her ethi cal pri nci pl es (go ahead a nd kill t he one t o s ave t he hundr ed, they
say, unl es s it will set a bad exampl e that l eads to later pr obl ems ) .
De s pi t e thei r ma ny di f f er enc es , however, t he t wo c a mp s a gr ee i n i mpor -
t ant ways. The y bot h bel i eve i n par s i mony: De c i s i ons s houl d be b a s e d ul-
t i ma t el y on o ne pr i nc i pl e only, be i t t he c a t e gor i c a l i mpe r a t i v e or t he
maxi mi zat i on of utility. The y bot h i nsi st t hat onl y t he ri der c a n ma k e s u c h
de c i s i ons b e c a u s e mor al dec i s i on ma ki ng r equi r es l ogi cal r e a s o ni ng a nd
s o me t i me s even ma t he ma t i c a l c a l c ul a t i on. The y bot h di s t r us t i nt ui t i ons
a nd gut f eel i ngs , whi ch they s e e as obs t a c l e s t o good r eas oni ng. An d t hey
bot h s hun t he par t i cul ar i n f avor of t he a bs t r a c t : You don' t n e e d a r i ch,
t hi ck des cr i pt i on of t he pe opl e i nvol ved, or of thei r bel i ef s a nd cul t ur a l tra-
di t i ons . \ b u j us t ne e d a f e w f act s a nd a r a nke d list of t hei r l i kes a nd di s l i kes
(if you are a uti l i tari an). It does n' t mat t er wha t count r y or hi s t ori cal era you
are i n; i t does n' t mat t er whet her t he pe opl e i nvol ved ar e your f r i ends , your
e ne mi e s , or c ompl e t e s t r anger s . The mor al law, l i ke a l aw of phys i c s , wor ks
t he s a me f or all pe opl e at all t i mes .
The s e two phi l os ophi cal a ppr oa c hes have ma de e nor mous cont r i but i ons
t o l egal and pol i ti cal theory a nd pract i ce; i ndeed, they hel ped cr eat e soci -
et i es t hat r es pect i ndi vi dual ri ght s ( Kant ) whi l e still worki ng ef f i ci ent l y for
t he good of t he pe opl e ( Be nt ha m) . But t he s e i dea s have al s o p e r me a t e d
Wes t ern cul t ur e mor e generally, wher e they have had s o me uni nt e nde d con-
s e que nc e s . The phi l os opher Ed mu n d Pi nc of f s
1 4
has ar gued t hat c o ns e q ue n-
ti al i sts a nd deont ol ogi s t s wor ked t oget her t o c onvi nc e We s t e r ne r s i n t he
t went i et h cent ury t hat moral i ty i s t he s t udy of moral qua nda r i e s a nd di l em-
mas . Whe r e t he Gr e e ks f oc us e d on the character of a per s on a nd a s ke d what
ki nd of per s on we s houl d e a c h ai m t o be c o me , mo d e m et hi cs f o c us e s on ac-
tions, as ki ng when a part i cul ar act i on is right or wrong. Phi l os opher s wr es t l e
with l i f e-and-deat h di l emma s : Kill one t o s ave fi ve? Al l ow abor t ed f e t us e s t o
be us ed as a s our ce of s t em cel l s ? Re move t he f eedi ng t ube f r om a wo ma n
who has been unc ons c i ous for f i f t een year s ? Nonphi l os opher s wr es t l e wi t h
6 4 ' i ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
smal l er quandari es: Pay my taxes when ot hers are cheat i ng? Turn in a wallet
full of money that appear s to bel ong to a drug deal er? Tell my s pous e about a
sexual i ndi screti on?
Thi s turn f rom char act er et hi cs t o quandar y et hi cs has t urned moral ed-
ucat i on away f rom vi rtues and toward moral reasoni ng. If moral i ty i s about
di l emmas , then moral educat i on i s trai ni ng i n probl em sol vi ng. Chi l dren
mus t be taught how to thi nk about moral pr obl ems , especi al l y how to over-
c o me their natural egoi s m and take i nto thei r cal cul at i ons t he needs of
others. As the Uni t ed St at es b e c a me mor e ethni cal l y di verse i n the 1970s
and 1980s , and al s o mor e avers e t o aut hori t ari an met hods of educat i on,
the idea of t eachi ng s peci f i c moral f act s and val ues went out of f ashi on. In-
st ead, the rationalist l egacy of quandar y et hi cs gave us t eacher s and many
parent s who woul d ent husi ast i cal l y endor s e this line, f rom a recent child-
reari ng handbook: " My appr oach does not t each chi l dren what and what
not to do and why, but rather, i t t eaches t hem how to thi nk so they can de-
ci de for t hems el ves what and what not t o do, and why. "
15
I bel i eve that this turn f r om char act er to quandary was a pr of ound mi s-
take, for two reasons. Fi rst , i t weakens moral i ty and limits its s cope. Wher e
the anci ent s s aw virtue and charact er at work i n everythi ng a per s on does ,
our modern concept i on conf i nes moral i ty to a set of si t uat i ons that ari se
for each pers on only a f ew t i mes i n any gi ven week: t radeof f s bet ween self-
i nterest and the i nt erest s of ot hers. In our thin and rest ri ct ed moder n con-
cept i on, a moral per s on is one who gi ves to charity, hel ps ot hers , plays by
the rules, and i n general does not put her own sel f-i nterest too far ahead of
others' . Mos t of the acti vi ti es and deci s i ons of life are t heref ore i nsul ated
f r om moral concer n. Wh e n moral i ty i s r e duc e d t o t he oppos i t e of sel f-
i nterest, however, the vi rtue hypot hes i s be c ome s paradoxi cal : In modern
t erms, the virtue hypot hes i s says that act i ng agai nst your sel f -i nterest i s i n
your sel f-i nterest. It's hard to convi nce peopl e that this is true, and it can' t
possi bl y be true i n all si t uat i ons. In his t i me, Ben Frankl i n had a much eas -
ier task when he extol l ed the virtue hypot hes i s . Li ke the anci ent s , he had a
thicker, richer noti on of vi rt ues as a gar den of excel l ences that a pers on
cul ti vates t o bec ome more ef f ect i ve and appeal i ng t o ot hers. S e e n i n this
way, vi rtue i s, obvi ousl y, its own r ewar d. Frankl i n' s e x a mpl e i mpl i ci tl y
pos ed this ques t i on for his cont empor ar i es and his des cenda nt s : Are you
The Felicity of Virtue 165
wi l l i ng t o work now f or your own l ater wel l -bei ng, or ar e you s o lazy a n d
s hor t - s i ght ed t hat you won' t ma ke t he ef f or t ?
Th e s e c ond pr obl e m with t he t urn t o moral r eas oni ng i s t hat i t rel i es on
bad psychol ogy. Ma ny moral e duc a t i on ef f or t s s i nc e t he 1 9 7 0 s t ake t he
ri der of f of t he el epha nt a nd trai n hi m t o sol ve pr obl e ms on hi s own. Af t e r
bei ng expos ed t o hours of c a s e s t udi es , c l a s s r oom di s c us s i ons a bout mo r a l
di l e mma s , a nd vi deos a bout pe o pl e who f a c e d d i l e mma s a nd ma d e t he
right choi ces , t he chi l d l earns how ( not what ) t o t hi nk. The n cl as s e n d s ,
t he ri der get s ba c k on t he el ephant , a nd not hi ng c ha ng e s at r ec es s . Tr yi ng
t o ma ke chi l dr en beha ve et hi cal l y by t eachi ng t hem t o r eas on well i s l i ke
trying to ma ke a dog happy by waggi ng its tail. It get s caus al i t y ba c kwa r ds .
Dur i ng my f i rst year of gr aduat e s chool at the Uni versi t y of Penns yl vani a,
I di s cover ed t he we a kne s s of moral r eas oni ng i n mys el f . I read a wonde r f ul
bookPractical Ethicsby t he Pri ncet on phi l os opher Pet er Si nger.
1 6
Si nger ,
a huma ne cons equent i al i s t , s hows how we c a n appl y a cons i s t ent c o nc e r n
for t he we l f a r e of ot her s t o r es ol ve ma ny et hi cal p r o b l e ms of dai l y l i f e.
Si nger' s a ppr oa c h t o t he et hi cs of killing ani mal s c ha ng e d f orever my t hi nk-
i ng a bout my f ood c hoi c e s . Si nge r pr o po s e s and j us t i f i e s a f e w g u i d i ng
pri nci pl es: Fi rs t , i t i s wr ong t o c a us e pai n a nd s uf f er i ng t o any s ent i ent c r e a -
ture, t heref ore current f act ory f ar mi ng me t hods are unet hi cal . Se c ond, i t i s
wrong t o t ake t he life of a sent i ent bei ng that has s o me s e ns e of i denti ty a n d
at t achment s , t her ef or e killing a ni ma l s wi th l arge br ai ns and hi ghl y devel -
o p e d s oci al l i ves ( s uc h a s ot her p r i ma t e s a nd mos t ot her ma mma l s ) i s
wrong, even i f t hey c oul d be rai s ed i n an envi r onment t hey enj oyed a n d
were t hen ki l l ed pai nl essl y. Si nger' s cl ear a nd c ompel l i ng a r gume nt s c o n-
vi nced me on t he s pot , and s i nce t hat day I have been moral l y o ppo s e d t o
all f or ms of f act or y f armi ng. Moral l y oppos ed, but not behavi oral l y o p p o s e d .
I love t he t a s t e of mea t , a nd t he onl y t hi ng that c ha ng e d i n t he f i rst s i x
mont hs af t er r eadi ng Si nger i s that I t hought about my hypocri sy ea c h t i me
I ordered a hambur ger .
But then, dur i ng my s ec ond year of gr aduat e s chool , I began t o s t udy t he
emot i on of di s gus t , and I worked wi th Paul Rozi n, o ne of the f or emos t a u-
thori ti es on t he ps ychol ogy of eat i ng. Rozi n a nd I we r e trying t o f i nd vi de o
cl i ps t o elicit di s gus t i n t he exper i ment s we wer e pl anni ng, and we met o n e
mor ni ng wi t h a r e s e a r c h a s s i s t a nt who s ho we d us s o me vi de os he h a d
166 ' i ' l l H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
f ound. On e of t hem wa s Faces of Death, a compi l at i on of real a nd f ake vi deo
f oot age of peopl e bei ng killed. ( The s e s c e ne s wer e s o di s t ur bi ng that we
coul d not ethi cal l y us e t hem. ) Al ong wi th t he vi deot aped s ui ci des and exe-
cut i ons , there was a l ong s e que nc e shot i ns i de a s l aught er hous e. I wat ched
i n horror as cows , movi ng down a dri ppi ng di s as s embl y l i ne, were bl udg-
eoned, hooked, and s l i ced up. Af t er war ds , Rozi n a nd I went t o l unch t o tal k
about t he proj ect. We bot h ordered veget ari an meal s . For days af t erwards ,
t he sight of red mea t ma d e me queasy. My vi sceral f eel i ngs now ma t c he d
t he bel i ef s Si nger had given me. The el ephant now agr eed wi th the rider,
and I be c a me a veget ari an. For about t hree weeks . Gradual l y, as t he di s gus t
f aded, fi sh and chi cken reent ered my di et. The n red mea t di d, too, al t hough
even now, ei ght een year s later, I still eat l es s red me a t a nd c hoos e non-
f act ory-f armed me a t s when they are avai l abl e.
That exper i ence t aught me an i mpor t ant l es s on. I thi nk of mysel f as a
fairly rational per s on. I f ound Si nger' s a r gument s per s uas i ve. But , to para-
phras e Medea' s l ament ( f rom chapt er 1): I s aw t he right way a nd approved it,
but fol l owed t he wrong, until an emot i on c a me al ong t o provi de s ome f orce.
T H E V I R T U E S O F P O S I T I V E P S Y C H O L O G Y
The cry that we ve l ost our way i s hear d f r om s o me quar t er i n every count r y
and era, but i t has be e n part i cul arl y l oud i n t he Uni t ed St a t e s s i nce t he so-
cial turmoil of t he 1960s and t he e c o no mi c mal ai s e and ri si ng cr i me of t he
1970s . Political cons ervat i ves , part i cul arl y t hos e who have s t r ong rel i gi ous
bel i ef s , bri dl ed at t he " val ue- f r ee" a p p r o a c h t o moral e duc a t i on a nd t he
" empower i ng" of chi l dr en t o thi nk for t hems el ves i ns t ead of t eachi ng t he m
f act s and val ues t o t hi nk about . I n t he 1980s , t he s e cons er vat i ves chal -
l enged t he e duc a t i on e s t a bl i s hme nt by p us hi ng f or c ha r a c t e r e duc a t i on
programs i n s chool s , and by home- s c hool i ng thei r own chi l dr en.
Al so i n the 1980s , several phi l os ophers hel ped to revive vi rtue theori es.
Mos t notably, Al asdai r Macl nt yr e argued in After Virtue
17
that t he "enlight-
enment proj ect" of creat i ng a uni versal , cont ext -f ree moral i ty was doome d
from the begi nni ng. Cul t ur es that have s har ed val ues and ri ch traditions in-
variably generat e a f ramework i n whi ch peopl e can val ue and eval uate e a c h
The Felicity of Virtue 167
other. One c a n easi l y talk about t he vi rtues of a pri est, a soldier, a mot her, or
a mer chant i n t he cont ext of f ourt h-cent ury BCE At hens . St ri p away all i den-
tity and cont ext , however, and t here i s little t o grab on to. Ho w mu c h can y o u
s ay about t he vi rtues of a general i zed Homo sapiens, f l oat i ng in s pa c e wi th no
part i cul ar sex, age, occupat i on, or cul t ur e? The mode r n r e qui r e me nt t ha t
et hi cs i gnore parti cul ari ty i s what gave us our weaker moral i t y-appl i cabl e
everywhere, but e nc ompa s s i ng nQwhere. Macl nt yr e s ays that t he l oss of a
l anguage of vi rtue, gr ounded i n a part i cul ar tradition, ma k e s i t di f f i cul t f or us
t o f i nd meani ng, coher ence, and pur pos e i n l i f e.
1 8
I n r ecent year s , even ps ychol ogy ha s be c ome i nvol ved. I n 1 9 9 8 , Ma r t i n
Se l i gma n f ounde d posi t i ve ps ychol ogy when he a s s e r t e d t hat ps yc hol ogy
had l ost its way. Ps ychol ogy ha d b e c o me obs e s s e d wi t h pat hol ogy a nd t h e
dar k s i de of hu ma n nat ur e, bl i nd t o all t hat was good a nd nobl e i n p e o p l e .
S e l i g ma n no t e d t hat ps yc hol og i s t s ha d c r e a t e d a n e n o r mo u s ma n u a l ,
k no wn as t he " D S M " ( t he Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Dis-
orders), t o di a g nos e every pos s i bl e me nt a l i l l nes s a nd behavi or al a nno y-
a nc e, but ps ychol ogy di dn' t even have a l anguage wi t h whi c h t o tal k a b o u t
t he upper r e a c he s of huma n heal t h, t al ent , a nd possi bi l i ty. Wh e n S e l i g ma n
l a unc he d pos i t i ve psychol ogy, one of hi s first goal s wa s t o c r ea t e a di a g nos -
ti c ma nua l f or t he s t r e ngt hs a nd vi r t ues . He a nd a no t he r ps y c ho l o g i s t ,
Chr i s Pet er s on of t he Uni versi t y of Mi chi gan, set out t o c ons t r uc t a list of
t he s t r engt hs a nd vi rt ues, one that mi ght be val i d for any h u ma n cul t ur e. I
ar gued wi th t he m t hat t he list di d not have t o be val i d f or all cul t ur es t o be
us ef ul ; t hey s houl d f oc us j us t on l ar ge- s cal e i ndus t ri al s oci et i es . S e ve r a l
ant hr opol ogi s t s told t hem that a uni versal list coul d never be cr eat ed. For -
tunatel y, however, t hey per s ever ed.
As a f i rst s t ep, Pet er s on and Se l i gma n s urveyed every list of vi rt ues t he y
coul d f i nd, f r o m t he hol y books of maj or rel i gi ons down t o t he Boy S c o u t
Oa t h ( "t rust wort hy, loyal, hel pf ul , f ri endl y . . . "). The y ma d e l arge t abl es of
vi rtues and t ri ed t o s e e whi ch one s wer e c o mmo n a cr os s l i sts. Al t hough no
s pe c i f i c vi r t ue ma d e every l i st , six br oa d vi r t ues , or f a mi l i e s of r e l a t e d
vi rt ues , a p p e a r e d on nearl y all l i st s: wi s dom, cour age, humani t y, j us t i c e ,
t e mpe r a nc e , a nd t r a ns c e nde nc e ( t he abi l i ty t o f orge c onne c t i ons t o s o me -
t hi ng l arger t ha n t he sel f)- Th e s e vi rt ues ar e wi del y e ndor s e d b e c a u s e t hey
are abs t r act : The r e ar e ma ny ways t o be wi s e, or c our a g e ous , or h u ma n e ,
1 6 8 ' i ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
and it is i mpos s i bl e to f i nd a huma n cul t ur e that rej ect s all f or ms of any of
t hes e vi rtues. ( Ca n we even i magi ne a cul t ur e i n whi ch par ent s hope that
their chi l dren will grow up to be f ool i sh, cowardly, and cruel ?) But the real
val ue of the list of six i s that i t serves as an organi zi ng f r amewor k for more
s peci f i c strengths of character. Pet er s on a nd S e l i g ma n de f i ne char act er
s t r engt hs as s peci f i c ways of di s pl ayi ng, pr act i ci ng, and cul t i vat i ng t he
vi rtues. Several pat hs l ead to each vi rtue. Peopl e, as well as cul t ur es , vary
i n the degree to whi ch they val ue each pat h. Thi s i s the real power of the
cl assi f i cat i on: It poi nt s to s peci f i c me a ns of growth toward wi del y val ued
ends wi thout i nsi sti ng that any one way i s mandat ory for all peopl e at all
ti mes. The cl assi f i cat i on i s a tool for di agnos i ng peopl e' s di verse strengths
and for hel pi ng t hem fi nd ways to cul t i vat e excel l ence.
Peterson and Sel i gman suggest that t here are twenty-four pri nci pl e char-
act er strengths, each l eadi ng to one of t he six higher-level vi rt ues .
1 9
You can
di agnose yoursel f by l ooki ng at the list bel ow or by taki ng the st rengt hs test
(at www. aut hent i chappi ness. org) .
1. Wi s dom:
Curi osi t y
Love of l earni ng
J udgment
Ingenui ty
Emot i onal i ntel l i gence
Perspect i ve
2. Cour age:
Valor
Perseverance
Integrity
3. Humani t y:
Ki ndnes s
Lovi ng
4. J us t i ce:
Ci t i zens hi p
Fai rness
Leader s hi p
The Felicity of Virtue 169
5. Te mpe r a nc e :
Sel f - cont r ol
Pr ude nc e
Humi l i t y
6. Tr a ns c e nde nc e :
Appr eci at i on of beaut y a nd excel l ence
Gr a t i t ude
Ho p e
Spi ri t ual i t y
For gi venes s
Hu mo r
Zes t
Od d s are that you don' t have muc h t roubl e wi th t he list of six vi r t ue f ami -
lies, but you do have obj ect i ons t o t he l onger list of s t r engt hs . Why i s humo r
a me a ns t o t r a ns c endenc e? Why i s l eader s hi p on t he list, but not t he vi rt ues
of f ol l owers a nd s ubor di na t e s dut y, r es pect , a nd o b e d i e nc e ? Pl e a s e , go
a hea d and argue. Th e geni us of Pet ers on a nd Sel i gman' s cl as s i f i cat i on i s t o
get t he conversat i on goi ng, t o pr opos e a s peci f i c list of s t r engt hs a nd vi rt ues ,
and then let t he s ci ent i f i c and t herapeut i c c ommuni t i e s wor k out t he det ai l s .
J us t as t he D S M i s t horoughl y revi sed every ten or f i f t een year s , t he cl as s i f i -
cat i on of s t rengt hs a nd vi rtues ( known a mong posi t i ve ps ychol ogi s t s as t he
" u n- DS M" ) i s s ur e t o be revi sed a nd i mproved i n a f ew years . In da r i ng t o be
s peci f i c, i n dari ng t o be wrong, Pet ers on and Sel i gman have de mons t r a t e d
ingenuity, l eadershi p, and hope.
Thi s cl as s i f i cat i on i s al ready gener at i ng exci t i ng r es ear ch a nd l i berat i ng
i deas. Here' s my f avori te i dea: Work on your s t rengt hs , not your we a kne s s e s .
How many of your Ne w dear' s resol ut i ons have been a bout fi xi ng a f l aw? And
how many of t hos e res ol ut i ons have you ma d e several years i n a r ow? It's di f-
ficult to c ha nge ^any a s pe c t of your personal i t y by s heer f or ce of will, ari d if it
i s a weaknes s you c hoos e to work on, you probabl y won' t enj oy t he pr oc e s s .
If you don' t f i nd pl eas ur e or r ei nf or cement al ong t he way, t he nu nl e s s you
have t he wi l l power of Be n Frankl i nyou' l l s oon gi ve up. But you don' t really
have t o be good at everythi ng. Li f e of f er s s o many c ha nc e s t o us e o ne tool in-
s t ead of another, and of t en you can us e a st rengt h to get a r ound a we a kne s s .
170 ' i ' l l H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
In the positive psychology cl ass I teach at the University of Virginia, the fi-
nal project is to make yourself a better person, using all the tools of psychol-
ogy, and then prove that you have done so. About half the students each year
succeed, and the most s ucces s f ul ones usually either use cognitive behav-
ioral therapy on themsel ves (it really does work!) or employ a strength, or
both. For example, one student l amented her inability to forgive. Her mental
life was domi nated by ruminations about how those to whom she was closest
had hurt her. For her project, she drew on her strength of loving: Each time
she f ound hersel f spi ral i ng down into t hought s about vi ct i mhood, she
brought to mind a positive memory about the person in question, which trig-
gered a fl ash' of affection. Each flash cut off her anger and freed her, tem-
porarily, from rumi nati on. In ti me, this ef f ort f ul mental pr oces s became
habitual and she became more forgiving (as she demonstrated usi ng the re-
ports she had filled out each day to chart her progress). The rider had trained
the elephant with rewards at each step.
Another outstanding project was done by a woman who had j ust under-
gone surgery for brain cancer. At the age of twenty-one, Julia f aced no better
than even odds of surviving. To deal with her fears, she cultivated one of her
strengthszest. She made lists of the activities going on at the university
and of the beautiful hikes and parks in the nearby Blue Ri dge Mountai ns.
She shared these lists with the rest of the cl ass, she took time away from her
studies to go on these hikes, and she invited friends and cl as s mat es to join
her. People often say that adversity makes t hem want to live each day to the
f ul l est, and when J ul i a made a cons ci ous ef f ort to cul ti vate her natural
strength of zest, she really did it. ( She is still full of zest today.)
Virtue s ounds like hard work, and of t en is. But when vi rt ues are re-
concei ved as excel l ences, each of whi ch can be achi eved by the practi ce of
several strengths of character, and when the practi ce of t hese strengths is
often intrinsically rewarding, suddenl y the work s ounds more like Csi k-
szentmihalyi' s flow and less like toil. It's work t hat l i ke Sel i gman' s de-
scription of grat i f i cat i onsengages you fully, draws on your strengths, and
allows you to lose sel f -consci ousness and i mmer s e yourself in what you are
doing. Franklin woul d be pl eased: The virtue hypothesi s i s alive and well,
firmly ens conced in positive psychology.
7 "he Felicity of Virtue 1 57
H A R D Q U E S T I O N , E A S Y A N S W E R S
Vi rtue c a n be its own reward, but that' s obvi ous only f or t he vi rt ues t hat o ne
f i nds rewardi ng. If your s t rengt hs i ncl ude curi osi t y or l ove of l earni ng, you' ll
enj oy cul t i vat i ng wi s dom by t ravel i ng, goi ng t o mu s e u ms , a nd a t t e nd i ng
publ i c l e c t ur e s . I f your s t r engt hs i nc l ude gr a t i t ude a nd a p p r e c i a t i o n of
beaut y, t he f e e l i ng s of t r a ns c e nd e nc e you get f r om c o n t e mp l a t i n g t he
Gr a nd Ca nyon will gi ve you pl eas ur e too. But i t woul d be nai ve t o t hi nk t hat
doi ng t he right t hi ng al ways f eel s good. Th e real t est of t he vi rt ue hypot he s i s
i s to s ee whet her i t i s t rue even i n our res t ri ct ed moder n unde r s t a ndi ng of
moral i ty as al t r ui s m. Forget all that s t uf f about growt h a nd excel l ence. Is i t
t rue that act i ng agai ns t my sel f -i nt erest , for t he good of ot her s , even wh e n I
don' t want to, i s still good f or me ? S a g e s a nd mor al i s t s ha ve a l wa ys a n-
s wer ed with an unqual i f i ed yes, but t he chal l enge for s c i e nc e i s t o qua l i f y:
Whe n i s i t true, a nd why?
Rel i gi on and s ci ence each begi n with an eas y and uns at i s f yi ng ans wer, but
t hen move on t o mor e s ubt l e and i nt erest i ng expl anat i ons. For rel i gi ous s a g e s ,
the easy way out i s t o i nvoke di vi ne reci proci ty i n t he af terl i f e. Do good, be -
c a us e Go d will puni s h the wi cked a nd reward t he vi rt uous. For Chr i s t i a ns ,
there' s heaven or hell. Hi ndus have t he i mpers onal worki ngs of kar ma: T h e
uni verse will repay you in t he next life wi th a hi gher or l ower rebi rth, whi c h
will depend upon your vi rtue in this life.
I'm i n no pos i t i on to- say whet her Go d , heaven, or an af t er l i f e exi s t s , b u t
as a ps ychol ogi s t I am ent i t l ed to poi nt out t hat bel i ef i n pos t mor t e m j u s t i c e
s hows t wo si gns of pri mi t i ve moral thi nki ng. I n t he 1920s , t he great de ve l -
opment al ps ychol ogi s t J e a n Pi aget
2 0
got down on his kne e s t o pl ay ma r b l e s
and j acks wi th chi l dr en and, i n t he pr oc es s , ma p p e d out how moral i t y de -
vel ops. He f ound that, as chi l dren devel op an i ncreasi ngl y s ophi s t i cat ed u n-
der s t andi ng of ri ght a nd wrong, t hey go t hr ough a p ha s e i n whi c h ma n y
rules t ake on a ki nd of s a c r ednes s a nd unchangeabi l i t y. Dur i ng thi s p h a s e ,
chi l dren bel i eve i n " i mma nent j us t i c e " j us t i c e that i s i nher ent i n an a c t it-
sel f. In thi s s t a ge, t hey t hi nk that i f t hey br eak rul es , e ve n a c c i de nt a l l y,
s o me t hi ng ba d wi l l ha p p e n t o t he m, e ve n i f nobody kno ws a b o ut t h e i r
I rans gres s i ons . I mma ne nt j us t i c e s hows up i n adul t s , too, part i cul arl y wh e n
1 7 2 ' i ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
it comes to expl ai ni ng i l l ness and grave mi s f or t une. A survey
2 1
of bel i efs
about the caus es of illness acros s cul t ures s hows that the three mos t com-
mon expl anati ons are bi omedi cal (referri ng t o physi cal c a us e s of di sease) ,
i nterpersonal (illness i s c a us ed by wi t chcraf t , rel ated to envy and confl i ct),
and moral (illness i s caus ed by one' s own past act i ons, particularly violations
of f ood and sexual t aboos) . Mos t West erners cons ci ous l y embr a c e the bio-
medi cal expl anati on and rej ect the ot her two, yet when i l l ness stri kes and
Westerners ask, "Why me? " one of t he pl aces they of t en look for ans wers i s
to their own past transgressi ons. The bel i ef that Go d or f ate will dol e out re-
wards and puni s hment s for good and bad behavi or s eems on its f a c e to be a
cos mi c extensi on of our chi l dhood bel i ef in i mmanent j us t i ce, whi ch is it-
self a part of our obs es s i on with reciprocity.
The s econd probl em with pos t mor t em j us t i ce i s that i t relies on the myth
of pure evil.
22
Each of us can easily di vi de t he world into good and evil, but
presumabl y God would not s uf f er f rom the many bi as es and Machi avel l i an
motivations that make us do so. Moral mot i vat i ons (j usti ce, honor, loyalty,
patri oti sm) enter into mos t act s of vi ol ence, i ncl udi ng terrori sm and war.
Mos t peopl e believe their act i ons are moral l y j ust i f i ed. A f ew paragons of
evil stand out as candi dat es for hell, but al mos t everyone el s e woul d end up
in limbo. It j ust won't work to turn God into Sant a Cl aus , a moral account -
ant keepi ng track of 6 billion account s , be c a us e mos t lives can' t be pl aced
definitively in the naughty or ni ce col umns .
The sci enti f i c appr oach t o the ques t i on al s o begi ns with an easy and un-
sati sfyi ng answer: Vi rtue i s good for your ge ne s under s ome ci r cums t ances .
When "survival of the f i t t est " c a me to me a n "survival of the f i ttest gene, " i t
bec a me easy t o s ee that the f i t t est genes woul d mot i vat e ki nd and coopera-
tive behavi or in two s cenari os : when it benef i t ed t hos e who bore a copy
of t hose genes (that is, kin), or when i t benef i t ed the bearers of the genes
di rectl y by hel pi ng t hem r eap t he s ur pl us of non- zer o- s um g a me s us i ng
the tit-for-tat strategy. The s e two pr oc e s s e s ki n al t rui sm and reci procal
al t r ui s mdo i ndeed expl ai n nearly all al t r ui s m a mong nonhuma n ani mal s ,
and much of human al t rui sm, too. Thi s ans wer i s unsat i sf yi ng, however,
bec a us e our genes are, t o s ome ext ent , puppe t mas t er s maki ng us want
things that are s omet i mes good for t hem but bad for us ( s uch as extramari -
tal af f ai rs, or presti ge bought at the expens e of happi nes s ) . We cannot look
7 "he Felicity of Virtue 1 57
t o genet i c s el f -i nt eres t as a gui de ei t her t o vi r t uous or t o ha ppy living. Fur -
t her mor e, anyone who doe s e mb r a c e r eci pr ocal al t r ui s m as a justification
f or al t r ui s m ( rat her t han mer el y a c a u s e of it) woul d t hen be f r ee t o pi c k
a nd c hoos e: Be ni ce t o t hos e who c a n hel p you, but don' t wa s t e t i me or
money on a nyone el s e (f or exa mpl e, never l eave a ti p i n r es t a ur a nt s you
will not ret urn to). So t o eval uat e t he i dea that al t r ui s m pa ys f or t he al t ru-
i st, we ne e d t o p u s h t he s a ges and t he s ci ent i s t s harder: Do e s i t even pay
when t here i s nei t her pos t mor t e m nor r eci pr ocal pa yba c k?
H A R D Q U E S T I O N , H A R D A N S W E R S
St . Paul quot e s J e s u s as havi ng s ai d t hat "i t i s mor e bl e s s e d t o gi ve t ha n t o
r ecei ve" ( A C T S 2. 0: 35). On e me a ni ng of " bl e s s " is "to c o nf e r ha ppi ne s s or
prosperi t y upon. "
2 3
Do e s hel pi ng ot her s real l y conf er ha p p i ne s s or pr os per -
ity on t he hel per ? I know of no e vi de nc e s howi ng that al t r ui s t s gai n mo ne y
f r om thei r al t r ui s m, but t he evi denc e s ug g e s t s t hat they o f t e n gai n ha ppi -
nes s . Peopl e who do vol unt eer work ar e ha ppi er a nd heal t hi er t han t hos e
who don' t; but , as al ways , we have t o c ont e nd wi th t he p r o b l e m of r ever s e
correl at i on: Congeni t al l y happy peopl e ar e j us t pl ai n ni cer t o begi n wi t h,
2 4
so thei r vol unt eer wor k ma y be a c o n s e q u e n c e of t hei r ha ppi ne s s , not a
c a us e . Th e ha ppi ne s s - a s - c a us e hypot hes i s r ecei ved di r ect s uppor t whe n
t he ps ychol ogi s t Al i ce I s e n
2 5
went a r ound Phi l adel phi a l eavi ng d i me s i n
pay phones . Th e pe opl e who us ed t hos e p ho ne s a nd f ound t he di me s we r e
t hen mor e likely t o hel p a per s on who dr oppe d a s t ack of p a p e r s ( car ef ul l y
t i med t o coi nci de wi t h t he phone cal l er' s exi t), c o mpa r e d wi t h pe opl e who
us ed phone s that ha d empt y coi n-ret urn sl ot s. I s en has d o n e mor e r a ndom
act s of ki ndnes s t han any ot her ps ychol ogi s t : S he ha s di s t r i but ed c ooki es ,
bags of candy, a nd p a c k s of st at i onery; s he has ma ni pul a t e d t he o u t c o me of
vi deo g a me s (to l et peopl e wi n) ; and s he ha s s hown peopl e ha ppy pi c t ur es ,
al ways wi t h t he s a me f i ndi ng: Ha ppy pe opl e ar e ki nder a n d mor e he l pf ul
t han t hos e i n t he cont rol gr oup.
Wha t we ne e d t o f i nd, however, i s t he r ever s e ef f ec t : t hat al t rui s t i c act s
di rectl y c a us e ha ppi ne s s and/ or ot her l ong- t er m benef i t s . Wi t h its exhor t a-
tion t o "gi ve bl ood; all you' ll f eel i s good, " i s t he Ame r i c a n Re d Cr o s s t el l i ng
7 4 ' i ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
the truth? The psychol ogi st J a ne Piliavin has s t udi ed hlood donors i n detail
and f ound that, yes, giving hlood does i ndeed ma ke peopl e f eel good, and
good about t hems el ves . Pi l i avi n
2 6
has r evi ewed the broader l i terature on all
ki nds of vol unt eer work and r ea c hed t he concl us i on that hel pi ng others
does hel p the sel f, but i n compl ex ways that depend on one' s life st age. Re-
search on "servi ce l earni ng, " i n whi ch ( most l y) high school s t udent s do vol-
unteer work and engage i n gr oup ref l ect i on on what they are doi ng as part
of a cours e, provi des general l y encour agi ng resul t s: r educed del i nquency
and behavi oral probl ems , i ncreas ed ci vi c part i ci pat i on, and i ncr eas ed com-
mi t ment t o posi ti ve soci al val ues . However, t hes e programs do not appear
to have muc h ef f ect on the s el f - es t eem or happi nes s of the adol es cent s in-
volved. For adul t s, the story is a bit di f f erent . A l ongi tudi nal s t udy
2 7
that
t r acked vol unt eer i ng and wel l - bei ng over ma ny year s i n t ho us a nds of
peopl e was abl e to s how a caus al ef f ect : Whe n a per s on i ncr eas ed volun-
teer work, all meas ur es of happi nes s and wel l -bei ng i ncr eas ed (on average)
af t erwards, for as long as the vol unt eer wor k was a part of t he person' s life.
The elderly benef i t even more than do ot her adul t s , parti cul arl y when their
vol unteer work ei ther involves di rect pers on-t o-pers on hel pi ng or i s done
through a religious organi zati on. The benef i t s of vol unteer work for the el d-
erly are so large that they even s how up i n i mproved heal t h and l onger life.
St ephani e Brown and her col l eagues at the Uni versi ty of Mi chi gan f ound
stri ki ng evi dence of s uch ef f ec t s whe n they exami ned dat a f r om a large
longi tudi nal study of ol der marri ed c oupl e s .
2 8
Thos e who report ed giving
more hel p and s upport to s pous es , f r i ends , and rel ati ves went on to live
longer than t hose who gave less (even af t er control l i ng for f act or s s uch as
heal th at the begi nni ng of t he st udy peri od) , whereas the a mount of hel p
that peopl e reported receiving s howed no rel at i onshi p to longevity. Brown' s
f i ndi ng s hows di rect l y t hat , at l eas t f or ol der pe opl e , i t real l y i s mor e
bl es s ed to give than to recei ve.
Thi s pattern of age-related change s ugges t s that two of the bi g benef i ts of
volunteer work are that it brings peopl e together, and it hel ps t hem to con-
struct a McAdams -s t yl e life story.
29
Adol es cent s are al ready i mmer s ed in a
dens e network of social rel ati onshi ps, and they are j ust barely begi nni ng to
construct their life stories, so they don' t muc h need either of t hes e benefi ts.
7 "he Felicity of Virtue 1 57
Wi t h age, however, one' s story begi ns t o t ake s hape, and al trui sti c act i vi t i es
a dd dept h a nd vi rtue t o one' s charact er. I n ol d age, when s oci al net wor ks a r e
t hi nned by t he deat hs of f ri ends and family, t he soci al benef i t s of vol unt eer -
ing are s t ronges t ( and i ndeed, i t i s t he mos t soci al l y i sol ated el derl y who b e n -
ef i t t he mos t f r om vol unt eer i ng) .
3 0
Fur t he r mor e , i n ol d a ge, gener at i vi t y,
rel ati onshi p, a nd spi ri tual strivings c o me t o mat t er more, but a c hi e v e me nt
strivings s e e m out of pl ace,
3 1
mor e appr opr i at e for t he mi ddl e c ha pt er s of a
life story; t heref ore, an activity that l ets one "give s omet hi ng ba c k" f i t s r i ght
into t he story and hel ps to craf t a sat i sf yi ng concl us i on.
T H E F U T U R E O F V I R T U E
Sci ent i f i c r es ear ch s uppor t s t he vi rt ue hypot hes i s , even whe n i t i s r e d u c e d
t o t he cl ai m t hat al t r ui s m i s good f or you. Wh e n i t i s e va l ua t e d i n t he wa y
that Be n Fr ankl i n me a nt it, as a c l a i m a bout vi rt ue mor e broadl y, i t b e -
c o me s s o pr of oundl y t r ue t hat i t r ai s es t he que s t i on of whe t he r c ul t ur a l
cons er vat i ves are correct i n thei r c r i t i que of mode r n l i f e a nd i t s r es t r i c t ed,
per mi s s i ve morality. Shoul d we i n t he Wes t try t o ret urn t o a mor e vi r t ue-
ba s e d moral i t y?
I bel i eve t hat we have i ndeed l ost s ome t hi ng i mp o r t a nt a ri chl y t ex-
t ur ed c o mmo n e t hos wi th wi del y s ha r e d vi r t ues a nd va l ue s . J us t wa t c h
movi es f r om t he 1930s a nd 1940s a nd you' ll s ee pe opl e movi ng ar ound i n a
de ns e we b of mor al f i ber s : Cha r a c t e r s ar e c onc e r ne d a bout t hei r honor ,
their reput at i on, a nd the a ppe a r a nc e of propri ety. Chi l dr en a r e f r equent l y
di s ci pl i ned by adul t s ot her t han their par ent s . The good guys al ways wi n,
and cr i me never pays . I t may s ound s t uf f y a nd cons t r ai ni ng t o us now, b u t
that' s t he poi nt : S o me cons t rai nt i s good for us ; a bs ol ut e f r e e d o m i s no t .
Dur khei m, t he s oci ol ogi s t who f ound that f r e e dom f rom s oci al t i es i s c or r e -
l ated wi th s ui c i de
3 2
al s o gave us t he word " a nomi e " ( nor ml e s s ne s s ) . An o mi e
i s t he condi t i on of a s oci et y i n whi c h t her e are no cl ear r ul e s , nor ms , or
s t andar ds of val ue. I n an a nomi e soci ety, peopl e can do as t hey pl eas e; b u t
wi t hout any cl ear s t andar ds or r es pec t ed s oci al i nst i t ut i ons t o e nf or c e t h o s e
s t andar ds , i t i s har der f or pe opl e t o f i nd t hi ngs t hey want t o do. An o mi e
176 ' i ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
breeds f eel i ngs of root l es s nes s and anxi ety and l eads to an i ncr eas e i n
amoral and antisocial behavior. Moder n sociological research strongly sup-
ports Durkhei m: One of the best predi ctors of the health of an Ameri can
nei ghborhood i s the degree to whi ch adul t s res pond to the mi s deeds of
other people' s chi l dren.
33
When communi t y st andards are enf orced, there is
constraint and cooperati on. When everyone mi nds his own bus i nes s and
looks the other way, there is f reedom and anomi e.
My col l eague at the University of Virginia, the sociologist J a me s Hunter,
carries Durkheim' s ideas forward into the current debat e about character
educati on. In his provocative book The Death of Character,
34
Hunt er traces
out how Ameri ca lost its older i deas about virtue and character. Bef ore the
Industrial Revolution, Ameri cans honored the virtues of "producers"hard
work, self-restraint, sacrifice for the f ut ure, and sacri fi ce for the common
good. But during the twentieth century, as peopl e became wealthier and the
producer society turned gradually into the mas s consumpt i on society, an al-
ternative vision of the self ar os ea vision cent ered on the idea of individual
preferences and personal fulfillment. The intrinsically moral term "charac-
ter" fell out of favor and was repl aced by the amoral term "personality."
Hunt er points to a second caus e of character' s death: i ncl usi veness. The
first Ameri can col oni sts creat ed encl aves of et hni c, rel i gi ous, and moral
homogeneity, but the history of Amer i ca ever si nce has been one of in-
creasi ng diversity. In res pons e, educat or s have st ruggl ed to i dent i f y the
ever-shrinking set of moral i deas everyone coul d agree upon. Thi s shrink-
ing reached its logical concl us i on in the 1960s with the popul ar "values
clarification" movement , whi ch taught no morality at all. Val ues clarifica-
tion taught children how to find their own val ues, and it urged teachers to
refrain from i mposi ng values on anyone. Al t hough the goal of i ncl usi veness
was l audabl e, it had uni ntended si de ef f ect s : It cut chi l dren off from the
soil of tradition, history, and religion that nouri shed older concept i ons of
virtue. You can grow vegetabl es hydroponically, but even then you have to
add nutrients to the water. Aski ng chi l dren to grow virtues hydroponically,
looking only within themsel ves for gui dance, is like aski ng each one to in-
vent a personal l anguagea poi ntl ess and isolating t ask if there is no com-
munity with whom to speak. (For a sensi ti ve analysis from a more liberal
7 "he Felicity of Virtue 1 57
per s pect i ve of t he need f or " cul t ural r e s our c e s " f or i dent i t y cr eat i on, s e e
Ant hony Appi ah' s lite Ethics of Identity.)
35
I hel i eve Hunt er ' s anal ys i s i s cor r ect , but I am not yet c onvi nc ed t hat we
are wor s e of f , . overal l , wi th our res t ri ct ed mode r n morality. On e t hi ng t hat
of t en di s t r es s es me i n ol d movi es and t el evi si on pr ogr a ms , even up t hr ough
t he 1960s , i s how l i mi t ed wer e t he l i ves of wo me n a nd Af r i c a n Ame r i c a ns .
We have pai d a pr i ce f or our i ncl us i venes s , but we have bought our s e l ve s a
mor e h u ma n e s oci et y, wi t h gr ea t er oppor t uni t y f or r aci al mi no r i t i e s ,
wome n, gay pe opl e , t he ha ndi c a ppe d, and ot he r s t ha t is, f or mos t p e o p l e .
And even i f s o me pe opl e t hi nk t he pr i ce wa s t oo s t eep, we can' t go ba c k,
ei t her t o a pr e - c ons ume r s oci et y or t o et hni cal l y ho mo g e ne o us e nc l a ve s .
All we c a n do i s s ear ch f or ways that we mi ght r e duc e our a nomi e wi t hout
excl udi ng l arge c l a s s e s of peopl e.
Bei ng nei t her a s oci ol ogi s t nor an expert i n e duc a t i on policy, I wi l l not
try to des i gn a r adi cal ne w a ppr oa c h to mor al e duc a t i on. I ns t ea d, I wi l l
pr es ent one f i ndi ng f r om my own r es ear ch on diversity. T h e wor d " di ver-
s i t y" t ook on i ts c ur r e nt rol e i n Ame r i c a n d i s c o ur s e onl y a f t e r a 1 9 7 8
S u p r e me Cour t rul i ng ( U. C. Regent s v. Ba kke ) t hat t he us e of raci al pr ef -
e r e nc e s t o achi eve raci al quot a s at uni vers i t i es wa s uncons t i t ut i onal , but
that i t wa s per mi s s i bl e t o us e raci al pr e f e r e nc e s t o i nc r ea s e di versi t y i n t he
s t udent body. S i nc e t hen, di versi t y has be e n wi del y c el ebr a t ed, on b u mp e r
s t i ckers , i n c a mp u s di versi ty days , a nd i n a dver t i s ement s . For ma ny l i ber-
al s , di versi t y ha s b e c o me a n unq ue s t i o ne d g o o dl i ke j us t i c e , f r e e d o m,
and ha ppi nes s , t he mor e diversity, t he bet t er.
My r es ear ch on morality, however, s pur r ed me t o ques t i on it. Gi ven ho w
eas y i t i s to di vi de peopl e i nto host i l e gr oups ba s e d on trivial di f f e r e nc e s ,
3 6
1
wonde r e d whe t he r c e l e br a t i ng di vers i t y mi ght a l s o e nc o u r a g e di vi s i on,
wher eas cel ebr at i ng commonal i t y woul d hel p peopl e f or m cohes i ve, g r o ups
a nd c o mmu ni t i e s . I qui ckl y real i zed t hat t her e ar e t wo ma i n ki nds of
di ver s i t ydemogr aphi c a nd moral . De mog r a phi c di versi t y i s a bout s oci o-
demogr aphi c cat egor i es s uc h as race, ethni ci ty, sex, s exual ori ent at i on, a ge ,
nnd ha ndi c a pped s t at us . Cal l i ng for demogr a phi c di versi ty i s i n l arge me a -
s ur e cal l i ng f or j us t i c e , f or t he i ncl us i on of pr evi ous l y e x c l ude d g r o u p s .
Moral diversity, on t he ot her hand, i s es s ent i al l y what Dur khe i m de s c r i be d
1 7 8 ' i ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
as anomi e: a l ack of cons ens us on moral nor ms and val ues. Onc e you make
this distinction, you s ee that nohody can coherent l y even want moral diver-
sity. If you are pro-choi ce on the i s s ue of aborti on, woul d you prefer that
there be a wi de variety of opi ni ons and no domi nant one? Or woul d you pre-
fer that everyone agree with you and the l aws of the l and refl ect that agree-
ment ? If you prefer diversity on an i ssue, the i ssue is not a moral i s s ue for
you; it is a matter of personal taste.
Wi th my s t udent s Holly Horn and Evan Rosenberg, I c onduc t ed a study
among several groups at the Uni versi ty of Virginia.
37
We f ound that there
was strong support a mong s t udent s for i ncreasi ng diversity for demographi c
cat egori es ( s uch as race, religion, and soci al cl as s ) , even a mong s t udent s
who descri bed t hemsel ves as politically conservati ve. Moral diversity (opin-
i ons about controversi al pol i ti cal ques t i ons ) , however, was muc h l ess ap-
peal i ng i n most contexts, with the i nteresti ng excepti on of s emi nar cl as s es .
St udent s wanted to be exposed to moral diversity in cl as s , but not in the
peopl e they live with and soci al i ze with. Our concl us i on f rom this study i s
that diversity is like chol esterol : There' s a good kind and a bad kind, and
perhaps we shoul d not be trying to maxi mi ze both. Li beral s are right to work
for a society that is open to peopl e of every demographi c group, but conser-
vatives might be right i n bel i evi ng that at the s ame t i me we shoul d work
much harder to creat e a c ommon, shared identity. Al t hough I am a political
liberal, I believe that conservat i ves have a better unders t andi ng of moral de-
vel opment (al though not of moral psychol ogy i n gener al t hey are too com-
mi t t ed t o t he myth of pur e evi l ). Cons er va t i ves want s chool s t o t each
l essons that will creat e a posi ti ve and uni quel y Amer i can identity, i ncl udi ng
a heavy dos e of Ameri can history and ci vi cs, usi ng Engl i sh as the only na-
ti onal l anguage. Li beral s are j ust i f i abl y wary of j i ngoi sm, nat i onal i sm, and
the f ocus on books by " dead whi te mal es , " but I think everyone who cares
about educat i on shoul d r emember that t he Ameri can mot t o of e pluribus,
unum (from many, one) has two parts. The cel ebrati on of pluribus shoul d be
bal anced by pol i ci es that st rengt hen the unum.
Maybe it's too late. Maybe in the hostility of the current cul t ure war, no
one can find any val ue i n the i deas of the other side. Or maybe we can turn
for instruction to that great moral exempl ar, Ben Frankl i n. Ref l ect i ng upon
7 "he Felicity of Virtue 1 57
t he way history i s dri ven f orward by peopl e a nd part i es f i ght i ng e a c h ot her
bitterly i n purs ui t of their sel f-i nterest, Frankl i n pr opos ed cr eat i ng a " Uni t e d
Party for Vi rt ue. " Thi s party, c ompos e d of pe opl e who had cul t i vat ed vi rt ue i n
t hems el ves , woul d act onl y "with a vi ew t o t he good of ma nki nd. " Per haps
that wa s nai ve even i n Frankl i n' s day, and i t s e e ms unl i kel y that t he s e " good
a nd wi s e me n" woul d f i nd i t as eas y t o agr ee on a pl at f orm as Frankl i n s up-
po s e d. None t he l e s s , Fr ankl i n may be ri ght t hat l ea der s hi p on vi r t ue c a n
never c o me f r om t he maj or pol i ti cal act ors; i t will have t o c o me f r om a move-
ment of peopl e, s uch as t he peopl e of a town who c o me t oget her a nd agr ee
t o crfeate mor al c ohe r e nc e acr os s t he ma ny ar eas of chi l dren' s l i ves. S u c h
mo v e me nt s ar e ha ppe ni ng now. Th e devel opment a l ps ychol ogi s t Wi l l i a m
Da mo n
3 8
cal l s t hem "yout h chart er" move me nt s , for they i nvol ve t he cooper -
at i on of all par t i es t o c hi l dr e a r i ng pa r e nt s , t e a c he r s , c o a c he s , r el i gi ous
l eaders, a nd the" chi l dren t he ms e l ve s who c o me t o c ons e ns us on a " char -
ter" des cr i bi ng t he communi t y' s s hared under s t andi ngs , obl i gat i ons, a nd val-
ue s a nd commi t t i ng all part i es t o expect a nd uphol d t he s a me hi gh s t a nda r ds
of behavi or i n all set t i ngs. Maybe- yout h char t er c ommuni t i e s can' t rival t he
moral r i chnes s of anci ent At hens , but they are doi ng s omet hi ng t o r e d uc e
their own a nomi e whi l e far exceedi ng At hens i n j us t i ce.
Divinity With or
Without God
We must not allow the ignoble to injure the noble, or the
smaller to injure the greater. Those who nourish the smaller
parts will become small men. Those who nourish the greater
parts will become great men.
M E N G T Z U ,
1
3 R D C E N T , B C E
God created the angels from intellect without sensuality, the
beasts from sensuality without intellect, and humanity from
both intellect and sensttality. So when a person's intellect over-
comes his sensuality, he is better than the angels, but when his
senstuzlity overcomes his intellect, he is worse than the beasts.
M U H A M M A D
2
o UR LI F E i s THE CREATION of our mi nds, and we do muc h of that creat i ng
with metaphor. We s ee new things in t erms of things we al ready under s t and:
Li fe is a journey, an argument is a war, the mi nd is a rider on an el ephant .
With the wrong met aphor we are del uded; with no met aphor we are bl i nd.
The met aphor that has mos t hel ped me to unders t and morality, rel i gi on,
and the human ques t for meani ng is Flatland, a char mi ng little book wri tten
i n 1884 by the Engl i sh novelist and mat hemat i ci an Edwi n Abbot .
3
Fl at l and
1 8 1
182 ' i ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
i s a two-di mensi onal worl d whos e i nhabi t ant s are geomet ri c f i gures. The
protagoni st is a square. One day, the s quar e is visited by a s pher e from a
three-di mensi onal world cal l ed Spacel and. Whe n a s phere visits Fl atl and,
however, all that is visible to Fl at l anders is t he part of the s phere that lies in
their pl ai ni n other words, a ci rcl e. The s quar e i s as t oni s hed that the cir-
cl e is abl e to grow or shri nk at will (by ri si ng or si nki ng into the pl ane of
Fl at l and) and even to di s appear and r eappear in a di f f erent pl ace (by leaving
the pl ane, and then reenteri ng it). The s pher e tries to explai n the concept of
the third di mensi on to the t wo-di mensi onal s quare, but the s quar e, though
skilled at two-di mensi onal geometry, doesn' t get it. He cannot underst and
what it means to have t hi ckness in addi ti on to hei ght and breadt h, nor can
he underst and that the ci rcl e c a me f rom up above hi m, where " up" does not
me a n f r om the north. The s phe r e pr e s e nt s anal ogi es and geomet r i cal
demonst rat i ons of how to move f rom one di mens i on to two, and t hen from
two to three, but the s quar e still fi nds the i dea of movi ng " up" out of the
pl ane of Fl atl and ri di cul ous.
In desperat i on, the s pher e yanks t he s qua r e up out of Fl at l and and into
the third di mens i on so that the s quar e c a n l ook down on his world and s ee
i t all at once. He can s ee the i nsi de of all t he hous es and the gut s ( i nsi des)
of all the i nhabi tants. The s quar e recal l s t he experi ence:
An unspeakabl e horror seized me. There was darkness; then a dizzy, sick-
ening sensation of sight that was not like seei ng; I saw s pace that was not
space: I was myself, and not myself. When I coul d find voice, I shrieked
al oud in agony, " Ei t her this is ma dne s s or it is Hel l . " "It is nei ther, "
calmly replied the voice of the sphere, "it is Knowledge; it is Three Di-
mensi ons: open your eye once again and try to look steadily." I looked,
and, behold, a new world!
The s quare i s awes t ruck. He pros t rat es hi ms el f bef or e the s pher e and
bec omes the sphere' s di sci pl e. Upon hi s return to Fl at l and, he st ruggl es to
pr each the " Gos pel of Thr e e Di me ns i ons " t o his fel l ow t wo-di mensi onal
cr eat ur es but in vai n.
We are all, in s ome way, the s quare bef ore his enl i ghtenment. We have all
encount ered somet hi ng we failed to unders t and, yet smugl y bel i eved we un-
Divinity With or Without God J 85
ders t ood be c a us e we coul dn' t concei ve of t he di mens i on t o whi ch we we r e
bl i nd. The n one day s omet hi ng ha ppe ns that ma ke s no s e ns e i n our two-
di mens i onal worl d, and we cat ch our first gl i mps e of anot her di mens i on.
In all huma n cul t ures , the soci al worl d has two cl ear di mens i ons : a hori-
zontal di mens i on of cl os enes s or liking, and a vertical one of hi erarchy or sta-
tus. Peopl e natural l y and ef f orti essl y ma ke di st i nct i ons al ong t he hori zontal
di me ns i on be t we e n c l os e ver s us di s t ant ki n, a nd be t we e n f r i ends ve r s us
strangers. Ma ny l anguages have one f or m of addr es s for t hos e who ar e c l os e
(tu, in French) and anot her for t hos e who are di st ant (vous). We al s o have a
great deal of i nnat e ment al st ruct ure that pr epar es us for hi erarchi cal i nt erac-
ti ons. Even i n hunt er-gat herer cul t ur es t hat are i n ma ny ways egal i t ari an,
equal i ty i s only mai nt ai ned by acti ve s uppr es s i on of ever-present t endenc i es
toward hierarchy.
4
Ma ny l anguages us e t he s a me verbal me t hods t o ma r k hi-
erarchy as they do to mar k cl os enes s (in Fr ench, tu for s ubor di nat es as wel l as
fri ends, vous for superi ors as well as st rangers) . Even i n l anguages s uc h as En-
glish that do not have di f f erent verb f or ms for di f f erent s oci al rel at i ons hi ps ,
peopl e f i nd a way t o mark t hem anyway: We addr es s peopl e who are di s t ant
or superi or by us i ng their titles and last na me s (Mr. Smi t h, J udg e Br own) , a nd
us e first na me s f or t hos e who are i nt i mat e or s ubor di nat e.
5
Our mi nds aut o-
mati cally keep t rack of t hes e two di mens i ons . Thi nk how awkwar d i t wa s t he
last t i me s ome one you barely knew but greatly revered invited you to cal l hi m
by first name. Di d t he na me st i ck i n your throat? Conversel y, when a s al es -
person addr es s es you by first na me wi t hout havi ng been i nvi ted t o do s o, do
you feel sl i ghdy of f ended?
No w i ma g i ne your s el f happi l y mo v i ng a r ound your t wo - di me ns i o na l
soci al worl d, a fl at l and wher e t he X axi s is c l os e ne s s a nd t he Y axi s is hi er-
archy ( s ee f i gure 9. 1) . The n one day, you s ee a per s on do s ome t hi ng ext raor-
dinary, or you have an over whel mi ng exper i ence of nat ural beaut y, a nd you
leel l i fted " up. " But it's not t he " up" of hi erarchy, it's s o me ot her ki nd of el e-
vati on. Thi s c ha pt er i s about that verti cal move me nt . My cl ai m i s t hat t he
huma n mi nd per cei ves a third di mens i on, a s peci f i cal l y mor al di me ns i o n
l hat I Vvill call "divinity. " ( S e e t he Z axi s, c o mi ng up out of t he pl ane of t he
page i n f i gure 9. 1) . In choos i ng t he l abel "divinity, " I am not a s s umi ng t hat
Go d exi s t s and i s t her e t o be per c ei ved. ( I mys el f am a J e wi s h a t he i s t . )
Rather, my r es ear ch on t he moral e mot i ons has l ed me t o c onc l ude t hat t he
1 8 4 ' i ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
Fig. 9. 1 The Three Di mensi ons of Soci al Spa c e
human mi nd si mpl y does percei ve divinity and s acr ednes s , whet her or not
God exists. In reachi ng this concl us i on, I lost t he s mug cont empt for reli-
gi on that I felt in my twenti es.
Thi s chapt er i s about the anci ent t rut h that devoutl y rel i gi ous peopl e
grasp, and that s ecul ar thi nkers of t en do not: that by our act i ons and our
thoughts, we move up and down on a verti cal di mens i on. In the openi ng
epi graph of this chapt er, Me ng Tzu cal l ed i t a di mens i on of nobl e versus
i gnoble. Muha mma d, like Chri s t i ans and J e ws bef or e hi m, ma de i t a di-
mensi on of divinity, with angel s above a nd beas t s below. An i mpl i cat i on of
this truth i s that we are i mpoveri shed as huma n bei ngs when we l os e sight
of this di mens i on and let our world col l aps e i nto two di mens i ons . But at
the other ext reme, the ef f ort to creat e a t hree-di mens i onal s oci et y and im-
pos e i t on all resi dent s i s the hal l mark of rel i gi ous f undament al i s m. Funda-
ment al i st s, whether Chri s t i an, J e wi s h, Hi ndu, or Mus l i m, want t o live i n
nati ons whos e l aws are i n harmony wi t hor are taken f r oma parti cul ar
holy book. Ther e are many r eas ons for democr at i c West ern s oci et i es to op-
pos e s uch f undament al i s m, but I bel i eve that the first s t ep i n s uc h opposi -
tion mus t be an hones t and r es pect f ul under s t andi ng of its moral moti ves.
I hope that this chapt er cont ri but es to s uc h under s t andi ng.
Divinity With or Without God J 85
A R E W E N O T A N I M A L S ?
I first f ound divinity in di s gus t . Whe n I began to s t udy morality, I r ead t he
moral c ode s of many cul t ures , a nd t he first thi ng I l earned i s that mos t cul -
tures are very concer ned about f ood, sex, mens t r uat i on, and t he handl i ng of
cor ps es . Be c a us e I had al ways t hought moral i ty wa s about how peopl e t reat
each other, I di s mi s s ed all this s t uf f about "puri ty" a nd " pol l ut i on" ( as t he an-
t hropol ogi st s call it) as ext raneous t o real morality. Why are wo me n i n ma ny
cul t ures f orbi dden t o ent er t empl es or t ouch rel i gi ous art i f act s whi l e t hey ar e
mens t ruat i ng, or for a f ew weeks af t er gi vi ng bi rt h?
6
It mus t be s o me sort of
sexi st ef f ort t o control women. Why i s eat i ng pork an abomi nat i on f or J e ws
and Mus l i ms ? Mu s t be a heal t h-rel at ed ef f ort t o avoi d t ri chi nosi s. But as I
read further, I began to di s cern an underl yi ng logic: t he l ogi c of di s gus t . Ac-
cordi ng to t he l eadi ng theory of di s gus t i n t he 1980s , by Paul Rozi n,
7
di s gus t
i s largely about ani mal s and t he pr oduct s of ani mal bodi es ( f ew pl ant s or in-
or gani c mat er i al s ar e di s gus t i ng) , a nd di s gus t i ng t hi ngs ar e c ont a g i ous by
t ouch. Di s gus t t heref ore s e e me d s ome how rel at ed t o t he concer ns a bout an-
i mal s , body pr oduc t s ( bl ood, exc r ement ) , was hi ng, a nd t ouc h t hat a r e s o
cl ear i n t he Ol d Tes t ament , t he Koran, Hi ndu s cri pt ures , and ma ny et hno-
graphi es of tradi ti onal soci et i es. WTien I went to talk to Rozi n about t he pos -
s i bl e rol e of di s gus t i n moral i t y a nd rel i gi on, I f o und t hat he ha d b e e n
thi nki ng about the s a me ques t i on. Wi th Prof es s or Cl a r k Mc Ca u l e y of Bryn
Mawr Col l ege, we began t o s t udy di s gus t a nd t he rol e i t pl ays i n soci al l i f e.
Di s g us t ha s i ts evol ut i onar y ori gi ns i n he l pi ng p e o p l e d e c i d e wha t t o
cat .
8
Dur i ng t he-evol ut i onary t ransi t i on i n whi ch our a nc e s t or s ' br ai ns ex-
pa nded greatly, s o di d their pr oduct i on of t ool s a nd we a pons , a nd s o di d
(heir c ons umpt i on of me a t .
9
( Ma ny s ci ent i s t s t hi nk t he s e c ha ng e s we r e all
i nt errel at ed, a l ong wi t h t he gr eat er i nt e r de pe nde nc e of ma l e a nd f e ma l e
that I di s c us s e d i n chapt er 6) . But when earl y huma ns we nt f or me a t , i n-
c l udi ng s c a v e ng i ng t he c a r c a s s e s l ef t by ot her pr e da t o r s , t hey e x p o s e d
t hems el ves t o a gal axy of new mi c r obe s a nd par as i t es , mos t of whi c h ar e
cont agi ous i n a way that pl ant t oxi ns ar e not : If a poi s onous berry b r us he s
up agai ns t your ba ked pot at o, i t won' t ma k e t he pot a t o ha r mf ul or di s gus t -
ing. Di s gus t wa s ori gi nal l y s ha pe d by nat ural s el ect i on as a gua r di a n of t he
1 8 6 ' i ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
mout h: It gave an advant age to i ndi vi dual s who went heyond the s ens ory
propert i es of a potenti al l y edi bl e obj ect ( does i t s mel l good? ) and t hought
about where i t c a me f rom and what i t had t ouched. Ani mal s that routi nel y
eat or crawl on cor ps es , excr ement , or gar bage pi l es (rats, maggot s , vul-
tures, cockr oaches ) trigger di sgust i n us: We won' t eat t hem, and anyt hi ng
they have t ouched bec omes cont ami nat ed. We' re al s o di s gus t ed by mos t of
the body pr oduct s of ot her peopl e, part i cul arl y exc r ement , muc us , and
bl ood, whi ch may t ransmi t di s eas es a mo ng peopl e. Di s gus t ext i ngui s hes
desi re ( hunger) and moti vates puri f yi ng behavi ors s uch as was hi ng or, i f it's
too late, vomi ti ng.
But di s gus t doesn' t guard j us t the mout h; its el i ci tors expanded dur i ng
bi ol ogi cal and cul tural evol uti on so that now i t guar ds t he body mor e gen-
erally.
10
Di s gus t pl ays a role in sexual i ty anal ogous to its rol e in f ood s el ec-
tion by gui di ng peopl e to the narrow cl as s of cul tural l y a ccept a bl e s exual
part ners and sexual act s . Onc e agai n, di s gus t turns of f des i re and mot i vat es
concer ns about puri f i cati on, separat i on, and cl eans i ng. Di s gus t al s o gi ves
us a queas y f eel i ng when we s ee peopl e with ski n l esi ons, def or mi t i es , am-
put at i ons, ext reme obesi ty or t hi nness, and ot her vi ol ati ons of the cul t ur-
ally i deal outer envel ope of the human body. It is the exteri or that mat t ers :
Ca nc e r i n the l ungs or a mi s s i ng ki dney i s not di s gus t i ng; a t umor on t he
f a c e or a mi s s i ng fi nger is.
Thi s expans i on, f rom guar di an of the mout h t o guar di an of t he body,
makes s ens e f rom a purely biological pers pect i ve: We huma ns have al ways
lived i n larger, dens er groups than most other pr i mat es , and we lived on the
ground, too, not i n trees, so we were more expos ed to the ravages of mi-
cr obes and par as i t es that s pr ea d by phys i cal cont act . Di s gus t ma ke s us
caref ul about cont act . But t he mos t f as ci nat i ng thi ng about di s gus t i s that i t
i s recrui ted to support so many of the norms, ri tual s, and bel i ef s that cul -
tures us e to def i ne t hemsel ves.
1 1
For exampl e, many cul t ures draw a s harp
l i ne bet ween huma ns and ani mal s , i ns i s t i ng t hat pe opl e ar e s o me ho w
above, better than, or mor e god-like than other ani mal s . The human body i s
of t en thought of as a t empl e that hous es divinity wi thi n: " Or do you not
know that your body is a t empl e of the Hol y Spi ri t within you, whi ch you
have f rom God, and that you are not your own? . . . [ T] heref ore glorify God
in your body" ( I C O R I N T H I A N S 6:19-20).
Divinity With or Without God J 85
Yet a cul t ure that says that huma ns are not ani mal s, or that the body is a
t empl e, f aces a bi g probl em: Our bodi es do all t he s a me t hi ngs that a ni ma l
bodi es do, i ncl udi ng eati ng, def ecat i ng, copul at i ng, bl eedi ng, a nd dyi ng.
The overwhel mi ng evi dence is that we are ani mal s , and so a cul t ure that re-
j ect s our ani mal i ty mus t go to great l engths to hi de the evi dence. Bi ol ogi cal
pr oces s es mus t be carri ed out i n the right way, and di sgust i s a guar di an of
that ri ghtness. I magi ne visiting a town where peopl e wear no cl ot hes , never
bat he, have sex " doggi e- s t yl e" i n publ i c, a nd eat raw me a t by bi t i ng of f
pi eces directly f r om the carcas s . Okay, per haps you' d pay to s ee s uch a f r e a k
show, but as wi th all f reak s hows , you woul d emer ge degr a ded (l i teral l y:
brought doum). You woul d feel di sgust at this " s avage" behavi or a nd know,
viscerally, that t here was s omet hi ng wrong with t hes e peopl e. Di s gus t i s t he
guardi an of the t empl e of the body. In this i magi nary t own, t he gua r di a ns
have been mur der ed, and t he' t empl es have gone t o the dogs .
The idea that t he third di mens i ondi vi ni t yr uns f r om a ni ma l s bel ow
t o god( s ) above, wi t h peopl e i n the mi ddl e, was perf ect l y c a pt ur e d by t he
s event eent h-cent ury Ne w Engl and Puri t an Cot t on Mat her, who obs er ved
a dog uri nati ng at t he s a me t i me he hi ms el f was uri nati ng. Ov e r whe l me d
with di sgust at t he vi l eness of hi s own uri nati on, Mat her wr ot e t hi s res ol u-
tion in his diary: "Yet I will be a more nobl e creat ure; and at the very t i me
when my natural neces s i t i es deba s e me into t he condi t i on of t he be a s t , my
spirit shall (I say at that very t i me! ) ri se a nd soar. "
1 2
If the huma n body i s a t empl e that s omet i mes get s dirty, i t ma k e s s e ns e
that " cl eanl i ness i s next to Godl i nes s . "
1 3
If you don' t per cei ve t hi s third di-
mens i on, t hen i t i s not cl ear why Go d woul d care about t he a mo unt of dirt
on your skin or in your home. But if you do live in a t hr ee- di mens i ona l
world, t hen di s gus t is like J acob' s l adder: It is rooted in t he eart h, in our bi-
ol ogi cal neces s i t i es , but i t l eads or gui des peopl e t oward he a ve n or, at
least, toward s omet hi ng felt t o be, s omehow, " up. "
T H E E T H I C O F D I V I N I T Y
Af ter graduat e school , I s pent two years worki ng with Ri chard Shwe de r , a
psychol ogi cal anthropol ogi st at the Uni versi ty of Chi c a go who i s t he l eadi ng
1 8 8 ' i ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
thinker i n the field of cultural psychology. Shweder does muc h of hi s re-
search i n the Indian city of Bhubaneswar, i n the st at e of Or i s s a, on t he Bay
of Bengal . Bhubanes war i s an anci ent t empl e t owni t s old city grew up
around the gi ganti c and ornate Li ngaraj t empl e, built i n the sevent h cent ury
and still a maj or pi l gri mage cent er for Hi ndus . Shweder' s research on moral-
ity
14
i n Bhubanes war and el sewhere s hows that when peopl e thi nk about
morality, their moral concept s cl uster into three groups, whi ch he cal l s the
ethi c of autonomy, the ethi c of communi ty, and the ethi c of divinity. Whe n
peopl e think and act usi ng the ethi c of autonomy, their goal i s to protect in-
di vi dual s f rom harm and grant t hem t he ma xi mum degr ee of aut onomy,
whi ch they can us e t o pur s ue their own goal s. Whe n peopl e us e the et hi c of
communi ty, their goal i s to protect the integrity of groups , f ami l i es, compa-
ni es, or nati ons, and they val ue virtues s uch as obedi ence, loyalty, and wi s e
l eadershi p. When peopl e us e the ethi c of divinity, their goal i s to prot ect
from degradati on the divinity that exi sts in each pers on, and they-val ue liv-
ing in a pure and holy way, f ree f rom moral pol l utants s uch as l ust, greed,
and hatred. Cul t ur es vary i n their relative rel i ance on t hes e t hree et hi cs,
whi ch correspond, roughly, to the X, Y, and Z axes of f i gure 9. 1. In my dis-
sertati on res earch
1 5
on moral j udgment i n Brazil and t he Uni t ed St at es , I
f ound that educat ed Ameri cans of high soci al cl as s rel i ed overwhel mi ngl y
on the ethic of aut onomy i n their moral di s cours e, whereas Brazi l i ans, and
peopl e of lower social cl ass i n both count ri es, ma de muc h great er us e of the
et hi cs of communi t y and divinity.
To learn more about the ethic of divinity, I went to Bhubanes war for three
mont hs i n 1993, to interview pri ests, monks , and other expert s on Hi ndu
worshi p and practi ce. To prepare, I read everything I coul d about Hi ndui s m
and the anthropology of purity and pollution, i ncl udi ng I~he Laws of Manu,
16
a gui debook for Brahmi n men (the priestly cas t e) written in the first or sec-
ond century. Ma nu tells Brahmi ns how to live, eat, pray, and i nteract with
other peopl e while still at t endi ng to what Cot t on Mat her cal l ed their "natu-
ral necessi t i es. " In one pas s age, Ma nu lists the ti mes when a pri est shoul d
"not even think about " reciting the holy vedas { scri pt ures) :
while expelling urine or excrement, when food is still left on his mout h
and hands, while eating at a ceremony for the dead, . . . when one has
Divinity With or Without God J 85
eaten f l esh or the f ood of a woman who has j us t given bi rth, . . . when
j ackal s howl , . . . in a cr emat i on ground, . . . whi l e weari ng a ga r ment
that he has worn in sexual uni on, whi l e accept i ng anyt hi ng at a cer e-
mony for t he dea d, when one has j us t eat en or has not di ges t ed ( hi s
f ood) or has vomi t ed or bel ched, . . . when bl ood fl ows f r om one' s l i mbs
or when one has been woufnded by a weapon.
Thi s pa s s a g e i s ext raordi nary b e c a us e i t l i sts every cat egor y of di s g us t
t hat Rozi n, Mc Ca ul e y , a nd I had s t udi ed: f ood, body pr oduc t s , a ni ma l s ,
sex, deat h, body envel ope vi ol at i ons, a nd hygi ene. Ma n u i s s ayi ng t hat t he
pr e s e nc e i n mind of t he holy vedas i s not c ompa t i bl e wi t h c ont a mi na t i on
of t he body f r om any s our c e of di s gus t .
1 7
Di vi ni ty a nd di s gus t mus t be ke pt
s e pa r a t e at all t i mes .
Whe n I arri ved i n Bhuba ne s wa r , I qui ckl y f ound that t he et hi c of di vi n-
ity i s not j us t a nc i ent history. Even t hough Bhuba ne s wa r i s phys i cal l y f l at ,
i t has a highly vari abl e spi ri t ual t opogr aphy wi th pe a ks at e a c h of i ts hun-
dr eds of t e mpl e s . As a non- Hi ndu, I wa s al l owed i nto t he c our t ya r ds of
t e mp l e c o mp o u n d s ; a nd i f I r e mo v e d my s ho e s a nd a ny l e a t he r i t e ms
( l eat her i s pol l ut i ng) , I coul d usual l y ent er t he a nt e c ha mbe r of t he t e mp l e
bui l di ng. I c oul d l ook i nto t he i nner s a nc t um wher e t he g od wa s ho us e d,
but had I c r os s ed t he t hr es hol d to j oi n t he Br a hmi n pri es t wi t hi n, I woul d
have pol l ut ed i t a nd of f e nde d everyone. At t he hi ghes t pe a k of di vi ni t y
t he Li ngar aj t e mpl e i t s el f I wa s not even al l owed t o ent er t he c o mp o u n d ,
al t hough f or ei gner s wer e i nvi t ed t o l ook i n f r om an obs er vat i on pl a t f or m
j us t out s i de t he wal l s. It was not a mat t er of s ec r ec y; i t wa s a ma t t e r of con-
t ami nat i on by pe opl e s uc h as me who had not f ol l owed t he pr ope r pr oc e -
dur es of bat hi ng, di et , hygi ene, a nd prayer f or mai nt ai ni ng r el i gi ous puri ty.
Hi ndu home s i n Bhuba ne s wa r have t he s a me concent r i c s t r uc t ur e as t he
t empl es : Le a v e your s hoe s at t he door, s oci al i ze i n t he out e r r o o ms , but
never go i nto t he ki t chen or t he room or area wher e of f er i ngs a r e ma d e t o
dei t i es. The s e t wo ar eas are mai nt ai ned as zones of t he hi ghes t puri ty. Eve n
the huma n body has pea ks a nd val l eys, t he head and t he right ha nd bei ng
pure, t he l eft hand a nd t he f eet bei ng pol l ut ed. I had t o t ake ext r aor di nar y
car e t o keep my f eet f r om t ouchi ng anyone a nd t o avoi d ha ndi ng s o me t h i n g
to anot her per s on wi th my left hand. As I moved ar ound Bhuba ne s wa r , I f el t
190 ' i ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
like a s quare in Spacel and as I tried to navi gat e a t hree-di mens i onal world
with only the di mmes t percept i on of its third di mens i on.
The interviews I conduct ed hel ped me to s ee a little better. My goal was
to find out whet her purity and pol l uti on were really j us t about keepi ng bio-
logical " neces s i t i es " s eparat e f rom divinity, or whet her t hes e pract i ces had
a deeper rel ati onshi p to virtue and morality. I f ound a variety of opi ni ons.
S ome of the l es s -educat ed village pri ests s aw the ri tual s rel ated to purity
and pollution as basi c rul es of the game, thi ngs you s i mpl y mus t do be c a us e
religious tradition de ma nds it. But many of t he peopl e I i ntervi ewed took a
broader view and s aw purity and pollution pr act i ces as me a ns t o an end:
spiritual and moral advancement , or movi ng up on t he third di mens i on. For
exampl e, when I as ked why it was i mport ant to guard one' s purity, the head-
ma s t er of a Sans kr i t s chool (a s chool that t rai ns r el i gi ous s c hol a r s ) re-
s ponded in this way:
We ourselves can be gods or demons. It depends on karma. If a person
behaves like a demon, for exampl e he kills someone, then that person is
truly a demon. A person who behaves in a divine manner, becaus e a per-
son has divinity in hi m, he is like a god. . . . We shoul d know that we are
gods. If we think like gods we become like gods, if we think like demons
we become like demons. What is wrong with bei ng like a demon? What
is going on nowadays, it is demoni c. Divine behavior means not cheati ng
people, not killing people. Compl et e character. You have divinity, you are
a god.
The headmas t er, who of cour s e had not read Shweder , gave a per f ect
s t at ement of t he ethi c of divinity. Purity i s not j us t a bout the body, i t i s
about the soul . If you know that you have divinity in you, you will act ac-
cordingly: You will treat peopl e well, and you will treat your body as a t em-
pl e. In so doi ng, you will a c c umul a t e good karma, and you will c o me back
in your next life at a hi gher level-literally hi gher on t he verti cal di mens i on
of divinity. If you l ose sight of your divinity, you will gi ve in to your bas er
mot i ves. In so doi ng, you will a c c umul a t e bad ka r ma , and i n your next
i ncarnati on you will return at a lower level as an ani mal or a demon. Thi s
Divinity With or Without God J 85
l i nkage of vi rtue, purity, a nd divinity i s not uni quel y I ndi an; Ra l ph Wa l d o
Eme r s o n s ai d exact l y t he s a me thi ng:
He who does a good deed i s instantly ennobl ed. He who does a me a n
deed i s by the act i on itself cont ract ed. He who put s of f i mpuri ty t her eby
put s on purity. If a man is at heart j us t , then in so far is he Go d.
1 8
S A C R E D I N T R U S I O N S
Wh e n I r et ur ned t o Fl at l and ( t he Uni t e d St a t e s ) , I di dn' t ha ve t o t hi nk
a bout puri ty a nd pol l ut i on anymor e. I di dn' t have t o t hi nk a bout t he s e c o n d
d i me ns i o nhi e r a r c hy v e r y mu c h, ei t her. Ame r i c a n uni ver s i t y c u l t u r e
ha s onl y mi l d hi erarchy ( s t udent s of t en a ddr e s s pr of e s s or s by f i rst n a me )
c o mpa r e d wi t h mos t I ndi an s et t i ngs . So i n s o me ways my l i fe wa s r e d u c e d
t o o ne di me ns i on c l os e ne s s , a nd my behavi or wa s c ons t r a i ne d onl y by
t he et hi c of aut onomy, whi ch al l owed me t o do what ever I wa nt e d, as l o ng
as I di dn' t hurt anyone el s e.
Yet, onc e I ha d l ear ned to s ee i n three di mens i ons , I s a w gl i mmer s of di-
vinity s cat t er ed all about . 1 began to f eel di s gus t f or t he Ame r i c a n pr a c t i c e
of mar chi ng a r ound one' s own ho us e e v e n one' s b e d r o o mwe a r i ng t he
s a me s hoes that, mi nut es earlier, had wal ked t hrough city s t r eet s . I a do pt e d
t he I ndi an pr act i ce of r emovi ng my s hoes at my door, a nd a s ki ng vi si t ors t o
do l i kewi se, whi ch ma d e my apar t ment f eel mor e like a s anct uary, a c l e a n
and pea cef ul s pa c e s epar at ed mor e ful l y t han bef or e f rom t he out s i de worl d.
I not i ced that i t fel t wr ong to bri ng cert ai n books i nto t he ba t hr oom. I no-
t i ced t hat peopl e of t en s poke about moral i t y us i ng a l a ngua ge of " hi gher "
a nd "l ower. " I b e c a me awar e of my own s ubt l e f eel i ngs up o n wi t ne s s i ng
peopl e behavi ng i n sl eazy or " degr aded" ways , f eel i ngs that wer e mor e t han
j ust di s approval ; they were f eel i ngs of havi ng been brought " down" i n s o me
way mys el f .
I n my a c a de mi c work, I di s cover ed t hat t he et hi c of di vi ni t y ha d been
cent r al t o publ i c di s c our s e i n t he Uni t ed S t a t e s unti l t he t i me of t he Worl d
War I , af t er whi ch i t began t o f a de ( except i n a f e w p l a c e s , s uc h as t he
1 9 2 ' i ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
Amer i c a n S o ut hwhi c h al s o ma i nt a i ne d raci al s egr egat i on pr a c t i c es
bas ed on noti ons of physi cal purity). For exampl e, advi ce a i me d at young
peopl e i n the Vi ctori an era routi nel y s poke of puri ty and pol l ut i on. In a
wi del y r epr i nt ed book f r om 1897 t i t l ed What a Young Man Ought to
Know,
19
Syl vanus Stall devot ed an ent i re chapt er to " per s onal puri t y" i n
whi ch he not ed that
God has made no mi stake in giving man a strong sexual nature, but any
young man makes a fatal mistake if he allows the sexual to domi nat e, to
degrade, and to destroy that which is highest and noblest in his nature.
To guard their purity, Stall advi sed young me n to avoi d eat i ng pork, mas -
turbati ng, and readi ng novel s. By the 1936 edi t i on, this enti re chapt er had
been removed.
The vertical di mens i on of divinity was so obvi ous to peopl e i n the Victo-
rian age that even sci ent i st s ref erred to it. In a chemi s t r y t ext book f rom
1867, af t er des cr i bi ng met hods of s ynt hes i zi ng ethyl al cohol , t he aut hor
felt compel l ed t o warn hi s young r eader s t hat al cohol has t he e f f e c t of
"dul l i ng the i ntel l ectual operat i ons and moral i nst i nct s; s eemi ng to pervert
and destroy all that is pur e and holy in ma n, whi l e it robs hi m of hi s hi ghest
at t r i but er eas on. "
2 0
In his 1892 book pr omot i ng Darwi n' s theory of evolu-
tion, J os eph Le Cont e, a prof es s or of geol ogy at the Uni versi ty of Cal i f or-
nia at Berkeley, practi cal l y quot ed Me n g Tzu and Mu ha mma d : " Ma n i s
pos s es s ed of two nat ur es a lower, i n c o mmo n with ani mal s , and a higher,
pecul i ar t o hi msel f . The whol e mea ni ng of sin i s the humi l i at i ng bondage
of the higher to the l ower. "
2 1
But as s ci ence, technology, and the i ndust ri al age pr ogr es s ed, the West-
em world bec a me " desacral i zed. " At l east that' s the ar gument ma de by the
great historian of religion Mi r cea El i ade. In The Sacred and the Profane,
22
El i ade s hows that the percept i on of s a c r e dne s s i s a human uni versal . Re-
gardl es s of their di f f er ences , all rel i gi ons have pl aces ( t empl es , s hri nes ,
holy trees), t i mes (holy days, s unri s e, s ol s t i ces ) , and acti vi ti es (prayer, spe-
cial danci ng) that allow for cont act or c ommuni c a t i on with s omet hi ng oth-
erworldly and pure. To mark of f s a c r ednes s , all ot her t i mes , pl aces , and
acti vi ti es are def i ned as pr of ane (ordinary, not s acr ed) . The borders be-
Divinity With or Without God J 85
t ween t he s a c r e d a nd t he pr of a ne mus t be car ef ul l y g ua r de d, a nd t hat ' s
what r ul es of puri ty a nd pol l ut i on ar e all a bout . El i a de s ays t hat t he mo d -
em Wes t i s t he f i rst cul t ur e i n hu ma n hi st ory that ha s ma na g e d t o s t r i p
t i me a nd s pa c e of all s a c r e dne s s a nd t o pr oduc e a f ul l y pr act i cal , e f f i c i e nt ,
a nd pr of a ne worl d. Thi s i s t he worl d t hat rel i gi ous f u nd a me nt a l i s t s f i nd
unbea r a bl e a nd ar e s ome t i me s wi l l i ng t o us e f or ce t o f i ght agai ns t .
El i ade' s mos t c ompel l i ng poi nt , f or me , i s that s a c r e d ne s s i s s o i r r e pr e s s -
i bl e that i t i nt r udes r epeat edl y i nto t he mode r n pr of a ne wor l d i n t he f o r m
of " crypt o-rel i gi ous " behavi or. El i a de not ed t hat even a pe r s on c o mmi t t e d
to a pr of a ne exi s t enc e has
privileged pl aces , qualitatively di f f erent f rom all ot he r s a man' s bi rth-
pl ace, or the s cenes of his first love, or certai n pl aces i n t he first f or ei gn
city he visited i n his youth. Even for the mos t frankly nonrel i gi ous ma n,
all t hes e pl aces still retain an excepti onal , a uni que qual i t y; they ar e t he
"holy pl aces " of his private uni verse, as i f i t were i n s uc h s pot s t hat he
had recei ved t he revelation of a reality ot her than that in whi ch he par-
ti ci pates through his ordinary daily life.
Wh e n I read t hi s, I ga s pe d. El i a de had per f ect l y p e g g e d my f e e b l e spi ri -
tuality, l i mi t ed as i t i s t o pl aces , books , peopl e, a nd e ve nt s that ha v e gi ven
me mo me nt s of upl i f t a nd enl i ght enment . Eve n a t hei s t s ha ve i nt i ma t i ons
of s a c r e dne s s , part i cul arl y when i n l ove or i n nat ur e. We j us t don' t i nf er
that Go d c a us e d t hos e f eel i ngs .
E L E V A T I O N A N D A G A P E
My t i me i n I ndi a di d not ma ke me rel i gi ous , but i t di d l e a d t o an i nt el l ec-
tual awakeni ng. Short l y af t er movi ng t o t he Uni vers i t y of Vi rgi ni a i n 1995,
I was wri ti ng yet anot her art i cl e about how s oci al di s gus t i s t r i gger ed whe n
we s e e pe opl e movi ng " down" on t he verti cal di me ns i on of di vi ni ty. S ud-
denl y i t occur r ed t o me that I had never really t hought a b o u t t he e mot i ona l
react i on t o s e e i ng peopl e move " up. " I ha d r ef er r ed i n p a s s i n g t o t he f eel i ng
of bei ng " upl i f t ed, " but had never even wonde r e d whe t he r " upl i f t " i s a real ,
194 ' i ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
honest-to-goodness emoti on. I began to interrogate fri ends, family, and stu-
dents: "When you s ee s omeone do a really good deed, do you feel some-
thing? What exactly? Where in your body do you feel it? Does it make you
want to do anything?" I f ound that most peopl e had the s ame feel i ngs I did,
and the s ame difficulty arti cul ati ng exactly what they were. Peopl e talked
about an open, warm, or glowing feeling. S o me speci fi cal l y ment i oned the
heart; others cl ai med they coul d not say where in their bodi es they felt it,
yet even as they were denyi ng a speci f i c locati on, their hands s omet i mes
made a circular motion in front of the chest , fingers poi nti ng inward as if to
indicate somet hi ng movi ng i n the heart. S ome peopl e ment i oned feelings
of chills, or of choki ng up. Mos t sai d this feel i ng made them want to per-
form good deeds or become better in s ome way. What ever this feel i ng was,
it was beginning to look like an emot i on worthy of study. Yet there was no
research of any kind on this emot i on in the psychol ogi cal literature, which
was f ocus ed at the ti me on the six " bas i c" emot i ons
2 3
known-to have dis-
tinctive facial expressi ons: joy, s adnes s , fear, anger, di sgust, and surpri se.
If I believed in God, I woul d bel i eve that he sent me to the University of
Virginia for a reason. At U\ A, a great deal of crypto-religious activity cen-
ters around Thomas J ef f erson, our founder, whose home sits like a templ e
on a small mountai ntop ( Mont i cel l o) a f ew miles away. J ef f er s on wrote the
holiest text of Ameri can hi st oryt he Decl arat i on of I ndependence. He
al so wrote t housands of letters, many of whi ch reveal his views on psychol-
ogy, educati on, and religion. Af ter arriving at UVA, havi ng an Eliade-style
crypto-religious experi ence at Mont i cel l o, and commi t t i ng mysel f to the
cult of J ef f erson, I read a collection of his letters. Ther e I f ound a full and
perfect description of the emoti on I had j us t begun thinking about .
In 1771, J ef f erson' s relative Robert Ski pwi th as ked hi m for advi ce on
what books to buy for the personal library he hoped to build. J ef f ers on,
who loved giving advice al most as much as he loved books, happily obliged.
J ef f erson sent al ong a cat al ogue of seri ous works of history and philosophy,
but he also r ecommended the pur chas e of fiction. In his day ( as in Syl-
vanus Stall's), plays and novels were not regarded as worthy of a dignified
man' s time, but J ef f ers on j ust i f i ed his unorthodox advi ce by poi nti ng out
that great writing can trigger benefi ci al emot i ons:
Divinity With or Without God J 85
When any . . . act of charity or of grat i t ude, for i nst ance, is pr e s e nt e d
ei t her t o our si ght or i magi nat i on, we ar e deepl y i mpr e s s e d wi t h i ts
beauty and feel a strong desi re i n oursel ves of doi ng chari t abl e and grat e-
ful act s al so. On t he contrary, when we s ee or read of any at roci ous de e d,
we are di s gus t ed with its deformity, and concei ve an abhor r ence of vi ce.
Now every emot i on of thi s kind i s an exer ci s e of our vi r t uous di s po-
si t i ons, and di s pos i t i ons of the mi nd, l i ke l i mbs of t he body, a c qui r e
strength by exerci se.
2 4
J e f f e r s on went on t o say that t he phys i cal f eel i ngs a nd mot i vat i onal ef -
f ec t s c a u s e d by gr eat l i t er at ur e ar e a s powe r f ul a s t hos e c a u s e d by r eal
event s . He c ons i de r e d t he e xa mpl e of a c ont empor a r y Fr e nc h play, a s k i ng
whet her t he fi del i ty a nd generos i t y of its her o doe s not
di l ate [the reader' s] breast and el evat e his s ent i ment s as muc h as any
similar i nci dent whi ch real history can f ur ni s h? Does [the reader] not iri
fact feel hi msel f a better man while readi ng t hem, and privately covenant
to copy the fair exampl e?
Thi s ext raordi nary s t a t ement i s mor e t han j us t a poet i c des cr i pt i on of t he
j oys of readi ng. It i s al s o a pr eci s e s ci ent i f i c def i ni t i on of an e mo t i o n. In
emot i on r es ear ch, we general l y s t udy e mot i ons by s peci f yi ng t hei r c o mp o -
nent s , a nd J ef f er s on gi ves us mos t of t he maj or c ompone nt s : an el i ci t i ng or
tri ggeri ng condi t i on ( di s pl ays of charity, gr at i t ude, or ot her vi r t ues ) ; phys i c a l
c ha nges i n t he body ( "di l at i on" i n t he chesit); a mot i vat i on (a des i r e of " do i ng
chari t abl e a nd grat ef ul act s al so" ) ; a nd a char act er i s t i c f eel i ng beyond bodi l y
s ens at i ons ( el evat ed s ent i ment s ) . J e f f e r s on ha d des c r i bed exact l y t he e mo -
tion I had j us t " di s cover ed. " He even s ai d that i t wa s t he oppos i t e of di s g us t .
As an act of crypt o-rel i gi ous gl ori f i cati on, I cons i der ed cal l i ng t hi s e mo t i o n
" J ef f ers on' s emot i on, " but t hought bet t er of it, and c ho s e t he wor d " e l e va -
t i on, " whi ch J e f f e r s on hi ms el f had us e d t o c a pt ur e t he s e ns e of r i s i ng on a
verti cal di mens i on, away f r om di s gus t .
For t he pas t s even year s I have been s t udyi ng el evat i on i n t he l a b. My
s t udent s a nd I have us e d a vari ety of me a n s t o i nduc e el evat i on a n d have
196 ' i ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
f ound that vi deo cl i ps f rom document ar i es about heroes and al trui sts, and
sel ect i ons f rom the Opr ah Wi nf rey show, work well. In mos t of our st udi es,
we show peopl e i n one group an el evat i ng vi deo, whi l e peopl e i n the con-
trol condi ti on s ee a vi deo des i gned to a mus e t hem, s uch as a Jerry Sei nf el d
monol ogue. We know (from Al i ce Isen' s coi ns and cooki es s t udi es )
2 5
that
f eel i ng happy bri ngs a variety of posi t i ve ef f ect s , so in our r es ear ch we al-
ways try to show that el evati on is not j us t a f orm of happi nes s . In our mos t
compr ehens i ve study,
2 6
Sar a Al goe and 1 s howed vi deos to r es ear ch sub-
j ect s i n t he l ab and had t hem fill out a recordi ng s heet about what they felt
and what they want ed to do. Sar a t hen gave t hem a s t ack of bl ank record-
ing s heet s and told t hem to keep an eye out , for t he next t hree weeks , for
i nst ances of s omeone doi ng s omet hi ng good for s ome one el s e (in the eleva-
tion condi ti on) or for t i mes when they s aw s ome one el s e tell a j oke (in the
amus ement / cont r ol condi t i on) . We al so' a dde d a thi rd condi t i on to study
nonmoral admi rat i on: Peopl e i n this condi t i on wat ched a vi deo about the
s uper human abi l i ti es of the basket bal l star Mi chael J or dan, and wer e then
as ked t o record t i mes when they wi t nes s ed s ome one doi ng s omet hi ng un-
usual l y skillful.
Both parts of Sara' s study show that J ef f er s on got it exactly right. Peopl e
really do respond emoti onal l y to act s of moral beauty, and t hes e emoti onal
reacti ons involve warm or pl eas ant f eel i ngs i n the ches t and cons ci ous de-
sires to hel p others or become a better pers on onesel f . A new di scovery in
Sara' s study i s that moral el evati on appear s to be di f f erent f rom admi rati on
for nonmoral excel l ence. Subj ect s i n the admi rat i on condi t i on were more
likely to report feel i ng chills or ti ngl es on their ski n, and to report feel i ng
energi zed or " psyched up. " Wi t nes s i ng extraordinarily skillful act i ons gives
peopl e the drive and energy to try to copy t hos e act i ons .
2 7
El evati on, i n con-
trast, is a cal mer feel i ng, not as s oci at ed with si gns of physi ol ogi cal arousal .
Thi s di s t i nct i on mi ght hel p expl ai n a puzzl e a bout el evat i on. Al t hough
peopl e say, in all our st udi es, that they want to do good deeds , in two st udi es
where we gave them the opportuni ty to sign up for vol unt eer work or to hel p
an experi menter pi ck up a st ack of paper s s he had dr opped, we di d not fi nd
that elevation made peopl e behave muc h differently.
What ' s goi ng on here? How coul d an emot i on that makes peopl e ri se on
the di mens i on of divinity not ma ke t hem behave mor e al trui sti cal l y? It's
Divinity With or Without God J 85
l oo s oon t o know f or s ur e, but a r ecent f i ndi ng s ugge s t s t hat l ove c oul d be
t he ans wer. Thr e e under gr a dua t e honor s s t udent s have wor ked wi t h me on
t he phys i ol ogy of e l e va t i onChr i s Ovei s , Ga r y S he r ma n, a nd J e n Si l ver s .
We' ve all been i nt ri gued by t he f r equenc y wi th whi ch pe opl e who ar e f eel -
i ng el evat i on poi nt t o t he heart . We bel i eve they' re not j us t s pe a ki ng me t a -
phorically. Chr i s a nd Ga r y have f ound hi nt s t hat t he vagus ner ve mi ght be
act i vat ed dur i ng el evat i on. The vagus ner ve i s t he ma i n nerve of t he par a-
s ympa t het i c ner vous s ys t em, whi ch c a l ms pe opl e down, a nd u n d o e s t he
ar ous al c a us e d by t he s ympat het i c ( f i ght-or-f l i ght) s ys t em. T h e v a g us ner ve
i s t he mai n nerve t hat cont r ol s heart rat e, a nd i t has a vari et y of ot her ef -
f ect s on t he heart a nd l ungs , s o i f pe opl e f eel s ome t hi ng i n t he c he s t , t he
va gus ner ve i s t he ma i n s us p e c t , a nd i t ha s al r eady be e n i mp l i c a t e d i n
r es ear ch on f eel i ngs of gr at i t ude a nd " a ppr e c i a t i on. "
2 8
But it's di f f i cul t t o
me a s ur e t he acti vi ty of t he vagus nerve directly, a nd s o f ar Chr i s a nd Ga r y
have f ound onl y hi nt s, not concl us i ve pr oof .
Ne r v e s ha ve a c c o mp l i c e s , howe ve r ; t hey s o me t i me s wo r k wi t h hor -
mo ne s t o pr oduc e l ong-l as t i ng e f f e c t s , a nd t he vagus nerve wor ks wi t h t he
hor mone oxyt oci n t o cr eat e f eel i ngs of c a l mne s s , l ove, a nd de s i r e f or c on-
t act that e nc our a ge bondi ng and a t t a c hme nt .
2 9
J e n Si l vers wa s i nt er es t ed
i n t he pos s i bl e rol e of oxyt oci n i n el evat i on, but b e c a us e we di d not ha ve
t he r es our ces t o dr aw bl ood f r om s ubj e c t s bef or e and af t er wa t c hi ng an el -
evat i ng vi deo ( whi ch we' d have t o do t o det ec t a c ha ng e i n oxyt oci n l evel s ) ,
I told J e n t o s c our t he r es ear ch l i t erat ure t o f i nd an i ndi r ect me a s u r e
s ome t hi ng oxyt oci n doe s t o pe opl e that we coul d me a s ur e wi t hout a hypo-
de r mi c needl e. J e n f ound one: l act at i on. On e of oxytoci n' s ma n y j o b s i n
regul at i ng t he a t t a c hme nt of mot her s a nd chi l dr en i s t o tri gger t he r e l e a s e
of mi l k i n mot he r s who br eas t - f eed.
I n one of t he bol des t under gr a dua t e honor s t hes es ever d o ne i n t he UVA
ps ychol ogy de pa r t me nt , J e n brought forty-fi ve l act at i ng wo me n i nt o our l ab
( one at a t i me) , wi th thei r babi es , a nd a s ke d t hem t o i nsert nur s i ng p a d s
into thei r bras . Ha l f t he wo me n t hen wa t c he d an el evat i ng cl i p f r om an
< ) prah Wi nf r ey s how ( about a mus i c i a n who, af t er expr es s i ng hi s gr a t i t ude
l o t he mus i c t eacher who ha d s aved hi m f r om a l i fe of ga ng vi ol enc e, f i nds
out that Opr a h ha s br ought i n s o me of his own s t ude nt s t o e xpr e s s t hei r
gr at i t ude t o hi m) . T h e ot her mot he r s s a w a vi deo cl i p f e a t ur i ng s ever a l
1 9 8 ' i ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
comedi ans . The women wa t c hed the vi deos i n a private s cr eeni ng room,
and a vi deo camer a (not hi dden) r ecor ded thei r behavior. Whe n the vi deos
were over, the mot hers were left al one wi th thei r chi l dren for five mi nut es .
At the end of the study, J e n wei ghed t he nur s i ng pads t o me a s ur e mi l k re-
l ease, and later coded the vi deos for whet her the mot hers nur s ed their ba-
bi es or pl ayed warml y with t hem. The ef f ect was one of the bi ggest I have
ever f ound i n any study: Nearl y half of the mot her s i n the el evat i on condi -
tion either l eaked mi l k or nurs ed their babi es ; only a f ew of t he mot hers in
the comedy condi ti on l eaked or nurs ed. Fur t her mor e, the el evat ed mothers
showed more warmt h i n the way they t ouched and cuddl ed thei r babi es.
All of thi s s ugges t s that oxytoci n mi ght be r el eas ed dur i ng mome nt s of
el evati on. And i f this i s true, then per ha ps i t wa s nai ve of me to expect that
el evati on woul d actual l y c a us e peopl e t o hel p st rangers (even t hough they
of t en say they want t o do so). Oxyt oci n c a us e s bondi ng, not act i on. El e-
vation may fill peopl e with f eel i ngs of love, t rus t ,
3 0
and ope nne s s , maki ng
t hem more recepti ve to new rel at i onshi ps; yet, gi ven their f eel i ngs of relax-
ati on and passivity, they mi ght be l ess likely to engage i n act i ve al t rui s m to-
ward strangers.
The rel ati onshi p of el evati on t o love and trust was beaut i f ul l y expres s ed
in a letter I once recei ved f rom a man in Ma s s a c hus e t t s , Davi d Whi t f ord,
who had read about my work on el evat i on. Whi t f ord' s Uni t ari an chur ch
had as ked each of its me mbe r s to write a spi ri tual aut obi ogr aphyan ac-
count of how e a c h had be c ome the spi ri tual per s on he or s he i s now. In
one sect i on of his autobi ography, Whi t f ord puzzl ed over why he was so of-
ten moved t o tears duri ng chur ch s ervi ces . He not i ced that he s hed two
ki nds of tears i n church. The first he cal l ed " t ears of c ompa s s i on, " s uch as
the ti me he cri ed duri ng a s er mon on Mot her s ' Day on the s ubj ect of chil-
dren who were abandoned or negl ect ed. The s e c a s es felt t o hi m like "bei ng
pri cked i n the soul , " af t er whi ch "l ove pour s out " for t hose who are suf f er-
ing. But he cal l ed the s econd kind " t ears of cel ebrat i on" ; he coul d j us t as
well have cal l ed t hem tears of el evati on:
There' s another kind of tear. Thi s one' s less about giving love and more
about the joy of receiving love, or maybe j ust detecting love (whether it's di-
rected at me or at someone else). It's the kind of tear that flows in response
Divinity With or Without God J 85
to expressi ons of courage, or compas s i on, or ki ndnes s by ot hers. A f e w
weeks after Mother' s Day, we met here in the sanctuary after t he s ervi ce
and consi dered whether to become a Wel comi ng Congregat i on [a congr e-
gation that wel comes gay people]. When J ohn stood in support of the reso-
- lution, and spoke of how, as far as he knew, he was the first gay ma n to
come out at First Parish, in the early 1970s, I cried for his courage. Lat er,
when all hands went up and the resolution pas s ed unanimously, I cri ed f or
the love expressed by our congregation in that act. That was a tear of cel e-
bration, a tear of recepti veness to what is good in the world, a tear that s ays
it's okay, relax, let down your guard, there are good peopl e in t he worl d,
there is good in peopl e, love is real, it's in our nature. That kind of tear is
also like bei ng pricked, only now the love pours in.
31
Gr o wi ng up J e wi s h i n a devout l y Chr i s t i a n count r y, I wa s f r e q u e nt l y
puzzl ed by r e f e r e nc e s t o Chr i s t ' s l ove a nd love t hr ough Chr i s t . No w t ha t I
under s t and el evat i on and t he third di mens i on, I t hi nk I' m be gi nni ng t o g e t
it. For many peopl e, one of t he pl ea s ur es of goi ng t o c hur c h i s t he exper i -
e nc e of col l ect i ve el evat i on. Peopl e s t e p out of t hei r ever yday pr of a ne exi s -
t e nc e , whi c h of f e r s onl y oc c a s i ona l oppor t uni t i e s f or mo v e me n t on t he
t hi rd d i me ns i o n, a nd c o me t oget her wi t h a c o mmu n i t y of l i ke - he a r t e d
peopl e who ar e al s o hopi ng t o f eel a "l i f t " f r om s t or i es a bout Chr i s t , vi r t u-
ous pe opl e i n t he Bi bl e, s ai nt s , or exempl ar y me mb e r s of t hei r own c o m-
munity. Whe n thi s ha ppe ns , pe opl e f i nd t he ms e l ve s over f l owi ng wi t h l ove,
but i t i s not exact l y t he l ove t hat grows out of a t t a c hme nt r e l a t i ons hi ps .
3 2
That l ove has a s pe c i f i c obj ect , a nd i t t ur ns t o pa i n whe n t he o b j e c t i s
gone. Thi s l ove ha s no s peci f i c obj ect ; it is agape. It f e e l s l i ke a" l ove of all
huma nki nd, a nd b e c a us e huma ns f i nd i t hard t o bel i eve t hat s o me t hi ng
c o me s f r om not hi ng, i t s e e ms nat ural t o at t r i but e t he l ove t o Chr i s t , or t o
t he Hol y Spi ri t movi ng wi thi n one' s own heart . S u c h e x pe r i e nc e s gi ve di -
rect a nd s ubj ect i vel y c ompe l l i ng e vi de nc e t hat Go d r e s i de s wi t hi n e a c h
per s on. And o nc e a pe r s on knows t hi s " t r ut h, " t he e t hi c of di vi ni t y b e -
c o me s s el f -evi dent . S o me ways of living are c ompa t i bl e wi th di vi ni ty t he y
br i ng out t he hi gher, nobl er s el f ; ot her s do not . T h e spl i t b e t we e n t h e
Chr i s t i an l ef t a nd t he Chr i s t i an r i ght coul d be, i n par t , t hat s o me p e o p l e
s ee t ol er ance a nd a c c e pt a nc e as part of thei r nobl er s el ves ; ot her s f eel t hat
2 0 0 ' i ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
they ca n bes t honor Go d by wor ki ng t o c ha ng e s oci et y a nd i ts l aws t o con-
f orm t o t he et hi c of divinity, even i f t hat me a ns i mpos i ng rel i gi ous l aws on
peopl e of ot her f ai t hs .
A W E A N D T R A N S C E N D E N C E
Vi rt ue i s not t he onl y c a us e of mo v e me nt on t he thi rd di me ns i on. Th e vast-
nes s and beaut y of nat ur e si mi l arl y st i rs t he s oul . I mma nue l Kant expl i ci tl y
l i nked moral i ty a nd nat ur e whe n he de c l a r e d that t he t wo c a u s e s of gen-
ui ne a we ar e " t he starry sky a bove a nd t he moral l aw wi t hi n. "
3 3
Dar wi n felt
spi ri tual l y upl i f t ed whi l e expl ori ng S o ut h Ame r i c a :
In my j ournal I wrote that whilst s t andi ng in mi dst of the grandeur of a
Brazilian forest, "it is not pos s i bl e to gi ve an adequat e idea of the higher
feel i ngs of wonder, admi rati on, and devoti on whi ch fill and el evate the
mi nd. " I well r emember my convi cti on that t here is more in man than
the breath of his body.
34
The Ne w Eng l a nd t r ans cendent al i s t mo v e me nt wa s ba s e d di rect l y on
the i dea that Go d i s t o be f ound i n e a c h pe r s on and i n nat ur e, s o s pendi ng
t i me al one i n t he woods i s a way of knowi ng a nd wor s hi pi ng Go d . Ral ph
Wal do Eme r s on, a f ounder of t he mo v e me nt , wrot e:
St andi ng on the bare gr oundmy head bat hed by the bl i the air and up-
lifted into infinite s paceal l mean egot i s m vani shes. I be c ome a trans-
parent eyebal l ; I am not hi ng; I s ee all; t he cur r ent s of t he Uni vers al
Bei ng ci rcul ate through me; I am part or parcel of God. Th e na me of the
nearest fri end s ounds then forei gn and acci dent al ; to be brothers, to be
acquai nt ances , mast er or servant, is t hen a trifle and a di s t urbance. I am
the lover of uncont ai ned and i mmort al beauty.
3 5
Somet hi ng about t he vas t nes s and bea ut y of nat ure ma ke s t he sel f feel
smal l and i nsi gni f i cant , and anyt hi ng that s hri nks t he sel f c r e a t e s an oppor-
Divinity With or Without God J 85
tuni ty f or spi ri tual exper i ence. In chapt er 1, I wr ot e a bout t he di vi ded s e l f
t he ma ny ways i n whi ch pe opl e f eel as t hough t hey ha ve mul t i pl e s e l v e s
or i nt el l i gences that s ome t i me s conf l i ct . Thi s di vi si on i s of t en e x pl a i ne d by
pos i t i ng a s o u l a hi gher, nobl e, s pi r i t ual s el f , whi c h i s t i ed d o wn t o a
bodya lower, ba s e, carnal sel f . Th e soul e s c a pe s t he body onl y at d e a t h;
but bef or e t hen, spi ri tual pr act i ces , great s er mons , a nd a we at na t ur e c a n
give t he soul a t as t e of t he f r e e dom to c ome .
The r e are ma ny ot her ways of get t i ng s uc h a f or et as t e. Peopl e of t e n r e f e r
to vi ewi ng great art, hear i ng a symphony, or l i s t eni ng to an i ns pi ri ng s p e a k e r
as ( crypt o) rel i gi ous exper i ences . And s o me t hi ngs gi ve mor e t han a t a s t e :
They gi ve a f ul l -bl own, t hough temporary, e s c a pe . Whe n t he ha l l uc i nog e ni c
dr ugs L S D a nd ps i l ocybi n b e c a me wi del y known i n t he Wes t , me d i c a l re-
s ea r c her s cal l ed t he s e dr ugs " ps yc hot o- mi me t i c " b e c a u s e t hey mi mi c k e d
s o me of t he s y mp t o ms of ps ychot i c di s or der s s uc h as s c hi z ophr e ni a . But
t hos e who tri ed t he dr ugs general l y r ej ect ed that l abel a nd ma d e up t e r ms
s uch as " ps ychedel i c" ( mani f es t i ng t he mi nd) and " e nt he oge n" ( g e ne r a t i ng
Clod f r om wi t hi n) . The Azt ec word f or t he ps i l ocybi n mus hr o o m wa s teo-
nunacatl, whi ch me a ns literally "god' s f l es h" ; when i t wa s ea t en i n r e l i gi ous
c er emoni es , i t gave many t he exper i ence of a di rect e nc ount e r wi th G o d .
3 6
Dr ugs t hat c r ea t e a n al t er ed ment a l s t a t e have a n obvi ous u s e f u l n e s s
i n marki ng of f s acr ed exper i ences f rom pr of ane, and t heref ore ma ny dr ug s ,
i ncl udi ng al cohol a nd mari j uana, pl ay a rol e i n rel i gi ous ri tes i n s o me cul -
tures. But there i s s omet hi ng speci al about t he phe ne t hyl a mi ne s t he dr ug
cl as s that i ncl udes L S D and psi l ocybi n. Dr ugs i n this cl as s , whet her nat ur al l y
occurri ng (as i n psi l ocybi n, mes cal i ne, or yage) or s ynt hes i zed by a c h e mi s t
( I , SD, ecstasy, DMT ) are unma t c hed i n their ability t o i nduc e ma s s i ve al t er-
ati ons of per cept i on and emot i on that s ome t i me s feel , even t o s ecul ar us e r s ,
like cont act wi th divinity, and that c a us e peopl e t o feel af t er war ds that t hey' ve
been t r ans f or med.
3 7
The ef f ect s of t hes e dr ugs de pe nd greatl y on wha t Ti mo -
thy Leary and t he ot her early ps ychedel i c expl orers cal l ed " s et a nd s e t t i ng, "
referring t o the user' s ment al set. and t o t he s et t i ng i n whi ch t he d r u g s ar e
taken. Whe n peopl e bri ng a reverential mi nds et and t ake t he dr ugs i n a s a f e
nnd support i ve set t i ng, as i s done i n t he initiation ri tes of s o me t r adi t i onal
cul t ures ,
3 8
t hes e dr ugs can be catal ysts for spi ri tual and pers onal gr owt h.
2 0 2 ' i ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
In the mos t di rect test of this cat al yst hypot hes i s , Wal ter Pahnke,
3 9
a
physi ci an worki ng on a di ssertati on in theology, brought twenty gr aduat e
s t udent s i n theology into a room bel ow the chapel at Bos t on Uni versi ty on
Good Fri day 1962. He gave ten of the s t udent s 30 mi l l i grams of psi l ocy-
bi n; the other ten were given i denti cal -l ooki ng pills cont ai ni ng vi t ami n B5
(ni coti ni c aci d) , whi ch creat es f eel i ngs of ti ngl es and f l us hi ng on the skin.
The vi tami n B5 i s what' s known as an act i ve pl acebo: It cr eat es real bodily
f eel i ngs, so i f the benef i ci al ef f ect s of psi l ocybi n were j us t pl acebo ef f ect s ,
the control group woul d have good reas on t o s how t hem. Over t he next f ew
hours, the whol e group l i st ened (via s peaker s ) t o the Good Fri day servi ce
goi ng on i n the chapel upst ai rs. Nobody, not even Pahnke, knew who had
taken whi ch pill. But two hours af t er the pills were t aken, t here coul d be
no doubt . Thos e who had taken the pl acebo were the first t o feel s ome-
thi ng happeni ng, and they a s s ume d they had got t en t he ps i l ocybi n. But
nothi ng el s e happened. Hal f an hour later, the other s t udent s began an ex-
peri ence that many later des cr i bed as one of the mos t i mport ant i n their
lives. Pahnke i ntervi ewed t hem af t er the dr ug wore off, and agai n a week
later, and agai n six mont hs later. He f ound that mos t of the peopl e i n the
psi l ocybi n group reported mos t of the ni ne f eat ur es of myst i cal exper i ence
he had set out t o meas ur e. The st rongest and mos t cons i s t ent ef f ec t s in-
cl uded f eel i ngs of uni t y wi th t he uni ver s e, t r a ns c e nde nc e of t i me and
s pace, joy, a di ffi cul ty put t i ng the exper i ence into words , and a f eel i ng of
havi ng been changed for the better. Ma ny report ed s eei ng beaut i f ul col ors
and pat t erns and havi ng prof ound f eel i ngs of ecst asy, fear, and awe.
Awe i s the emot i on of s el f - t r ans cendence. My fri end Da c he r Kel tner, an
expert on emot i on at the Uni versi ty of Cal i f or ni a at Berkeley, pr opos ed to
me a f ew years ago that we review the l i terature on awe and try to make
s e ns e of i t our s el ves . We f ound
4 0
that s ci ent i f i c ps ychol ogy had al mos t
nothi ng to say about awe. It can' t be s t udi ed i n ot her ani mal s or cr eat ed
easi l y i n t he l ab, so i t does n' t l end i t sel f to exper i ment al r es ear ch. But
phi l osophers, soci ol ogi sts, and t heol ogi ans had a great deal to say about it.
As we t raced the word " awe" back i n history, we di s covered that i t has al-
ways had a link to f ear and s ubmi s s i on i n the pr es enc e of s omet hi ng much
greater t han the sel f. It's only i n very moder n t i mes i n our de-sacraliz. ed
world, per haps t hat awe has been r educed t o s urpri s e pl us approval , and
Divinity With or Without God J 85
I lie wor d " a we s o me , " mu c h us e d by Ame r i c a n t e e na g e r s , ha s c o me t o
me a n l i t t l e mor e t han " doubl e - pl us g o o d" ( t o us e Ge o r g e Or wel l ' s t e r m
l rom 1984). Kel t ner a nd I c o nc l u d e d t hat t he e mot i on of a we h a p p e n s
when t wo condi t i ons are met : a per s on per cei ves s ome t hi ng vas t ( us ua l l y
physi cal l y vas t , but s o me t i me s concept ual l y vas t , s uc h as a gr and t heor y; or
soci al l y vas t , s uc h as great f a me or power ) ; a nd t he vas t t hi ng c a nno t be a c -
c o mmo d a t e d by t he pers on' s exi s t i ng ment al s t r uct ur es . S o me t h i n g e nor -
mous can' t be pr oc e s s e d, a nd when pe opl e ar e s t ump e d , s t o p p e d i n t hei r
cogni t i ve t racks whi l e i n t he pr e s e nc e of s ome t hi ng vas t , t hey f e e l s ma l l ,
power l es s , pas s i ve, a nd r ecept i ve. The y of t en ( t hough not al ways ) f eel f ear ,
admi r at i on, el evat i on, or a s e ns e of beaut y as wel l . By s t oppi ng p e o p l e a n d
maki ng t hem r ecept i ve, a we cr eat es an openi ng f or c ha ng e , a nd t hi s i s wh y
awe pl ays a rol e i n mos t s t ori es of rel i gi ous conver s i on.
We f ound a prot ot ype of a we a per f ect but ext r eme c a s e i n t he dr a-
mat i c cl i max of t he Bhagavad Gita. Th e Gita i s an e pi s ode wi t hi n t he mu c h
l onger story of t he Mahabharata, an epi c wor k a bout a war b e t we e n t wo
br anches of an I ndi an royal family. As t he her o of t he story, Ai j una , i s a bout
t o l ead his t roops i nt o bat de, he l os es his nerve a nd r e f us e s t o f i ght . He d o e s
not want t o l ead hi s ki ns men into s l aught er agai ns t hi s ki ns men. T h e Gita i s
t he story of how Kri shna ( a f or m of t he god Vi s hnu) pe r s ua de s Ai j una that he
mus t l ead hi s t roops i nto battl e. I n t he mi ddl e of t he bat t l ef i el d, wi t h t r oops
arrayed on bot h s i des , Kri shna gi ves a det ai l ed a nd abs t r act t heol ogi cal l ec-
ture on t he topi c of dha r ma t he moral l aw of t he uni vers e. Ar j una' s dha r ma
requi res that he fi ght and wi n this war. Not surpri si ngl y (gi ven t he we a k ne s s
of reason when i t c o me s t o mot i vat i ng act i on) , Ar j una i s unmo v e d. Ai j una
as ks Kri shna t o s how hi m thi s uni verse of whi ch he s pe a ks . Kr i s hna gr ant s
Arj una' s r eques t and gi ves hi m a c os mi c eye that al l ows hi m t o s e e Go d a nd
the uni verse as they really are. Ai j una then has an exper i ence t hat s ounds t o
modern r eader s like an L S D trip. He s e e s s uns , gods , and i nf i ni t e t i me. He i s
Tilled wi th a ma z e me nt . Hi s hair s t ands on end. He i s di s or i ent ed and con-
f us ed, unabl e t o c ompr e he nd t he wonder s he i s s eei ng. I don' t kno w whet her
l .tlwin Abbot read t he Bhagavad Gita, but t he s quar e' s e xpe r i e nc e in S p a c e -
Innd i s exactl y like Arj una' s. Ar j una i s cl earl y i n a s t at e of a we whe n he s ays ,
" Things never bef or e s een have I s een, and ecs t at i c i s my j oy; yet f ear-and-
t i embl i ng per t ur b my mi nd. "
4 1
Whe n t he c os mi c eye i s r e move d a nd Ai j una
2 0 4 ' i ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
comes "down" f rom his trip, he does j us t what the s quare did: He prostrates
hi msel f bef ore t he God who enl i ghtened hi m, and he begs to serve. Krishna
c omma nds Ai j una to be loyal to hi m, and to cut off all other at t achment s . Ar-
j una gladly obeys, and, f rom then on, he honors Krishna' s c omma nds .
Arj una' s experi ence i s ext r emet he s t uf f of scri pture; yet many peopl e
have had a spiritually transformati ve exper i ence that i ncl uded many of the
s ame el ement s . In what is still the great es t work on the ps ychol ogy of reli-
gion, Wi l l i am J a me s anal yzed t he "vari eti es of rel i gi ous exper i ence, "
4 2
in-
cl udi ng rapi d and gradual religious convers i ons and exper i ences with drugs
and nature. J a me s f ound s uch extraordi nary similarity i n the reports of t hese
experi ences that he thought they reveal ed de e p psychol ogi cal truths. One of
the deepes t truths, J a me s said, was that we experi ence life as a di vi ded self,
torn by conf l i ct i ng des i r es . Rel i gi ous exper i enc es ar e real a nd c ommon,
whether or not God exists, and t hes e exper i ences of t en ma ke peopl e feel
whol e and at peace. In the rapi d type of convers i on exper i ence ( s uch as
t hose of Ai j una and the square) , the old sel f, full of petty concer ns , doubt s,
and graspi ng at t achment s , i s was hed away i n an i nstant, usual l y an instant
of prof ound awe. Peopl e feel reborn a nd of t en r emember t he exact ti me and
pl ace of this rebirth, t he moment they s ur r ender ed their will to a higher
power and were granted direct exper i ence of deeper truth. Af t er s uch re-
birth, f ear and worry are greatl y di mi ni s hed and the worl d s e e ms cl ean,
new, and bright. The self is changed in ways that any pri est, rabbi, or psy-
chotherapi st woul d call mi racul ous. J a me s des cr i bed t hes e changes :
The man who lives in his religious centre of personal energy, and is actu-
ated by spiritual enthusiasms, differs f rom his previous carnal self in per-
fectly definite ways. The new ardor whi ch bums in his breast cons umes in
its glow the lower "noes" which formerly beset him, and keeps him im-
mune against infection from the entire groveling portion of his nature.
Magnanimities once impossible are now easy; paltry conventionalities and
mean incentives once tyrannical hold no sway. The stone wall inside of
him has fallen, the hardness in his heart has broken down. The rest of us
can, I think, imagine this by recalling our state of feeling in those tempo-
rary "melting moods" into which either the trials of real life, or the theatre,
or a novel someti mes throw us. Especially if we weep! For it is then as if
Divinity With or Without God J 85
our tears broke through an inveterate inner dam, and let all sorts of anci ent
peccanci es and moral stagnanci es drain away, leaving us now was hed and
soft of heart and open to every nobler l eadi ng.
4 3
J ames ' s " mel t i ng mo o d s " ar e stri ki ngl y s i mi l ar t o t he f eel i ngs of e l e va t i on
de s c r i be d by J e f f e r s on and by Da vi d Whi t f or d.
At hei s t s ma y prot est that they, too, c a n have ma ny of t he s a me e xpe r i -
e nc e s wi t hout God. The ps ychol ogi s t who took s uc h s ecul ar e xpe r i e nc e s s e -
riously was Abr a ha m Mas l ow, Harry Harl ow' s first gr aduat e s t udent a n d a
f ounde r of huma ni s t i c ps ychol ogy. Ma s l o w c ol l e c t e d r epor t s of wh a t he
cal l ed " pea k exper i enc es " t hos e extraordi nary s el f - t r ans cendent mo me n t s
that feel qual i tati vel y di f f erent f r om ordi nary life. In a s mal l g e m of a book,
Religions, Values, and Peak Ex-periences,
44
Ma s l ow l i st ed twenty-f i ve c o mmo n
f eat ures of peak exper i ences , nearl y all of whi ch c a n be f ound s o me whe r e i n
Wi l l i am J a me s . Her e are s ome: The uni verse i s per cei ved as a uni f i ed who l e
where everyt hi ng i s a c c ept ed and not hi ng i s j udge d or r anked; e g o c e nt r i s m
and goal -stri vi ng di s appear as a per s on f eel s mer ged wi t h t he uni ver s e ( a nd
of t en with God) ; per cept i ons of t i me a nd s pa c e are al t ered; and t he p e r s o n i s
f l ooded with f eel i ngs of wonder, awe, joy, love, and grat i t ude.
Ma s l ow' s goal wa s t o de mo ns t r a t e t hat s pi ri t ual l i f e ha s a na t ur a l i s t i c
meani ng, that peak exper i ences are a bas i c f act about t he huma n mi nd. In all
eras a nd all cul t ures , many peopl e f i ave had t hes e exper i ences , a nd Ma s l o w
s ugges t ed that all rel i gi ons are ba s e d on t he i nsi ghts of s omebody' s p e a k ex-
peri ence. Peak exper i ences ma ke peopl e nobler, j us t as J a me s had s a i d, a nd
religions wer e cr eat ed as met hods of pr omot i ng pe a k exper i ences a n d t he n
maxi mi zi ng thei r ennobl i ng power s . Rel i gi ons s o me t i me s l os e t o u c h wi t h
I heir ori gi ns, however; they are s ome t i me s t aken over by peopl e wh o ha ve
not had pe a k exper i enc es t he bur eaucr at s and c ompa ny me n who wa n t t o
routinize pr oc edur es and guar d orthodoxy f or orthodoxy' s s ake. Thi s , Ma s l o w
said, i s why ma ny young peopl e be c a me di s enchant ed wi th or gani zed reli-
gion i n t he mi d-t went i et h-cent ury, s ear chi ng i ns t ead f or pe a k e x pe r i e nc e s i n
psychedel i c drugs , Eas t er n rel i gi ons, and new f or ms of Chr i s t i an wor s hi p.
Ma s l ow' s a na l ys i s pr oba bl y do e s not s ho c k you. I t ma k e s s e n s e as a
s ecul ar ps ychol ogi cal expl anat i on of rel i gi on. But what i s mos t s ur p r i s i ng
in Religions, Values, and Peak Experiences is Mas l ow' s at t ack on s c i e n c e f or
2 0 6 ' i ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
becomi ng as sterile as organized religion. The historians of s ci ence Lorraine
Dast on and Katherine Park
45
later document ed this change. They showed
that scientists and phi l osophers had traditionally held an atti tude of wonder
toward the natural world and the obj ects of their inquiry. But in the late six-
teenth century, European sci enti sts began to look down on wonder; they be-
gan to see it as the mark of a chi l di sh mi nd, whereas the mature scientist
went about coolly cataloging the laws of the world. Sci ent i st s may tell us in
their memoi rs about their private s ens e of wonder, but the everyday world
of the scientist is one that rigidly separat es facts f rom val ues and emoti ons.
Masl ow echoed El i ade in cl ai mi ng that sci ence has hel ped to de-sacralize
the world, that it is devoted to document i ng only what is, rather than what
is good or what is beautiful. One might obj ect that there is an academi c divi-
sion of labor; the good and the beauti ful are the province of the humani ti es,
not of the sci ences. Masl ow charged, however, that the humani ti es had ab-
dicated their responsibility with their retreat to relativism, their skepti ci sm
about the possibility of truth, and their pref erence for novelty and icono-
cl asm over beauty. He f ounded humani st i c psychology in part to feed the
wi despread hunger for knowledge about val ues and to investigate the sort of
truth peopl e gl i mpse in peak experi ences. Masl ow did not believe religions
were literally true (as actual account s of God and creation), but he thought
they were based on the most i mport ant truths of life, and he wanted to
unite those truths with the truths of sci ence. Hi s goal was nothing less than
the reformation of educati on and, therefore, of society: " Educat i on must be
seen as at least partially an effort to pr oduce the good human being, to fos-
ter the good life and the good society. "
46
T H E S A T A N I C S E L F
The self i s one of the great paradoxes of human evol uti on. Li ke the fire
stolen by Prometheus, it made us powerful but exacted a cost. In The Curse
of the Self,
47
the social psychologist Mark Leary points out that many other
animals can think, but none, so far as we know, s pend much time thinking
about themsel ves. Only a f ew other pri mat es (and perhaps dol phi ns) can
Divinity With or Without God J 85
even l earn that the i mage i n a mirror bel ongs to t he m.
4 8
Onl y a creat ure wi t h
l anguage ability has t he ment al appar at us t o f ocus at t ent i on on t he sel f , t o
l l i i nkabout t he sel f ' s i nvi si bl e at t ri but es a nd l ong t erm goal s , t o cr eat e a na r -
rative about that sel f, a nd t hen t o react emot i onal l y t o t hought s about t ha t
narrative. Lear y s ugges t s that this ability to cr eat e a sel f gave our a nc e s t o r s
many us ef ul skills, s uc h as l ong-term pl anni ng, c ons c i ous deci s i on ma k i ng
and sel f-control , and t he ability t o s ee ot her peopl e' s per s pect i ves . B e c a u s e
t hes e skills are all i mpor t ant for enabl i ng hu ma n bei ngs to wor k cl os el y t o-
get her on l arge proj ect s, the devel opment of t he sel f may have been cr uci al
t o t he devel opment of huma n ultrasociality. But by gi vi ng each one of us an
i nner worl d, a worl d full of s i mul at i ons , s oci al compar i s ons , a nd r eput at i onal
concer ns , t he sel f al s o gave each one of us a pers onal t orment er. We all n o w
live a mi d a whi rl pool of i nner chatter, mu c h of whi ch i s negat i ve ( t hr e a t s
l oom larger t han opport uni t i es ) , and mos t of whi ch i s us el es s . It i s i mpor t a nt
t o not e that t he sel f i s not exactl y t he r i de r muc h of t he sel f i s unc o ns c i o us
and a ut oma t i c but be c a us e t he sel f e me r ge s f rom c ons c i ous verbal t hi nk-
ing a nd storytelling, i t c a n be cons t r uct ed onl y by t he rider.
Leary' s anal ysi s s hows why t he sel f i s a pr obl em f or all maj or r el i gi ons :
The sel f i s t he mai n obs t acl e t o spi ri tual a dva nc e me nt , i n t hree ways. Fi r s t ,
t he cons t ant s t r eam of trivial concer ns and egocent r i c t hought s ke e ps p e o p l e
l ocked i n t he materi al and pr of ane worl d, una bl e t o percei ve s a c r e dne s s a n d
divinity. Thi s i s why Eas t er n rel i gi ons rely heavi l y on medi t at i on, an e f f e c t i ve
me a ns of qui et i ng t he chat t er of t he sel f. S e c ond, spi ri tual t r ans f or mat i on i s
essenti al l y t he t rans f ormat i on of t he sel f, weakeni ng it, pr uni ng i t ba c k i n
s ome s ens e, killing i t a nd of t en t he sel f obj ect s . Gi ve up my p o s s e s s i o ns
and t he pres t i ge they bri ng? No way! Love my enemi es , af t er what t hey di d
to me ? Forget about it. And third, f ol l owi ng a spi ri tual pat h i s i nvari abl y ha r d
work, requi ri ng years of medi t at i on, prayer, sel f -control , and s o me t i me s s el f -
deni al . The sel f does not like t o be deni ed, a nd i t i s a dept at f i ndi ng r e a s ons
t o bend t he rul es or cheat . Ma ny religions t each that egoi st i c a t t a c hme nt s t o
pl eas ur e and reput at i on are cons t ant t empt at i ons t o l eave t he pat h of vi rt ue.
In a s ens e, t he sel f is Sat an, or, at l east, Sat an' s portal .
For all t he s e r eas ons , t he s el f i s a pr obl e m f or t he et hi c of divinity. T h e
bi g greedy s el f i s l i ke a br i ck hol di ng down t he s oul . Onl y by s e e i ng t he s e l f
2 0 8 ' i ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
i n this way, I bel i eve, can one under s t and a nd even r es pect t he moral moti-
vati ons of t hos e who want t o ma ke thei r soci et y conf or m mor e cl osel y t o
the parti cul ar religion they follow.
F L A T L A N D A N D T H E C U L T U R E W A R
Humor hel ps peopl e c ope wi th adversi ty, and af t er Ge or g e W. Bus h re-
cei ved a maj ority of the votes i n the U. S . presi dent i al el ect i on of 2004, 49
percent of Amer i cans had a lot of copi ng to do. Ma ny peopl e i n the "bl ue
s t at es " ( t hose where a maj ority voted for J ohn Kerry, s hown on all el ectoral
ma ps i n bl ue) coul d not under s t and why peopl e i n the " red s t at es " sup-
ported Bus h and his pol i ci es. Li beral s pos t ed ma ps of the Uni t ed St at es on
the Internet that s howed the bl ue s t at es (all i n the Nor t heas t , the upper
Mi dwes t , and al ong the West coas t ) l abel ed " Uni t ed St at es of Ameri ca" ;
the red st at es ( al most the whol e i nteri or and s out h of the nat i on) were la-
bel ed " J es us l and. " Cons ervat i ves count er ed with their own ma p i n whi ch
the bl ue st at es were l abel ed " Ne w Fr a nc e, " but I thi nk a mor e accur at e
parody, f rom t he right' s poi nt of view, mi ght have been to cal l the bl ue
st at es " Sel f l and. "
I am not suggest i ng that peopl e who voted for J ohn Kerry are any more
sel fi sh than t hose who voted for Geor ge Bus hi nde e d, the taxati on and so-
cial pol i ci es of the two candi dat es s ugges t j us t the opposi t e. But I am trying
to underst and the mut ual i ncompr ehens i on of the two s i des i n the cul ture
war, and I bel i eve that Shweder ' s t hree et hi cs par t i cul ar l y t he et hi c of
divinityare the key to it.
Whi ch of the following quot at i ons i nspi res you more: ( 1) " Sel f - es t eem i s
the basi s of any democracy" ; (2) "It's not all about you. " The first i s attrib-
uted to Gl ori a St ei nem,
4 9
a f ounder of the f emi ni s t movement in the 1970s.
I t cl ai ms that s exi s m, r aci s m, and oppr es s i on ma ke part i cul ar gr oups of
peopl e feel unworthy and t heref ore under mi ne their part i ci pat i on i n de-
mocracy. Thi s quot e al so ref l ect s the core i dea of the ethi c of aut onomy: In-
di vi dual s are what really mat t er i n l i f e, so t he i deal s oci et y pr ot ect s all
individuals from harm and res pect s their aut onomy and f r eedom of choi ce.
The ethi c of aut onomy i s well sui ted to hel pi ng peopl e with di f f erent back-
Divinity With or Without God J 85
grounds and val ues get al ong with each other be c a us e i t al l ows each pe r s on
t o purs ue t he life s he choos es , as l ong as t hose choi ces don' t i nterf ere wi t h
the rights of ot hers.
The s econd quot e i s the openi ng l i ne of t he world' s bi ggest -sel l i ng b o o k
in 2003 and 2004, The Purpose Driven Life by Ri ck Wa r r en,
5 0
a gui de f or
l i ndi ng pur pos e and meani ng through faith i n J e s us Chr i s t a nd the revel a-
tion of the Bi bl e. From Warren' s pers pect i ve, the sel f i s t he c a us e of our
probl ems a nd t heref ore ef f ort s t o rai se chi l dren' s s el f - es t eem di rectl y wi t h
awards, prai se, and exerci s es t o ma ke t hem f eel " s peci al " ar e posi ti vel y evi l .
The cor e i dea of t he et hi c of divinity i s that each per s on has divinity i ns i de,
so the i deal soci et y hel ps peopl e live in a way cons i s t ent wi t h that divinity.
What an i ndi vi dual des i r es i s not part i cul arl y i mpor t ant ma ny de s i r e s
c ome f rom t he carnal sel f. School s , f ami l i es, and t he me di a s houl d all wor k
together t o hel p chi l dren over come their s ens e of sel f and ent i t l ement a nd
live i nst ead in t he way Chri s t i nt ended.
Many of the- key bat t l es i n the Amer i can cul t ure war are essent i al l y a bo ut
whether s ome a s pec t of life s houl d be st ruct ured by t he et hi c of a ut onomy
or by the et hi c of divinity.
51
( The et hi c of communi t y, whi ch s t r es s es t he i m-
port ance of t he gr oup over that of t he individual, t ends to be allied wi t h t he
ethi c of divinity). Shoul d there be prayer i n s chool s ? Shoul d t he Ten C o m-
mandment s be pos t ed i n school s and cour t hous es ? Shoul d t he phr as e " un-
der Go d" be st ruck f rom the Ameri can pl edge of al l egi ance? Li ber al s us ual l y
want to keep religion out of publ i c life so that peopl e c a nnot be f or ced to
parti ci pate agai nst their will, but religious conservat i ves wa nt s chool s a nd
court hous es re-sacral i zed. They want their chi l dren to live in a ( part i cul ar)
t hree-di mens i onal worl d, and i f t he s chool s won' t provi de it, they s o me -
l i mes turn to home-s chool i ng i nst ead.
Shoul d pe opl e be al l owed t o us e birth control , abor t i on, r epr oduct i ve
t echnol ogi es, and as s i s t ed s ui ci de as they pl eas e? I t d e p e nd s on whe t he r
your goal i s t o e mpo we r peopl e t o ma na g e s o me of t he mo s t i mpor t a nt
choi ces of their lives, or whet her you think all s uch deci s i ons mus t be ma d e
by God. If t he book title Our Bodies, Ourselves s ounds like a nobl e act of de-
fliince to you, you will s upport peopl e' s rights to choos e their own sexual a c -
livities and to modi f y their bodi es as they pl eas e. But i f you bel i eve t hat
"( Jod pres cri bed every si ngl e detail of your body, "
52
as War r en writes in The
2 1 0 ' i ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
Purpose Driven Life, you will probabl y be of f ended by sexual diversity and
by body modi f i cat i ons s uch as pi erci ngs and pl ast i c surgery. My s t udent s
and I have i nt ervi ewed pol i t i cal l i beral s and cons er vat i ves about s exual
morality,
53
and about body modi f i cat i ons ,
5 4
and i n both s t udi es we f ound
that liberals were muc h more permi s s i ve and relied overwhel mi ngl y on the
ethic of aut onomy; conservati ves, muc h more critical, us ed all three et hi cs
i n their di s cours e. For exampl e, one conservati ve man j us t i f i ed his condem-
nati on of a story about an unus ual f orm of mas t urbat i on:
It's a sin becaus e it di st ances oursel ves from God. It's a pl easure that
God did not design for us to enj oy becaus e sexual pl easures, through,
you know, a married heterosexual coupl e, were desi gned by God in order
to reproduce.
5 5
On i s s ue after i ssue, l i beral s want t o maxi mi ze aut onomy by removi ng
limits, barriers, and restrictions. The religious right, on the other hand, wants
to structure personal , social, and political rel ati onshi ps in three di mensi ons
and so creat e a l ands cape of purity and pollution where restrictions mai ntai n
the separati on of the s acred and the prof ane. For the religious right, hell on
earth is a flat land of unl i mi ted f r eedom where sel ves r oam around with no
higher purpos e than expressi ng and devel opi ng t hems el ves .
As a liberal, I val ue t ol erance and opennes s to new i deas . I have done my
best, i n this chapter, to be tol erant toward t hos e whos e pol i ti cs I oppos e
and to f i nd meri t in rel i gi ous i deas I do not hol d. But al t hough I have be-
gun to s ee t he ri chnes s that divinity adds to huma n experi ence, I do not
entirely l ament the " f l at t eni ng" of life i n the West over t he last f ew hun-
dred years. An unf ort unat e t endency of t hree-di mensi onal soci et i es i s that
they of t en i ncl ude one or more gr oups that get pus hed down on t he third
di mens i on and then treated badly, or worse. Look at the condi t i ons of "un-
t ouchabl es " in Indi a until recently, or at the plight of J e ws in medi eval Eu-
rope and in purity-obstessed Nazi Germany, or at the humi l i at i on of Af ri can
Ame r i c a ns i n t he s egr ega t ed S out h. Th e Ame r i c a n r el i gi ous right now
Divinity With or Without God J 85
s e e ms to be trying to pus h homos exual s down i n a si mi l ar way. Li be r a l i s m
and t he et hi c of aut onomy are great prot ect ors agai nst s uc h i nj us t i c e s . I
bel i eve i t i s danger ous for t he et hi c of divinity to s uper s ede t he et hi c of
autonomy, in t he governance of a di verse moder n democracy. Howe ve r , I
al so bel i eve that life in a soci ety that enti rel y i gnored t he et hi c of di vi ni t y
woul d be ugly and unsat i sf yi ng.
Becaus e t he cul t ure war i s i deol ogi cal , bot h s i des us e the myt h of p u r e
evil. To acknowl edge that the other si de mi ght be right about anything i s an
net of treason. My res earch on the third di mens i on, however, ha s f r eed me
I'rom the myth and ma de i t easy for me to think t reas onous t hought s . Her e' s
one: If the third di mens i on and percept i ons of s acr ednes s are an i mpor t ant
part of human nature, then the sci enti f i c communi t y shoul d a c c e pt rel i gi os-
ity as a normal and healthy as pect of huma n nat ur ean a s pe c t that i s as
deep, i mportant, and i nteresti ng as sexual i ty or l anguage ( whi ch we s t udy
intensely). Here' s anot her t reas onous t hought : If religious pe opl e are ri ght
i n bel i evi ng that rel i gi on i s t he s our ce of thei r gr eat es t ha ppi ne s s , t h e n
maybe t he rest of us who are l ooki ng for happi nes s and me a ni ng can l ea r n
s omet hi ng f rom t hem, whet her or not we bel i eve i n God. That ' s t he t opi c of
the final chapter.
Happiness
Comes from Between
Who sees all beings in his own Self, and. his own Self in all
beings, loses all fear. . . . When a sage sees this great Unity
and his Self has become all beings, what delusion and what
s or r ow can ever be near him?
U P A N I S H A D S
1
/ wa s entirely happy. Perhaps we feel like that when we die
and become a part of something entire, whether it is sun and
air, or goodness and knowledge. At any rate, that is happi-
ness: to be dissolved into something complete and great.
W I M . A C A T H E R
2
I ^ U O V E R B S , S A Y I N G S , A N D W O R D S of wi s dom di gni f y event s , s o we of t e n us e
I hem t o mar k i mpor t ant t rans i t i ons i n life. For t he gr aduat i ng c l a s s of 1981
ill S c a r s da l e Hi gh School , i n Sc a r s da l e , Ne w "York, c hoos i ng a quot a t i on
was a rite of pa s s a ge , an opport uni t y t o ref l ect on one' s e me r gi ng i dent i t y
IIIRI expr es s s o me a s pe c t of it. As I l ook t hr ough t he year book f r om t hat
cl as s , at t he quot a t i ons unde r ne a t h e a c h phot o, I s e e t wo ma i n ki nds .
Many are t ri but es t o l ove and f r i ends hi p, appr opr i at e f or a t i me of par t i ng
f rom f r i ends ("You never real l y l eave t he f r i ends you love. Part of t he m you
213
214 ' i ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
take with you, l eavi ng a part of you behi nd. " [ A N O N Y M O U S ] ) . The ot her
kind expr es s es opt i mi s m, s o me t i me s mi xed wi th t repi dat i on, about the
road a hea d. I ndeed, i t i s di f f i cul t t o t hi nk a bout gr a dua t i ng f r om high
school wi thout us i ng the met aphor that life i s a j ourney. For exampl e, f our
s t udent s quot ed the Ca t St evens s ong " On the Road t o Fi nd Out . "
3
Two
quot ed Geor ge Was hi ngt on: "I am emba r ked on a wi de ocean, boundl es s
i n its pros pect and, i n whi ch, per haps , no s af e harbor i s to be f ound. "
4
And
one s t udent quot ed thi s l i ne f r om Br uc e Spr i ngs t een: "Well I got s ome
beer and the highway' s f ree / and I got you, and baby you' ve got me. "
5
But nestl ed a mong t hese af f i rmat i ons of life's l i mi tl ess possi bi l i ti es i s one
with a darker tone: " Whos oever shall not fall by the sword or by f ami ne,
shall fall by pes t i l ence so why bother shavi ng?" ( W O O D Y A L L E N ) .
6
Above
those words is a phot ograph of me.
I was only partly kidding. Dur i ng the previous year, I had written a paper
exami ni ng the play Waiting for Godot, Samuel Beckett' s existentialist medi ta-
tion on the absurdi ty of life in a world with no God, and it got me thinking. I
was already an athei st, and by my seni or year I had bec a me obs es s ed with
the questi on " What is the meani ng of l i fe?" I wrote my personal statement
for college admi s s i ons on the meani ngl es s nes s of life. I s pent the winter of
my senior year in a ki nd of phi l osophi cal depr es s i onnot a clinical depres-
si on, j us t a pervas i ve s e ns e that everyt hi ng was poi nt l es s . In t he grand
s cheme of things, I thought, it really didn' t matter whet her I got into college,
or whether the Eart h was dest royed by an asteroid or by nucl ear war.
My despai r was parti cul arl y s t range becaus e, for the first t i me s i nce the
age of four, my life was per f ect . I had a wonderf ul gi rl fri end, great f ri ends,
and loving parent s. I was capt ai n of the track t eam, and, per haps mos t im-
portant for a sevent een-year-ol d boy, I got to drive ar ound in my father' s
1966 Thunder bi r d convert i bl e. Yet I kept wonder i ng why any of i t mat-
tered. Li ke the aut hor of Eccl es i as t es , I thought that "all is vanity and a
chas i ng af ter wi nd" ( E C C L E S I A S T E S 1 : 1 4 ) .
I finally es c a ped when, af t er a week of thi nki ng about s ui ci de (in the ab-
stract, not as a pl an) , I t urned the pr obl em i nsi de out. Ther e i s no God and
no externally given meani ng to life, I thought, so f rom one pers pect i ve it
really woul dn' t mat t er if I killed mys el f tomorrow. Very wel l , then every-
Ha-ppiness Comes from Between 22 1
ti l i ng beyond t omor r ow i s a gi ft wi th no s t ri ngs a nd no e xpe c t a t i ons . The r e
i s no t est to hand i n at t he e nd of l i fe, so t her e i s no way to f ai l . If t hi s real l y
i s all t here is, why not e mb r a c e it, rat her t han t hrow i t away? I don' t kno w
whet her t hi s real i zat i on l i f t ed my mo o d or whe t he r an i mpr ovi ng mo o d
hel ped me t o r ef r ame t he pr obl em wi t h hope; but my exi s t ent i al de pr e s -
si on l i f ted a nd I enj oyed t he l ast mont hs of hi gh s chool .
My i nterest i n t he meani ng of life cont i nued, however, so i n col l ege I ma -
j ored i n phi l osophy, wher e I f ound f ew ans wer s . Mode r n phi l os opher s s pe -
ci al i ze i n anal yzi ng t he meani ng of words , but , as i de f rom t he exi s t ent i al i s t s
( who c a us e d t he pr obl em f or me i n t he f i rst pl ace) , t hey ha d l i ttl e t o s a y
about t he mea ni ng of life. It was only af t er I ent er ed gr aduat e s chool i n ps y-
chol ogy that I real i zed why moder n phi l os ophy s e e me d steri l e: It l acked a
de e p under s t andi ng of huma n nat ure. The anci ent phi l os opher s wer e of t en
good ps ychol ogi s t s , as I have s hown i n thi s book, but when mode r n phi l os o-
phy began to devot e i tsel f to t he s t udy of l ogi c a nd rationality, i t gr adual l y l os t
i nterest i n ps ychol ogy and lost t ouch wi th t he pas s i onat e, cont ext ual i zed na-
l ure of huma n life. It i s i mpos s i bl e t o anal yze " t he me a ni ng of l i f e" i n t he a b-
stract, or i n general , or for s ome mythi cal and perf ect l y rati onal bei ng.
7
Onl y
by knowi ng t he ki nds of bei ngs that we act ual l y are, wi t h t he c ompl e x me nt a l
and emot i onal archi t ect ure that we ha ppe n t o pos s e s s , can a nyone even be-
gin t o a s k about what woul d count as a meani ngf ul li fe. ( Phi l os ophy has , t o
its credi t, be c o me mor e psychol ogi cal a nd mor e pas s i onat e i n r ecent year s . )
8
As I went on i n ps ychol ogy a nd i n my own r es ear ch on moral i ty, I di s -
cover ed that ps ychol ogy a nd rel at ed s c i e nc e s have r eveal ed s o mu c h a b o ut
huma n nat ur e that an a ns wer i s now pos s i bl e. I n f act , we' ve known mos t of
I he ans wer f or a hundr e d years, a nd ma ny of t he r ema i ni ng p i e c e s ha ve
l al l en i nto pl a c e over t he l ast t en. Thi s c ha pt e r i s my ver s i on of ps yc hol -
ogy' s ans wer t o t he ul t i mat e ques t i on.
W H A T W A S T H E Q U E S T I O N ?
I'lie ques t i on " Wha t i s t he me a ni ng of l i f e" mi ght be cal l ed t he Hol y Qu e s -
l i on, i n anal ogy t o t he Hol y Grai l : Its pur s ui t i s nobl e a nd ever yone s ho ul d
2 1 6 ' i ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
want t o find an answer, yet f ew peopl e expect that one can be f ound. That ' s
why books and movi es that purport to tell us the ans wer to the Hol y Qu e s -
tion of t en do so only in j es t . In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, a gi-
ganti c comput er built t o ans wer the Hol y Que s t i on spi ts out its sol uti on
af ter 7. 5 million years of comput at i on: "f orty-two. "
9
In the cl os i ng s cene of
t h e mo v i e Monty Python's The Meaning of Life, t h e a n s we r t o t h e Ho l y
Ques t i on is handed to the act or Mi chael Palin (in drag), who reads it al oud:
"Try to be ni ce to peopl e, avoi d eat i ng fat, read a good book every now and
then, get s ome wal ki ng in, and try to live in harmony wi th peopl e of all
creeds and nat i ons. "
1 0
The s e ans wer s are f unny preci sel y be c a us e they take
the form of good answers, yet their content is empt y or munda ne. These par-
odi es invite us to l augh at oursel ves and as k: What was I expect i ng? What
kind of answer could have s at i s f i ed me ?
One thi ng phi l osophy did t each me i s how to anal yze ques t i ons , how to
cl ari fy exacdy what i s bei ng as ked bef or e giving an answer. The Hol y Qu e s -
tion cri es out for cl ari fi cati on. Whenever we as k " What i s the meani ng of
X? " what kind of ans wer coul d possi bl y s at i s f y us ?
The most common kind of meani ng i s defi ni ti onal . ' Wha t i s the meani ng
of ' ananym' ?" means " Def i ne the word ' ananym' for me so that I can under-
st and it when I read it." I go to a dictionary,
11
l ook it up, and fi nd that it
means "a ps eudonym consi sti ng of the real na me written backwards. " Very
well, what is the meani ng of "l i fe"? I go back to the dictionary and find that
life has twenty-one meani ngs, i ncl udi ng "the quality that di sti ngui shes a vital
and functi onal bei ng from a dead body or purely chemi cal mat t er" and "the
period from birth to deat h. " Dead end. Thi s is not at all the right kind of an-
swer. We are not aski ng about the word "l i fe, " we're aski ng about life itself.
A s ec ond ki nd of meani ng i s about s ymbol i s m or s ubs t i t ut i on. If you
dream about expl ori ng a ba s e me nt and f i ndi ng a trap door to a s ubbas e-
ment , you mi ght ask, "What i s the mea ni ng of the s ubba s e me nt ? " The psy-
chol ogi st Carl J ung had s uch a dr e a m
1 2
and concl uded that the meani ng of
the s ubba s e me nt t he thi ng i t s ymbol i zed or st ood f or wa s t he col l ecti ve
uncons ci ous , a deep set of i deas s har ed by all peopl e. But this i s another
dead end. Li f e does not symbol i ze, s t and for, or poi nt to anythi ng. It i s life
itself that we want to under s t and.
Ha-ppiness Comes from Between 22 1
A third way i n whi c h we as k a bout me a ni ng i s as a pl ea f or hel p i n ma k-
ing s e ns e of s omet hi ng, usual l y wi th r ef er enc e t o peopl e' s i nt ent i ons a nd
bel i ef s . S u p p o s e you wal k i nt o a movi e hal f an hour l at e a nd ha ve t o l eave
hal f an hour bef or e t he end. La t er that ni ght you are t al ki ng wi t h a f r i end
who s a w t he whol e f i l m a nd you as k, " Wha t di d i t me a n whe n t he guy wi t h
I he curl y hai r wi nked at that ki d? " You ar e a wa r e that t he act ha d s o me si g-
ni f i cance f or t he pl ot of t he movi e, a nd you s us pe c t that you ne e d t o know
cert ai n f act s t o unde r s t a nd that act . Per ha ps a prior r el at i ons hi p b e t we e n
I he t wo char act er s had been reveal ed i n t he ope ni ng s c e ne s ? To as k, " Wha t
was t he me a ni ng of t he wi nk? " really me a ns , " Wha t do I ne e d t o know t o
under s t a nd t hat wi nk? " No w we' re ma ki ng pr ogr es s , f or l i f e i s mu c h l i ke a
movi e we wal k i nto well af t er its openi ng s c e ne , a nd we will ha ve t o s t e p
oul l ong be f or e mos t of t he story l i nes r e a c h t hei r c o nc l us i o ns . We a r e
acut el y awar e that we need t o know a gr eat deal i f we ar e t o und e r s t a nd
I lu- f ew c onf us i ng mi nut e s t hat we do wa t c h. Of c our s e, we don' t kno w ex-
ile I l y what i t i s that we don' t know, so we can' t f r a me t he que s t i on wel l . We
as k, " What i s t he me a ni ng of l i f e? " not expec t i ng a di r ect a ns we r ( s u c h as
"f orty-two"), but rat her hopi ng f or s o me enl i ght enment , s ome t hi ng t o gi ve
us an " aha! " exper i enc e i n whi ch, s uddenl y, t hi ngs t hat we ha d not b e f o r e
under s t ood or r ecogni zed as i mpor t ant begi n t o ma ke s e ns e ( as t hey di d f or
t he s qua r e t aken t o t he thi rd di mens i on) .
On c e t he Hol y Qu e s t i o n ha s been r e- f r a med t o me a n "Tel l me s o me -
thi ng enl i ght eni ng a bout l i f e, " t he a ns wer mus t i nvol ve t he ki nds of r evel a-
t i ons t hat huma n bei ngs f i nd enl i ght eni ng. The r e a ppe a r t o be t wo s p e c i f i c
s i i b- ques t i ons t o whi c h pe opl e want a ns we r s , a nd f or whi ch t hey f i nd an-
s wer s enl i ght eni ng. Th e first c a n be cal l ed t he ques t i on of t he p u r p o s e of
life: " What i s t he pur pos e for which huma n bei ngs wer e pl a c e d on Ea r t h ?
Why are we her e? " The r e ar e t wo maj or c l a s s e s of a ns we r s t o t hi s q u e s t i o n:
Ei t her you bel i eve i n a god/ s pi ri t / i nt el l i gence who ha d s o me i dea, de s i r e , or
Intenti on i n cr eat i ng t he worl d or you bel i eve i n a pur el y mat er i al wor l d i n
whi ch i t a nd you wer e not cr eat ed for any r eas on; i t all j us t h a p p e n e d as
mat t er a nd energy i nt er act ed a c c or di ng t o t he l aws of nat ur e ( whi c h, o n c e
life got s t ar t ed, i ncl uded t he pr i nci pl es of Dar wi ni an evol ut i on) . Re l i g i on i s
i ill en s e e n as an a ns wer t o t he Hol y Qu e s t i o n b e c a us e ma ny r el i gi ons of f e r
218 ' i ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
s uch cl ear ans wer s t o t he s ub- ques t i on of t he pur pos e of l i f e. S c i e nc e and
rel i gi on are of t en s e e n as a nt a goni s t s , a nd, i ndeed, t hey bat t l e over t he
t eachi ng of evol ut i on i n t he Uni t e d S t a t e s pr eci s el y b e c a u s e t hey of f er
conf l i ct i ng ans wer s .
The s ec ond s ub- ques t i on i s t he ques t i on of pur pos e within life: " How
ought I to l i ve? Wha t s houl d I do to have a good, happy, f ul f i l l i ng, and
meaningful l i f e?" Whe n peopl e as k t he Hol y Que s t i o n, one of t he thi ngs
they are hopi ng for i s a set of pr i nci pl es or goal s that can gui de thei r act i ons
and give their choi ces mea ni ng or val ue. ( That i s why t he f or m of the an-
swer i n t he Mont y Python movi e i s cor r ect : "Try to be ni ce to peopl e, avoid
eat i ng f at . . . "). Ari s t ot l e a s ked a bout arete ( excel l ence/ vi r t ue) and telos
( purpos e/ goal ) , and he us ed t he me t a phor t hat peopl e are l i ke archers , who
need a cl ear target at whi ch to a i m.
1 3
Wi t hout a target or goal , one i s l eft
wi th t he ani mal de f a ul t : J us t l et t he e l e pha nt gr aze or r oa m wher e he
pl e a s e s . And b e c a u s e e l e pha nt s l i ve i n he r ds , o ne e nd s up doi ng what
everyone el s e i s doi ng. Yet t he huma n mi nd has a rider, a nd as t he rider be-
gi ns t o thi nk mor e abst ract l y i n a dol e s c e nc e , t here may c o me a t i me when
he l ooks ar ound, pas t t he e dge s of t he her d, and as ks : Whe r e ar e we all go-
ing? And why? Thi s i s what ha ppe ne d t o me my seni or year of hi gh school .
In my adol es cent exi s t ent i al i s m, I c onf l a t ed t he two s ub- ques t i ons . Be-
c a us e I e mbr a c e d t he s ci ent i f i c a ns we r t o t he ques t i on of t he pur pos e of
life, I t hought it pr ecl uded f i ndi ng pur po s e within l i fe. It wa s an eas y mi s-
t ake t o ma ke be c a us e many rel i gi ons t ea c h that t he t wo ques t i ons are in-
s epar abl e. I f you bel i eve that Go d c r ea t ed you as part of Hi s pl an, t hen you
can f i gure out how you ought to live i f you ar e goi ng to pl ay your part prop-
erly. The Purpose Driven Life
14
is a f ort y-day c our s e t hat t e a c he s readers
how t o f i nd pur pos e within l i fe f r om t he t heol ogi cal a ns wer t o t he ques t i on
of t he pur pos e of l i fe.
The two ques t i ons can, however, be s epa r a t ed. The f i rst a s ks about life
f rom t he out s i de; i t l ooks at peopl e, t he Ear t h, and t he s t ars as objects
" Why do they all exi s t ? " a nd i s pr oper l y a ddr e s s e d by t heol ogi ans , physi-
ci st s, and bi ol ogi st s. The s e c ond ques t i on i s a bout l i fe f r om t he i nsi de, as a
subject"How can I f i nd a s e ns e of me a ni ng a nd p ur p o s e ? " a nd i s prop-
erly a ddr es s ed by t heol ogi ans , phi l os opher s , and ps ychol ogi s t s . The s econd
ques t i on i s really e mpi r i c a l a ques t i on of f act that can be exami ned by
Ha-ppiness Comes from Between 22 1
s ci ent i f i c me a ns . Why do s o me pe opl e live l i ves f ul l of zes t , c o mmi t me n t ,
and meani ng, but ot her s f eel t hat t hei r li ves ar e e mpt y a nd poi nt l e s s ? F o r
I he rest of thi s c ha pt er I will i gnore t he pur po s e of l i fe a nd s e a r c h f or t h e
f act ors that gi ve ri se to a s e ns e of pur pos e within l i fe.
L O V E A N D W O R K
When a c omput e r br eaks , i t doesn' t fix i tsel f. You have to ope n i t up a nd cio
s omet hi ng to it, or bri ng i t to a s peci al i s t f or repair. The c o mp u t e r me t a p h o r
has s o per vaded our t hought that we s ome t i me s t hi nk a bout p e o p l e as c o m-
put ers , and a bout ps ychot her apy as t he repai r s hop or a ki nd of r e pr og r a m-
ining. But pe opl e are not c omput er s , a nd t hey usual l y recover on t hei r o wn
from al mos t anyt hi ng that ha ppe ns to t he m.
1 5
I thi nk a bet t er me t a p ho r i s
that peopl e ar e like pl ant s . Dur i ng gr a dua t e s chool , I had a s mal l g a r de n i n
front of my hous e i n Phi l adel phi a. I wa s not a very good gar dener , a n d I
t ravel ed a lot i n t he s umme r s , so s ome t i me s my pl ant s wi t her ed a nd near l y
di ed. But t he a ma zi ng t hi ng I l ear ned about pl ant s i s that as l ong as t hey ar e
not compl et el y dead, they will s pri ng ba c k t o ful l a nd gl ori ous l i f e i f you j us t
get t he condi t i ons right. You can' t fix a pl ant ; you can onl y gi ve i t t he ri ght
condi t i ons wat er , s un, a nd s oi l a nd t hen wai t. I t will do t he r es t .
I f peopl e ar e l i ke pl ant s , what are t he condi t i ons we ne e d t o f l our i s h? Ill
the ha ppi nes s f or mul a f rom c ha pt er 5, Fl ( a ppi nes s ) = S ( e t poi nt ) -+- C o n d i -
ti ons) + V( ol unt ary act i vi t i es) , what exact l y i s C? Th e bi gges t pa r t of C, as
I sai d i n c ha pt er 6, i s love. No ma n, wo ma n, or chi l d i s an i s l a nd. We are
l i l trasoci al cr eat ur es , and we can' t be ha ppy wi t hout havi ng f r i e nds a nd se-
cur e a t t a c hme nt s t o ot her peopl e. The s e c ond mos t i mpor t a nt pa r t of C i s
havi ng a nd pur s ui ng t he right goal s , i n or der t o c r ea t e s t a t e s of f l o w a nd
enga gement . I n t he mode r n worl d, pe opl e c a n f i nd goal s a nd f l ow i n ma ny
' . cl i i ngs, but mos t pe opl e f i nd mos t of t hei r f l ow at wor k.
1 6
( I d e f i n e wor k
l uoadl y t o i ncl ude anyone' s ans wer t o t he ques t i on " So, wha t do you do? "
" St udent " a nd " f ul l -t i me par ent " are bot h good ans wer s ) . Love a n d wo r k are,
lni peopl e, obvi ous a na l ogue s t o wat er a nd s uns hi ne f or p l a n t s .
1 7
Wh e n
Fi end wa s as ked what a normal per s on s houl d be abl e t o do wel l , he i s re-
put ed t o have s ai d, " Love and wor k. "
1 8
I f t her apy c a n hel p a p e r s o n do t hos e
2 2 0 ' i ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
two things well, it has s uc c eeded. In Mas l ow' s f a mous hi erarchy of needs,
once peopl e have sati sf i ed their physi cal needs ( s uch as f ood and safety),
they move on to needs for love and t hen es t eem, whi ch i s ear ned mostly
through one' s work. Even bef ore Fr eud, Le o Tolstoy wrote: " One can live
magni fi centl y in this world, if one knows how to work and how to love, to
work for the person one loves and to love one' s work. "
1 9
Havi ng earlier said
everything I want to say about love, I will say no more here. But I mus t say
much more about work.
When Harry Harl ow took his s t udent s to the zoo, they were surpri sed to
find that apes and monkeys woul d sol ve pr obl ems j us t for t he f un of it. Be-
havi ori sm had no way to expl ai n s uch unrei nf orced behavior. In 1959, the
Harvard psychol ogi st Robert Whi t e
2 0
concl uded, af t er surveyi ng research
i n behavi ori s m and ps ychoanal ys i s , t hat bot h t heori es had mi s s e d what
Harl ow had not i ced: the over whel mi ng evi denc e that pe opl e and many
other ma mma l s have a basi c drive to make things happen. You can s ee it in
the j oy i nf ants take with " bus y boxes , " t he activity cent ers that al l ow them
t o convert flailing ar m movement s i nto ri ngi ng bel l s and s pi nni ng wheel s.
You can s ee i t i n the toys to whi ch ol der chi l dren gravitate. The ones I most
intensely l onged for as a boy were t hos e that c a us e d movement or acti on at
a di st ance: remot e-cont rol l ed cars, guns that shot pl ast i c pel l et s , and rock-
ets or ai rpl anes of any kind. And you can s ee it in the l ethargy that of ten
overtakes peopl e who st op worki ng, whet her f rom ret i rement , bei ng fired,
or wi nni ng a lottery. Ps ychol ogi s t s have ref erred to thi s bas i c need as a
need for compet ence, industry, or mastery. Whi t e cal l ed i t t he " ef f ect ance
mot i ve, " whi ch he def i ned as t he need or dri ve t o devel op c ompe t e nc e
through i nteracti ng with and cont rol l i ng one' s envi ronment . Ef f e c t a nc e i s
al most as basi c a need as f ood and water, yet it is not a def i ci t need, like
hunger, that is s at i s f i ed and then di s appear s for a f ew hours . Rather, Whi t e
sai d, ef f ect ance is a cons t ant pr e s e nc e in our lives:
Deal i ng with the environment means carrying on a conti nui ng transac-
tion which gradually changes one's relation to the environment. Becaus e
there is no consummatory climax, sati sfacti on has to be seen as lying in
a consi derabl e series of transactions, in a trend of behavior rather than a
goal that is achi eved.
21
Ha-ppiness Comes from Between 22 1
The e f f e c t a nc e mot i ve hel ps expl ai n t he pr ogr es s pr i nci pl e: We get mo r e
pl eas ur e f r om ma ki ng pr ogr es s t owar d our goal s t han we do f r om a c hi e vi ng
I hem be c a us e , as S ha ke s pe a r e sai d, "Joy' s s oul l i es i n t he doi ng. "
2 2
Now we c a n l ook at t he condi t i ons of mode r n work. Karl Marx' s cr i t i ci s m
of capi t al i s m
2 3
wa s ba s ed i n part on his j us t i f i ed cl ai m that t he I ndus t r i al
Revol ut i on had des t r oyed t he hi stori cal rel at i ons hi p bet ween c r a f t s me n a nd
I he goods they pr oduced. As s embl y- l i ne work t urned peopl e i nto c og s i n a
gi ant ma c hi ne , a nd t he ma c hi ne di dn' t c a r e a bout wor ker s ' ne e d f or ef -
f ect ance. Lat er r es ear ch on j ob s at i s f act i on s uppor t ed Marx' s cri t i que, but
ndded nua nc e. I n 1964, t he s oci ol ogi s t s Mel vi n Kohn and Ca r mi S c ho o l e r
2 4
surveyed 3, 100 Amer i c a n me n about thei r j obs a nd f ound t hat t he key t o
under s t a ndi ng whi ch j o bs wer e s at i s f yi ng wa s what they c a l l e d " o c c u p a -
tional sel f di rect i on. " Me n who were cl osel y s uper vi s ed i n j o b s of l ow c o m-
plexity and mu c h rout i ne s howed t he hi ghes t degr ee of al i enat i on ( f eel i ng
powerl es s , di s s at i s f i ed, and s epar at ed f r om t he work). Me n who ha d mo r e
l at i t ude i n deci di ng how they a ppr oa c he d work that wa s var i ed a nd chal -
l engi ng t ended t o enj oy their work muc h mor e. Whe n workers had o e c u p a -
l i onal sel f -di rect i on, thei r work was of t en sat i sf yi ng.
Mor e recent r es ear ch f i nds that mos t pe opl e appr oach t hei r wor k i n o ne
ol three ways: as a j ob, a career, or a cal l i ng.
2 5
If you s ee your wor k as a j o b,
you do i t only f or t he money, you l ook at t he cl ock f r equent l y whi l e d r e a m-
ing about t he we e ke nd a hea d, and you probabl y pur s ue hobbi e s , whi ch s at -
isfy your e f f e c t a nc e ne e ds mor e t horoughl y t han doe s your wor k. I f you s e e
yi>ur work as a career, you have larger goal s of a dva nc e me nt , pr omot i on, a nd
prest i ge. The pur s ui t of t hes e goal s of t en energi zes you, a nd you s o me t i me s
l ake work ho me with you be c a us e you want t o get t he j ob do ne properl y. Yet,
at t i mes , you wonder why you work so hard. You mi ght occas i onal l y s e e your
work as a rat r ace wher e pe opl e ar e c ompe t i ng for t he s ake of c ompe t i ng . I f
you s ee your work as a cal l i ng, however, you f i nd your work i nt ri ns i cal l y f ul -
f i l l i ngyou are not doi ng i t t o achi eve s omet hi ng el s e. You s e e your wor k as
cont ri but i ng t o t he great er good or as pl ayi ng a rol e i n s o me l ar ger e nt e r pr i s e
t he worth of whi ch s e e ms obvi ous t o you. You have f r equent e xpe r i e nc e s of
flow duri ng t he work day, and you nei t her look f orward t o " qui t t i ng t i me "
nor feel t he des i r e t o s hout , " Tha nk Go d it's Fri day! " You woul d c ont i nue t o
work, pe r ha ps even wi t hout pay, i f you s uddenl y b e c a me very wealthy.
2 2 2 ' i ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
You mi ght think that-bl ue-col l ar workers have j obs , manager s have ca-
reers, and the more r es pect ed prof es s i onal s (doctors, sci ent i st s, clergy) have
callings. Al though there i s s ome truth to that expect at i on, we can nonethe-
less par aphr as e Ma r c us Aurel i us and say, "Work itself i s but what you deem
it." Amy Wrzesni ewski , a psychol ogi st at Ne w York University, fi nds all three
orientations represent ed i n al mos t every occupat i on s he has exami ned.
2 6
In
a st udy of hospi tal workers, for exampl e, s he f ound that the j ani tors who
cl eaned bed pans and moppe d up vomi t per haps the l owest-ranki ng j ob i n
a hos pi t al s omet i mes s aw t hems el ves as part of a t eam whos e goal was to
heal peopl e. They went beyond the mi ni mum requi rement s of their j ob de-
scri pti on, for exampl e, by trying to bri ghten up the rooms of very si ck pa-
ti ents or ant i ci pat i ng t he ne e ds of t he doct or s a nd nur s e s rat her t han
waiting for orders. In so doi ng, they i ncreas ed their own occupat i onal self-
di recti on and cr eat ed f or t hems el ves j obs that s at i s f i ed thei r ef f ec t a nc e
needs. Thos e j ani tors who worked this way s aw their work as a cal l i ng and
enj oyed it far more than t hos e who s aw it as a j ob.
The opt i mi st i c concl us i on comi ng out of res earch i n posi ti ve psychol ogy
i s that mos t peopl e can get mor e s at i s f act i on f r om thei r work. The first
st ep i s t o know your st rengt hs. Take the st rengt hs t es t
2 7
and then choos e
work that al l ows you to us e your st rengt hs every day, thereby giving your-
self at l east s cat t ered mome nt s of flow. If you are s t uck in a j ob that doesn' t
mat ch your st rengt hs, recas t and r ef r ame your j ob so that i t does . Maybe
you'll have to do s ome extra work for a while, like t he hospi t al j ani tors who
were act i ng on st rengt hs of ki ndnes s , loving, emot i onal i nt el l i gence, or cit-
i zenshi p. If you can engage your s t rengt hs , you'll fi nd mor e grati fi cati on in
work; if you fi nd grati f i cati on, you'll shi f t into a more posi ti ve, approach-
ori ented mi nds et ; and i n s uch a mi nds et i t will be eas i er for you to s ee the
bigger pi c t ur e
2 8
t he cont ri but i on you are maki ng to a larger ent er pr i s e
within whi ch your j ob mi ght turn i nto a calling.
Work at its best , then, i s about connect i on, engagement , and commi t -
ment. As the poet Kahlil Gi br an sai d, "Work i s love ma de vi si bl e. " Echoi ng
Tolstoy, he gave exampl es of work done with love:
It is to weave the cloth with threads drawn from your heart,
even as if your beloved were to wear that cloth.
Ha-ppiness Comes from Between 22 1
It is to build a house with affection,
even as if your beloved were to dwell in that house.
It is to sow seeds with tenderness and reap the harvest with joy,
even as if your beloved were to eat the fruit.
29
Love a nd wor k ar e cr uci al f or hu ma n ha ppi ne s s be c a us e , whe n d o n e
well, t hey dr aw us out of our s el ves a nd i nt o c onnec t i on wi th peopl e a n d
proj ect s be yond our s el ves . Ha p p i ne s s c o me s f r om get t i ng t he s e c o n n e c -
ti ons right. Ha ppi ne s s c o me s not j us t f r om wi thi n, as Buddha a nd Epi c t e -
11is s uppos e d, or even f r om a c ombi na t i on of i nternal a nd ext ernal f a c t or s
( as I s ugge s t e d as a t emporary-f i x at t he e nd of c ha pt er 5). T h e cor r ect ver-
si on of t he ha ppi ne s s hypot hes i s , as I'll i l l us t rat e bel ow, i s t hat ha ppi ne s s
i ni nes f rom between.
V I T A L E N G A G E M E N T
I' l ant s thri ve under par t i cul ar condi t i ons , a nd bi ol ogi s t s c a n now tell us
how s unl i ght a nd wat er get conver t ed i nt o pl ant growt h. Peopl e thrive un-
der part i cul ar condi t i ons , a nd ps ychol ogi s t s c a n now tell us how l ove a nd
work get conver t ed i nt o ha ppi ne s s a nd a s e ns e of mea ni ng.
The ma n who f ound flow, Mi hal yi Cs i ks zent mi hal yi , t hi nks bi g. Not c on-
tent t o s t udy mo me nt s of f l ow (by beepi ng pe opl e several t i mes a day) , he
want ed to know what rol e fl ow pl ays i n l i f e as a whol e, part i cul arl y i n t he
lives of creat i ve peopl e. So he t ur ned t o t he expert s : par agons of s uc c e s s i n
I lie arts a nd s c i enc es . He a nd hi s s t udent s have i nt ervi ewed hundr e ds of
Mii ccs s f ul pai nt er s , dancer s , poet s , novel i s t s , phys i ci s t s , bi ol ogi st s, a nd psy-
i hol ogi s t s al l peopl e who s e e m t o have cr af t ed lives for t hems el ves bui l t
illiHind a c ons umi ng pas s i on. The s e ar e a dmi r a bl e lives, des i r abl e li ves, t he
.oil t hat ma ny y o u ng pe opl e dr e a m of ha vi ng whe n t hey l ook t o t he s e
peopl e as rol e mode l s . Cs i ks zent mi hal yi wa nt e d t o know how s uc h l i ves
happened. Ho w does a per s on c o me t o ma k e s uc h a c o mmi t me nt t o a f i el d
aiiI then be c o me so extraordi nari l y creat i ve?
I lis i nt er vi ews ' s howed that every pat h i s uni que , yet mos t of t he m l ed i n
I he s a me di rect i on: f r om initial i nt eres t a nd enj oyment , wi th mo me nt s of
2 2 4 ' i ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
fl ow, through a rel ati onshi p to peopl e, pr act i ces , and val ues that deepened
over many years, thereby enabl i ng even l onger peri ods of flow. Csi kszent -
mihalyi and his s t udent s , parti cul arl y J e a nne Na ka mur a , have st udi ed the
end state of thi s deepeni ng pr oces s and cal l ed i t "vital engagement , " which
they def i ne as "a rel ati onshi p to the worl d that is charact eri zed both by ex-
peri ences of fl ow (enj oyed abs orpt i on) a nd by meani ng ( s ubj ect i ve signifi-
cance) . "
3 0
Vital engagement i s anot her way of sayi ng that work has become
"love ma de vi si bl e"; Na ka mur a and Cs i ks zent mi hal yi even des cr i be vital
engagement i n words that coul d al mos t have been t aken f rom a romance
novel: " Ther e is a strong felt connect i on bet ween self and obj ect ; a writer
is ' swept away' by a proj ect , a s ci ent i s t is ' mes meri zed by the s t ar s . ' The re-
l ati onshi p has subj ect i ve meani ng; work is a ' cal l i ng. ' "
3 1
Vital engagement is a s ubt l e concept , and the first t i me I taught a course
on posi ti ve psychology, the s t udent s weren' t get t i ng it, I t hought that an ex-
ampl e woul d hel p, so I cal l ed on a woma n who had been qui et i n cl as s , but
who had once ment i oned her i nt erest in horses. I as ked Kat heri ne to tell us
how s he got involved i n riding. S he des cr i bed her chi l dhood love of ani-
mal s, and her i nterest i n hors es i n parti cul ar. At the age of t en s he begged
her parent s to let her t ake ri di ng l es s ons , and they agreed. S he rode for fun
at f i r s t , . but s oon began ri di ng i n c ompe t i t i ons . Whe n i t c a me t i me t o
choos e a col l ege, s he chos e the Uni versi ty of Virginia in part bec a us e it had
an excel l ent riding t eam.
Kat heri ne was shy, and, af t er narrat i ng t hes e bas i c f act s , s he s t opped
talking. She had told us about her-i ncreasi ng c ommi t me nt to riding, but vi-
tal engagement is more than j us t c ommi t ment . I probed further. 1 asked
whet her s he coul d tell us the na me s of s peci f i c horses f r om previ ous cen-
turies. She smi l ed and sai d, al mos t as i f admi t t i ng a s ecret , that s he had
begun to read about horses when s he began to ride, and that s he knew a
great deal about t he history of hors es and about f a mous hors es i n history. I
asked whet her s he had ma de f ri ends t hrough riding, and s he told us that
most of her cl os e f ri ends were " horse f r i ends , " peopl e s he knew f rom horse
shows and f rom ri di ng together. As s he tal ked, s he grew mor e ani mat ed
and conf i dent . It was as cl ear f rom her demeanor as f rom her words th;it
Kat heri ne had f ound vital e ng a g e me nt i n riding. J us t as Na ka mur a and
Csi kszent mi hal yi had sai d, her initial i nt erest grew into an ever-deepeni ng
Ha-ppiness Comes from Between 22 1
i cl al i ons hi p, an ever - t hi ckeni ng we b c onne c t i ng her t o an activity, a t r adi -
tion, a nd a communi t y. Ri di ng f or Kat her i ne ha d b e c o me a s our c e of f l ow,
|oy, identity, e f f e c t a nc e , and r el at ednes s . I t wa s part of her a ns we r t o t he
i | i i esti on of pur pos e wi t hi n li fe.
Vital e nga ge me nt does not res i de i n t he per s on or i n t he e nvi r onme nt ; i t
exi sts i n t he rel at i onshi p between t he two. The we b of me a ni ng t hat e ng ul f e d
Kat heri ne grew and t hi ckened gradual l y a nd organically, over ma ny yea r s . Vi-
Inl e nga ge me nt i s what I was mi s s i ng dur i ng my s eni or year of hi gh s c hool . I
had love, and I had work (in t he f or m of reas onabl y chal l engi ng hi gh s c hool
i l as s es ) , but my work was not part of a l arger proj ect beyond get t i ng i nt o col -
lege. In f act , i t was preci sel y when t he col l ege proj ect wa s e n d i n g wh e n I
I I I i d sent of f my col l ege appl i cat i ons a nd was in l i mbo, not knowi ng whe r e
I woul d go next t hat I be c a me paral yzed by t he Hol y Que s t i o n.
( l et t i ng t he right rel at i ons hi p bet ween you a nd your wor k i s not ent i r el y
up t o you. S o me oc c upa t i ons c o me r eady- made for vital e ng a g e me nt ; ot he r s
make i t di f f i cul t . As mar ket f or ces wer e r es hapi ng ma ny pr o f e s s i o ns i n t he
Uni t ed S t a t e s dur i ng t he 1 9 9 0 s me d i c i ne , j our na l i s m, s c i e nc e , e d u c a -
tion, and t he a r t s pe opl e i n t hos e f i el ds began t o c ompl a i n t hat t he qua l -
ity of wor k a nd t he qual i t y of l i f e we r e s o me t i me s c o mp r o mi s e d by t he
l el ent l es s dri ve t o i ncr eas e prof i t s. Cs i ks zent mi hal yi t e a me d up wi t h t wo
ot her l eadi ng ps yc hol og i s t s Howa r d Ga r dne r at Har var d, a nd Wi l l i a m Da -
mon at S t a nf o r dt o s t udy t hes e c ha nge s , and t o s e e why s o me p r o f e s s i o ns
M-emcd heal t hy whi l e ot hers were growi ng si ck. Pi cki ng t he f i el ds of g e ne t -
l i s and j our na l i s m as c a s e s t udi es , t hey c o nduc t e d doz e ns of i nt e r vi e ws
with peopl e i n e a c h f i el d. Thei r c onc l us i on
3 2
i s as pr of ound as i t i s s i mp l e :
It's a mat t er of al i gnment . Whe n doi ng good ( doi ng hi gh-qual i t y wor k t hat
pi oduc es s ome t hi ng of us e t o ot her s ) ma t c he s up wi th doi ng wel l ( a c hi e v-
ing weal t h and pr of es s i onal a dva nc e me nt ) , a f i el d i s heal thy. Ge n e t i c s , f or
exampl e, i s a heal t hy fi el d be c a us e all par t i es i nvol ved r es pect a nd r e wa r d
I lie very bes t s c i enc e. Even t hough pha r ma c e ut i c a l c o mpa ni e s a n d ma r k e t
Ion cs were begi nni ng t o i nj ect vast a mo unt s of money i nt o uni ver s i t y re-
xe.iieh l abs i n t he 1990s , t he s ci ent i s t s who m Cs i ks z ent mi ha l yi , Ga r d ne r ,
iticI Da mo n i nt er vi ewed di d not bel i eve t hey wer e be i ng a s k e d t o l owe r
their s t andar ds , cheat , lie, or sell thei r s oul s . Genet i c i s t s bel i eved . that t hei r
hel d was i n a gol den age i n whi ch excel l ent work br ought gr eat b e n e f i t s t o
2 2 6 ' i ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
the general publ i c, the phar maceut i cal compani es , the uni versi ti es, and the
sci enti sts t hemsel ves.
J ournal i st s, on the other hand, were i n troubl e. Mos t of t hem had gone
into j ournal i s m with high i deal s r es pect for t he truth, a des i re to make a
di f f erence in the worl d, and a f i rm bel i ef that a f ree pr es s is a cruci al sup-
port of democracy. But by the 1990s , the decl i ne of fami l y-run news paper s
and the rise of corporat e medi a empi r es had convert ed Amer i can j ournal -
i sm into j us t anot her profit cent er wher e the only thi ng that mat t ered was
will it sell, and will it outsel l our compet i t or s ? Good j our nal i s m was some-
t i mes bad for bus i nes s . Sca r e stori es, exaggerat i on, t r umped up conf l i ct ,
and sexual s candal , all cut up into tiny di gest i bl e pi eces , were of t en more
prof i tabl e. Ma ny j ournal i s t s who wor ked for t hes e empi r es c onf e s s e d t o
havi ng a s ens e of bei ng f orced to sell out and vi ol ate their own moral stan-
dards. Thei r world was unal i gned, and they coul d not be c ome vitally en-
gaged i n t he larger but i gnobl e mi s s i on of gai ni ng market s hare at any cost.
. . C R O S S - L E V E L C O H E R E N C E
The word " coher ence" literally mea ns hol di ng or sti cki ng together, but i t
is usual l y us ed to refer to a s ys t em, an i dea, or a worl dvi ew whos e part s fit
together in a cons i s t ent and ef f i ci ent way. Coher ent thi ngs work well: A
coher ent worl dvi ew can expl ai n a l mos t anyt hi ng, whi l e an i ncoher ent
worl dvi ew i s hobbl ed by i nternal cont r adi ct i ons . A coher ent pr of es s i on,
s uch as genet i cs , can get on with the bus i nes s of genet i cs , whi l e an inco-
herent prof es s i on, like j our nal i s m, s pe nds a lot of t i me on sel f -anal ysi s and
sel f -cri t i ci sm.
3 3
Mos t peopl e know there' s a pr obl em, but they can' t agree
on what to do about it.
Whenever a syst em can be anal yzed at mul t i pl e levels, a s peci al kind of
coher ence occurs when the levels me s h and mut ual l y i nterl ock. We saw
this cross-l evel coher ence in the anal ysi s of personal i ty: If your lower-level
traits mat ch up with your copi ng me c ha ni s ms , whi ch i n turn are consi st ent
with your life story, your personal i ty is well i nt egrat ed and you can get on
with the bus i nes s of living. Whe n t hes e l evel s do not cohere, you are likely
Ha-ppiness Comes from Between 22 1
l o be torn by i nt ernal cont r adi ct i ons a nd neur ot i c c onf l i c t s .
3 4
You mi g h t
need adversi t y t o knoc k yours el f i nt o al i gnment . And i f you do achi eve c o-
her ence, t he mo me nt when t hi ngs c o me t oget her may be o ne of t he mo s t
pr of ound of your l i f e. Li ke t he movi e g oe r who l at er f i nds out wha t s h e
mi s s e d i n t he f i rst hal f hour, your l i f e will s udde nl y ma k e mo r e s e n s e ,
f i nd i ng c ohe r e nc e a c r os s l evel s f eel s l i ke e nl i ght e nme nt ,
3 5
a nd i t i s c r uc i a l
for ans wer i ng t he que s t i on of pur pos e wi t hi n life.
Peopl e are mul t i l evel s ys t e ms i n a not her way: We ar e physical o b j e c t s
( bodi e s a nd br ai ns ) f r om whi c h minds s o me ho w e me r g e ; a nd f r om o u r
mi nds , s ome how societies and cultures f or m.
3 6
To under s t a nd our s el ves f ul l y
we mus t s t udy all t hree l evel s phys i cal , ps ychol ogi cal , a nd s oci ocul t ur a l .
There ha s l ong be e n a di vi si on of a c a d e mi c l abor: Bi ol ogi s t s s t udi e d t he
brai n as a physi cal obj ect , ps ychol ogi s t s s t udi ed t he mi nd, a nd s oci ol ogi s t s
and ant hr opol ogi s t s s t udi ed t he soci al l y c ons t r uc t ed e nvi r onme nt s wi t hi n
whi ch mi nds devel op a nd f unc t i on. But a di vi si on of l abor i s pr oduc t i ve
only when t he t as ks ar e c ohe r e nt whe n all l i nes of wor k event ual l y c o m-
bi ne t o ma ke s omet hi ng great er t han t he s u m of its part s . For mu c h of t he
t went i et h cent ur y t hat didn' t h a p p e n e a c h fi el d i gnored t he ot her s a nd f o-
c us e d on its own ques t i ons . But nowadays cros s -di s ci pl i nary wor k i s f l our -
i shi ng, s pr eadi ng out f r om t he mi ddl e level ( psychol ogy) a l ong br i dges (or
per haps l adders ) down t o t he phys i cal l evel (for exa mpl e, t he f i el d of cogni -
tive neur os ci ence) a nd up t o t he s oci ocul t ural level (for e x a mpl e , cul t ur al
psychol ogy) . The s c i e nc e s are l i nki ng up, generat i ng cros s -l evel c ohe r e nc e ,
and, like magi c, bi g ne w i deas ar e begi nni ng t o emer ge.
I l er e i s one of t he mo s t pr of ound i deas t o c o me f r om t he ongoi ng s ynt he-
s i s : People gain a sense of meaning when their lives cohere across the three lev-
i*/s of their existence.
37
Th e bes t way I can i l l ustrate t hi s i dea is to t ake you
back t o Bhubanes war , Indi a. I have al ready expl ai ned t he l ogi c of puri ty a nd
pol l uti on, s o you under s t a nd why Hi ndus bat he bef or e ma ki ng an of f er i ng
l o Clod, and why they ar e car ef ul about what they t ouc h on t he way t o t he
t empl e. You under s t and why cont act wi th a dog, a me ns t r ua t i ng woma n, or
a pers on of l ow cas t e c a n r ender a per s on of hi gh c a s t e t empor ar i l y i mpur e
H I U L unfi t to ma ke an of f eri ng. But you under s t and all t hi s onl y at t he ps y-
chol ogi cal level and, even t hen, onl y as a s et of pr opos i t i ons g r a s pe d by t he
2 2 8 ' i ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
rider and stored away as explicit knowl edge. You do not feel pol l ut ed after
t ouchi ng the arm of a woman you know to he mens t ruat i ng; you do not even
know what it woul d feel like to feel pol l ut ed in that way.
Suppos e, however, that you grow up as a Brahmi n in Bhubaneswar. Every
day of your life you have to respect the invisible l i nes separat i ng pure from
prof ane s paces , and you have to keep track of peopl e' s f l uct uat i ng levels of
purity bef or e you can t ouch t hem or t ake anyt hi ng f rom thei r hands . You
bathe several ti mes a dayshort baths or brief i mmers i ons in sacred wat er
always bef ore maki ng a rel i gi ous of f eri ng. And your of f eri ngs are not j ust
words: You actually give s ome f ood to Go d (the priest t ouches your offeri ng to
the i mage, icon, or obj ect in the inner s anct um) , which is returned to you so
that you may eat what God left over. Eat i ng someone' s l eftovers shows a will-
i ngness to take in that person' s saliva, whi ch demons t rat es both i nti macy and
subordination in Bhubaneswar. Eat i ng God' s leftovers is an act of intimacy,
and subordi nati on, too. After twenty years of t hes e pract i ces , your under-
standi ng of Hi ndu rituals is visceral. Your explicit unders t andi ng is supported
by a hundred physical feelings: shivering duri ng the morni ng bat h at sunrise;
the pl easure of washi ng off dust and put t i ng on cl ean cl othes af ter a bath on
a hot afternoon; the feel i ng of bare feet on cool stone floors as you approach
the inner s anct um; the smell of i ncens e; the s ound of mumbl e d prayers i n
Sanskrit, the bland (pure) taste of ri ce that has been returned to you from
God. In all t hes e ways, your under s t andi ng at the psychol ogi cal level has
spread down to your physi cal embodi ment , and when the concept ual and
visceral levels connect , the rituals feel right to you.
Your underst andi ng of ritual s pr eads up to the soci ocul tural level, too. You
are i mmers ed in a 4, 000-year-ol d religious tradition that provi ded most of the
stories you heard as a child, many of whi ch involved plot el ement s of purity
and pollution. Hi ndui s m structures your social s pa c e through a cas t e system
based on the purity and pollution of vari ous occupat i ons , and it structures
your physical s pace with the topography of purity and pollution that keeps
templ es, ki tchens, and right hands pure. Hi ndui s m al s o gives you a cosmol -
ogy in which soul s rei ncarnate by movi ng up or down on the vertical di men-
sion of divinity. So every ti me you ma ke an offeri ng to God, the three levels
of your exi stence are all aligned and mut ual l y interlocking. Your physical feel-
Ha-ppiness Comes from Between 22 1
Ings and c ons c i ous t hought s coher e with your act i ons , a nd all of i t ma k e s
perf ect s e ns e wi thi n t he larger cul t ure of whi ch you are a part. As you ma k e
mi of f eri ng t o God, you don' t think, " What does this all me a n? Why am I do-
i ng t hi s?" The exper i ence of mea ni ngf ul nes s j us t ha ppens . I t e me r g e s a ut o-
mati cal l y f rom cross-l evel coher ence. Onc e agai n, ha ppi ne s s or a s e n s e of
meani ngf ul nes s that i mpart s ri chnes s t o e xpe r i e nc e c ome s f r om be t we e n.
In cont r as t , thi nk ahout t he last empt y ritual you t ook part in. Ma y b e y o u
were as ked t o j oi n ha nds and chant wi th a gr oup of s t r anger s whi l e a t t e nd-
ing a weddi ng c e r e mony for a f ri end who is of a di f f erent rel i gi on. Pe r ha ps
you took part i n a new age cer emony that borrowed e l e me nt s f r om Na t i v e
Amer i cans , anci ent Cel t s , and Ti bet an Buddhi s t s . You pr obabl y unde r s t o o d
t he s ymbol i s m of t he r i t ual under s t ood i t cons ci ous l y and expl i ci t l y i n t he
way that t he ri der i s so good at doi ng. Yet you fel t s e l f - c ons c i ous , ma y b e
even silly, whi l e doi ng it. Some t hi ng wa s mi s s i ng.
Vou can' t j us t i nvent a good ritual t hr ough r eas oni ng a bout s y mb o l i s m.
Yc u i need a tradi ti on wi thi n whi ch the s ymbol s are e mb e d d e d , a nd you n e e d
t o invoke bodily f eel i ngs that have s o me appr opr i at e as s oci at i ons . The n y o u
need a c ommuni t y to endor s e and pr act i ce i t over t i me. To t he ext ent t ha t a
communi t y has many ri tual s that coher e acr os s t he t hree l evel s , p e o p l e i n
t he c ommuni t y ar e likely t o f eel t hems el ves c onne c t e d t o t he c o mmu n i t y
and its tradi ti ons. I f t he communi t y al s o of f er s gui da nc e on ho w t o live a nd
what i s of val ue, t hen peopl e ar e unlikely t o wonder about t he que s t i on of
pur pos e wi thi n life. Me a ni ng and pur pos e s i mpl y e me r ge f r om t he c o he r -
ence, and peopl e can get on with t he bus i ne s s of living. But conf l i ct , par al y-
sis. and a nomi e ar e likely when a c ommuni t y fai l s to provi de c ohe r e nc e , or,
worse, when i ts pr a ct i ces cont r adi ct peopl e' s gut f eel i ngs or t hei r s ha r e d
mythol ogy and ideology. ( Mar t i n Lut her Ki ng, Jr., f or ced Ame r i c a ns t o c o n-
f r ont cont radi ct i ons bet ween pr act i ces of raci al s egregat i on a nd i deal s a b o u t
equal i t y and f r eedom. Ma ny peopl e didn' t like that. ) Peopl e don' t ne c e s s a r i l y
need t o f i nd mea ni ng i n their nat i onal i dent i t yi ndeed, i n l ar ge a nd di ve r s e
nati ons s uch as t he Uni t ed St at es , Rus s i a , a nd I ndi a, rel i gi on mi ght hol d
great er pr omi s e for cross-l evel c oher enc e and pur pos e wi t hi n life. Rel i gi ons
do s uch a good j ob of cr eat i ng c oher enc e, i n f act , t hat s o me s c hol a r s
3 8
be -
l i eve they were des i gned for that pur pos e.
2 3 0 ' i ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
G O D G I V E S U S H I V E S
When I first hegan to study morality as a phi l osophy maj or in col l ege, my fa-
ther sai d, "Why aren't you studyi ng religion, too? How coul d peopl e have
morality without God? " As a young at hei st with a st rong s ens e of morality
(well over the border into sel f -ri ght eousness) , I was i ns ul t ed by my father' s
suggest i on. Morality, I thought, was about rel at i onshi ps a mo ng peopl e; i t
was about a commi t ment to doi ng the right thing, even when it goes agai nst
your self-interest. Rel i gi on, I thought, was a bunch of rul es that ma de no
s ens e and stori es that coul d never have happened, written down by peopl e
and then falsely attri buted to a supernat ural entity.
I now bel i eve my f ather was ri ght moral i t y has its ori gi ns i n rel i gi on
but not for the reas ons he bel i eved. Moral i ty and rel i gi on bot h occur i n
s ome form i n all human cul t ur es
3 9
and are al mos t al ways bot h i ntertwi ned
with the val ues, identity, and daily life of t he cul t ure. Anyone who want s a
full, cross-l evel account of human nat ure, and of how huma n bei ngs find
pur pos e and meani ng i n their lives, mus t make that a c c ount coher e with
what i s known about morality and religion.
From an evol uti onary perspect i ve, moral i ty is a pr obl em. If evol uti on is
all about survival of t he f i t t est , t hen why do peopl e hel p e a c h ot her so
muc h? Why do they give to charity, risk their lives to s ave s t rangers , and
vol unteer to fight i n wars? Darwi n t hought the ans wer was easy: Al t rui sm
evolves for the good of the group:
There can be no doubt that a tribe i ncl udi ng many member s who, from
possessi ng in a high degree the spirit of patriotism, fidelity, obedi ence,
courage, and sympathy, were always ready to aid one another, and to sac-
rifice themsel ves for the common good would be victorious over most
other tribes, and this would be natural sel ecti on.
4 0
Darwi n propos ed that groups compet e, j us t like i ndi vi dual s, and there-
fore psychol ogi cal f eat ures that make groups s uc c e s s f ul s uc h as patriot-
i sm, courage, and al trui sm toward fel l ow group me mbe r s s houl d spread
like any other trait. But once evol uti onary theori sts began t est i ng predi c-
Ha-ppiness Comes from Between 22 1
li ons rigorously, us i ng comput er s t o model the i nt eract i ons of i ndi vi dual s
who us e vari ous strategi es ( s uch as pure s el f i s hnes s versus tit for tat), t hey
<|uickly c a me t o appr eci at e the s er i ous nes s of t he "free-ri der pr obl e m. " In
groups i n whi ch peopl e make sacri f i ces for the c ommon good, an i ndi vi dual
who makes no s uch s acr i f i ces who i n ef f ect t akes a free ri de on the b a c k s
of the al t r ui s t s comes out ahead. In the cold logic of t hes e c omput e r s i m-
ulations, whoever a c c umul a t es the mos t r es our ces i n one generat i on g o e s
on to pr oduce more chi l dren i n the next, so s el f i s hnes s i s adapt i ve but al t r u-
ism i s not. The only sol uti on to t he free-rider pr obl em i s to ma ke al t r ui s m
pay, and two back-t o-back breakt hroughs i n evol uti onary t hi nki ng s ho we d
how to do that. In chapt er 3 I pr es ent ed kin al t rui sm ( be ni ce to t hos e wh o
share your genes ) and reci procal al trui sm ( be ni ce t o t hos e who mi ght r eci p-
rocate i n the f ut ur e) as two s t eps on the way t o ultrasociality. Onc e t he s e
two sol uti ons t o t he free-ri der probl em were publ i s hed (in 1966 and 1 9 7 1 ,
respecti vel y),
41
mos t evol uti onary theori sts cons i der ed the pr obl e m of al t ru-
ism solved and essenti al l y decl ared group sel ect i on illegal. Al t r ui s m c o ul d
he expl ai ned away as a speci al kind of s el f i s hnes s , and anyone who f ol l owed
Darwi n i n thi nki ng that evol uti on worked f or t he "good of t he gr oup" i n-
st ead of the good of the individual (or better yet, the good of t he g e ne ) ,
4 2
was di s mi s s ed as a mus hy- headed romant i c.
The ban on group sel ect i on had one l oophol e. For cr eat ur es that really do
c ompet e, live, a nd di e as a group, s uch as t he ot her ul t r as oci al a ni ma l s
( bees, was ps , ant s, termi tes, and naked mol e rats), group s el ect i on expl ana-
tions were appropri at e. Ther e is a real s ens e in whi ch a beehi ve or an ant
colony is a si ngl e organi sm, each i nsect a cell in t he larger body.
4 3
Li ke s t e m
cells, ant s can take di f f erent physi cal f or ms t o per f or m s peci f i c f unc t i ons
needed by the col ony: smal l bodi es to care for larva, larger bodi es with s pe-
cial appendages to f orage for f ood or fight of f at t ackers. Li ke cel l s i n the i m-
mune syst em, ant s will sacri f i ce t hems el ves t o prot ect the col ony: In o ne
s peci es of Mal ays i an ant ,
4 4
me mbe r s of the sol di er cas t e s t ore a sticky s ub-
s t ance j us t under their exoskel et ons. In the mi ds t of bat t l e, they expl ode
their bodi es, t urni ng t hems el ves i nto s ui ci de bomber s t o g u m up their ad-
versaries. For ant s and bees , the queen i s not the brain; s he i s t he ovary, a nd
I he enti re hive or col ony can be s een as a body s haped by nat ur al s el ect i on
2 3 2 ' i ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
to protect the ovary and hel p it creat e more hives or col oni es. Be c a us e all
member s really are i n the s a me boat, group sel ecti on i s not j us t per mi s s i bl e
as an expl anati on; it is mandatory.
Mi ght this loophole appl y t o humans as well? Do huma ns compet e, live,
and di e as a group? Tri bes and ethni c groups do grow and spread or f ade and
die out, and s omet i mes this proces s has occurred by genoci de. Furt hermore,
human soci eti es often have an extraordinary division of labor, so t he compar -
ison to bees and ants i s tempti ng. But as long as each human bei ng has the
opportunity to reproduce, t he evolutionary payof f s for investing in one' s own
wel fare and one' s own of f s pri ng will al mos t al ways exceed the payof f s for
contri buti ng to the group; in the long run, sel fi sh traits will therefore spread
at the expens e of altruistic traits. Even duri ng war and genoci de, when group
interests are mos t compel l i ng, i t i s the coward who runs and hi des, rather
than j oi ni ng his comr ades on the front lines, who i s most likely to pas s on his
genes to the next generat i on. Evol uti onary theori sts have t heref ore s t ood
uni ted, si nce the early 1970s , in their belief that group sel ecti on si mpl y did
not play a role in shapi ng human nature.
But wait a s econd. Thi s i s not an all-or-nothing i ssue. Even i f t he c ompe -
tition of individuals within a group is the mos t i mport ant pr oces s in huma n
evol uti on, group sel ecti on ( compet i t i on between groups ) coul d have pl ayed
a role too. The evolutionary biologist Davi d Sl oan Wi l s on
4 5
has r e c e ndy ar-
gued that the bani s hment of group sel ect i on theori es on the bas i s of s ome
overs i mpl i f i ed comput er model s f r om the 1960s was one of t he bi gges t
mi s t akes in the history of moder n biology. If you make the model s mor e re-
alistic, mor e like real human bei ngs, group sel ect i on j umps right out at you.
Wi l son poi nts out that huma n bei ngs evolve at two levels s i mul t aneous l y:
geneti c and cul tural . The s i mpl e model s of the 1960s worked well for crea-
tures wi thout cul ture; for t hem, behavioral traits mus t all be e nc ode d i n the
genes , whi ch are pas s ed on only al ong l i nes of ki nshi p. But everyt hi ng a
person does i s i nf l uenced not only by her genes but al so by her cul t ure, and
cul t ures evolve, too. Be c a us e el ement s of cul t ure s how vari ati on ( peopl e
invent new thi ngs) and sel ect i on (other peopl e do or don' t adopt t hos e vari-
at i ons) , cul t ural traits can be anal yzed i n a Dar wi ni an f r a me wor k
4 6
j us t
as well as physi cal traits (bi rds' beaks , gi raf f es' necks) . Cul t ur al el ement s ,
Ha-ppiness Comes from Between 22 1
however, don' t s pr ea d by t he sl ow pr oc e s s of havi ng chi l dr en; t hey s p r e a d
rapi dl y whenever pe opl e adopt a new behavi or, t echnol ogy, or bel i ef . Cu l -
tural trai ts c a n even s pr ea d f r om tri be t o tri be or nat i on t o nat i on, as wh e n
t he pl ough, t he pri nt i ng pr es s , or reality tel evi si on pr og r a ms b e c a me p o p u -
lar i n ma ny pl a c e s i n qui c k s uc c e s s i on.
Cul t ur al and genet i c evol uti on are i ntertwi ned. The hu ma n c a pa c i t y f or
c ul t ur e a s t rong t endency t o l earn f r om ea c h other, t o t e a c h e a c h ot her,
and t o bui l d upon what we have l ear nedi s itself a genet i c i nnovat i on t hat
ha ppe ne d i n s t ages over t he last f ew mi l l i on year s .
4 7
But o n c e our br ai ns
r eached a critical t hres hol d, per haps 8 0 , 0 0 0 t o 100, 000 years a go,
4 8
cul t ur al
i nnovati on began t o accel er at e; a s t rong evol uti onary pr e s s ur e t hen s ha p e d
brai ns t o t ake f urt her advant age of cul t ure. Indi vi dual s who c oul d bes t l ear n
f rom ot hers were mor e s uc c es s f ul than thei r l ess " cul t ur ed" br et hr en, a nd as
brai ns be c a me mor e cul t ural , cul t ur es b e c a me mor e el abor at e, f ur t her in-
cr eas i ng t he advant age of havi ng a mor e cul t ural brai n. All h u ma n bei ngs to-
day are t he pr oduct s of t he co-evol uti on of a set of ge ne s ( whi ch i s a l mos t
i denti cal acr os s cul t ur es ) and a s et of cul t ural e l e me nt s ( whi c h i s di ver s e
acr os s cul t ures , but still cons t r ai ned by t he capaci t i es a nd pr e di s pos i t i ons
of t he huma n mi nd) .
4 9
For exampl e, t he genet i c evol ut i on of t he emot i on of
di s gus t ma d e i t pos s i bl e ( but not i nevi t abl e) for cul t ur es t o de ve l op c a s t e
s ys t ems ba s e d on oc c upa t i on a nd s uppor t ed by di s gus t t owa r d t hos e wh o
per f or m " pol l ut i ng" act i vi t i es . A c a s t e s ys t e m t hen r e s t r i c t s ma r r i a ge t o
wi t hi n-cast e pai ri ngs, whi ch i n turn al t ers t he cour s e of ge ne t i c evol ut i on.
Af t er a t hous and years of i nbreedi ng wi thi n cas t e, c a s t e s will di ver ge sl i ghtl y
on a f ew genet i c t r ai t s f or exampl e, s ha de s of ski n c o l o r whi c h mi ght i n
turn l ead to a growi ng cul tural as s oci at i on of cas t e wi th col or r at her t han j us t
with occupat i on. (It onl y t akes twenty generat i ons of s el ect i ve br eedi ng t o
cr eat e l arge di f f er ences of a ppea r a nce and behavi or i n ot her ma mma l s . )
5 0
I n
this way, genes and cul t ur es co-evol ve;
5 1
they mut ual l y a f f ec t e a c h other, a nd
nei ther pr oces s c a n be s t udi ed i n i sol ati on f or huma n bei ngs .
Wi l s on e x a mi ne s rel i gi on f r om t hi s co- evol ut i onar y p e r s p e c t i v e . T h e
word religion literally me a ns , i n Lat i n, t o link or bi nd t oget her ; a nd de s pi t e
the vast vari at i on i n t he worl d' s rel i gi ons, Wi l s on s hows t ha t rel i gi ons al-
ways s er ve t o c oor di na t e a nd ori ent peopl e' s behavi or t owa r d e a c h ot he r
2 3 4 ' i ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
and toward the group as a whol e, s omet i mes for the pur pos e of compet i ng
with ot her groups . The s oci ol ogi s t Emi l e Dur khe i m f i rst devel oped thi s
view of religion in 1912:
A religion is a unified system of bel i efs and practi ces relative to sacred
things, that is to say, things set apart and f orbi ddenbel i ef s and prac-
tices which unite into one single moral communi t y cal l ed a church, all
those who adhere to t hem.
5 2
Wi l son s hows how rel i gi ous pr act i ces hel p me mbe r s sol ve coordi nat i on
pr obl ems . For exampl e, t rust and t her ef or e t r ade ar e great l y e nha nc e d
when all parti es are part of the s a me rel i gi ous communi t y, and when reli-
gi ous bel i ef s ay that God knows and car es about t he hones t y of the par-
ties. ( The anthropol ogi st Pascal Boyer
5 3
poi nt s out that gods and ances t or
spirits are of t en thought to be omni s ci ent , yet what they mos t car e about i n
this vast uni verse i s the moral i nt ent i ons hi dden i n t he heart s of the living.)
Res pect for rul es i s enhanced when rul es have an el ement of s acr ednes s ,
and when they are backed up by s upernat ural s anct i on and t he gos s i p or
os t raci s m of one' s peers. Wi l son' s cl ai m i s that rel i gi ous i deas , and brai ns
that r es ponded to t hos e i deas, corevol ved. Even i f t he bel i ef i n s upernat u-
ral enti ti es emerged originally for s ome other reas on, or as an acci dent al
byproduct i n the evolution of cogni t i on (as s ome s chol ar s have cl ai med) ,
5 4
groups that parl ayed t hos e bel i ef s into soci al coordi nat i on devi ces (for ex-
ampl e, by linking t hem t o emot i ons s uch as s ha me , fear, gui l t, and love)
f ound a cul tural sol ut i on to t he f ree-ri der pr obl em and t hen r eaped the
enor mous benef i t s of trust and cooperat i on. If st ronger bel i ef led to greater
i ndi vi dual benef i t s , or if a gr oup devel oped a way to puni s h or excl ude
t hose who di d not share i n its bel i ef s and pr act i ces , condi t i ons were per-
f ect for the co-evol uti on of religion and rel i gi ous brai ns. ( Cons i s t ent with
Wilson' s proposal , t he genet i ci st De a n Ha me r recent l y report ed evi dence
f rom twin s t udi es that s ugges t s a part i cul ar gene may be as s oci at ed with a
stronger t endency t o have rel i gi ous and s el f - t r ans cendent exper i ences . )
5 5
Rel i gi on, t her ef or e, coul d have pul l ed huma n bei ngs i nt o the group-
sel ecti on l oophol e. By maki ng peopl e l ong ago f eel and act as t hough they
Ha-ppiness Comes from Between 22 1
were part of one body, rel i gi on r e duc e d t he i nf l ue nc e of i ndi vi dual s el ec -
l ion ( whi ch s ha p e s i ndi vi dua l s t o be s e l f i s h) a nd br ought i nt o p l a y t he
f orce of gr oup s el ect i on ( whi ch s ha pe s i ndi vi dual s t o wor k for t he g o o d of
their gr oup) . But we di dn' t ma ke i t all t he wa y t hr ough t he l oophol e : Hu-
man nat ur e i s a c ompl e x mi x of pr epar at i ons f or ext r eme s e l f i s hne s s a nd
ext r eme al t r ui s m. Whi c h s i de of our nat ur e we expr es s d e p e nd s on c ul t ur e
and cont ext . Whe n oppone nt s of evol ut i on obj ect t hat hu ma n b e i n g s ar e
not me r e a pes , t hey ar e cor r ect . We ar e a l s o part bee.
H A R M O N Y A N D P U R P O S E
Headi ng Wi l son' s Darwin's Cathedral is l i ke t aki ng a j our ne y to S p a e e l a n d .
You c a n l ook down on t he vas t t apes t r y of hu ma n c ul t ur e s a nd s e e why
tilings ar e woven i n t he way t hat t hey are. Wi l s on s ays hi s own pr i va t e hell
woul d be t o be l ocked f or ever i nt o a r oom f ul l of pe opl e d i s c u s s i n g t he
hypocri s i es of rel i gi on, f or exa mpl e, t hat ma ny rel i gi ons pr e a c h l ove, c o m-
pas s i on, and vi rt ue yet s o me t i me s c a us e war, hat r ed, a nd t er r or i s m. Fr om
Wi l s on' s hi gher pe r s pe c t i ve , t her e i s no c ont r a di c t i on. Gr o u p s e l e c t i o n
cr eat es i nt er l ocki ng genet i c a nd cul t ural a da pt a t i ons t hat e n h a n c e pe a c e ,
harmony, and cooper at i on within t he gr oup f or t he e xpr e s s p u r p o s e of in-
cr eas i ng t he group' s abi l i ty t o c o mp e t e wi th other gr oups . Gr o u p s el ec t i on
does not end conf l i ct ; i t j us t p us he s i t up t o t he next level of s oc i a l organi -
zat i on. At r oc i t i es c o mmi t t e d i n t he n a me of r el i gi on a r e a l mo s t a l wa ys
c o mmi t t e d a ga i ns t out - g r oup me mb e r s , or a g a i ns t t he mo s t d a n g e r o u s
peopl e of all: a pos t a t e s ( who try t o l eave t he gr oup) a nd t rai t ors ( who un-
dc r mi ne t he gr oup) .
A s ec ond puzzl e that Wi l s on can sol ve i s why mys t i ci s m, e ve r ywhe r e a nd
al ways, i s about t r a ns cendi ng t he sel f a nd mer gi ng wi th s o me t h i n g l arger
than t he sel f. Wh e n Wi l l i am J a me s anal yzed mys t i ci s m, he f o c u s e d on t he
psychol ogi cal s t at e of " c os mi c c o ns c i o us ne s s "
5 6
and on t he t e c hni que s de-
vel oped i n all t he maj or rel i gi ons t o at t ai n it. Hi ndus a nd Bu d d hi s t s u s e
medi t at i on and yoga t o at t ai n t he s t at e of samadhi, i n whi c h " t he s ubj ect -
obj ect di s t i nct i on a nd one' s s e ns e of an i ndi vi dual sel f di s a ppe a r i n a s t at e
2 3 6 ' i ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
usually descri bed as one of s upr eme peace, bl i ss, and i l l umi nat i on. "
5 7
J a mes
f ound muc h the s a me goal i n Chri s t i an and Mus l i m mys t i ci s m, of t en at-
tai ned through repetitive prayer. He quot ed the el event h-cent ury Mus l i m
phi l osopher A1 Ghazzal i , who spent several years wors hi ppi ng with the Suf i s
of Syria. A1 Ghazzal i attai ned experi ences of "t ransport " and revel ati on that
he said cannot be des cri bed in words, al t hough he did try to expl ai n to his
Mus l i m readers the es s ence of Suf i s m:
The first condition for a Suf i is to purge his heart entirely of all that is
not God. The next key of the contempl ati ve life consi sts in the humbl e
prayers which es cape from the fervent soul, and in the medi tati ons on
God in which the heart is swallowed up entirely. But in reality this is only
the beginning of the Suf i life, the end of Suf i s m bei ng total absorption
in God.
5 8
From Wilson' s perspect i ve, mysti cal exper i ence i s an " of f " but t on for the
self. When the sel f i s turned off, peopl e be c ome j us t a cel l i n the larger
body, a bee in the larger hive. It is no wonder that the af t er ef f ec t s of mys-
tical experi ence are predi ct abl e; peopl e usual l y feel a st ronger commi t ment
to God or to hel pi ng others, of t en by bri ngi ng t hem to God.
The neuros ci ent i s t Andrew Ne wbe r g
5 9
has s t udi ed the brai ns of peopl e
undergoi ng mysti cal experi ences , mos t l y duri ng medi t at i on, and has f ound
where that of f -swi t ch mi ght be. In t he rear port i on of t he brain' s parietal
l obes ( under the rear portion of the t op of the skul l ) are t wo pat ches of cor-
tex Newber g cal l s the "ori entati on as s oci at i on ar eas . " The pat ch i n the left
hemi s phere appear s to cont ri but e to the ment al s ens at i on of havi ng a lim-
ited and physi cal l y def i ned body, and t hus keeps track of your edges . The
correspondi ng area i n the right hemi s pher e mai nt ai ns a ma p of the s pace
around you. The s e two areas recei ve i nput f r om your s e ns e s t o hel p them
mai ntai n an ongoi ng represent at i on of your sel f and its l ocat i on i n space.
At the very moment when peopl e report achi evi ng s t at es of myst i cal union,
t hese two ar eas appear to be cut of f . I nput f rom ot her part s of the brain i s
reduced, and overall activity i n t hes e ori entati on areas i s r educed, too. But
Newber g bel i eves they are still trying to do their j obs : The area on the left
Ha-ppiness Comes from Between 22 1
tries t o es t abl i s h t he body' s bounda r i e s a nd does n' t f i nd t he m; t he a r e a on
I he right tri es t o es t abl i s h t he s el f ' s l ocat i on i n s p a c e a nd does n' t f i nd it.
The per s on exper i ences a l os s of s el f c o mb i ne d wi t h a par adoxi cal e xpa n-
si on of t he s el f out into s pa c e , yet wi t h no f i xed l oc a t i on i n t he no r ma l
world of t hr ee di mens i ons . Th e per s on f eel s me r g e d wi t h s o me t hi ng vast ,
s omet hi ng l arger t han t he sel f .
Ne wb e r g bel i eves t hat r i t ual s t hat i nvol ve r e pe t i t i ve mo v e me n t a nd
chant i ng, part i cul arl y when t hey are pe r f or me d by ma ny p e o p l e at t he s a me
l i me, hel p t o set up " r es ona nc e pat t er ns " i n t he br ai ns of t he par t i ci pant s
I hat ma k e thi s myst i cal s t at e mor e likely t o ha p p e n. T h e hi s t ori an Wi l l i am
Mc Ne i l l , dr a wi ng on very di f f e r e nt da t a , c a me t o t he s a me c onc l us i on.
Whe n Mc Ne i l l wa s draf t ed i nt o t he U. S . Ar my i n 1941, ba s i c t r ai ni ng re-
qui red that he ma r c h for hundr e ds of hour s on t he drill f i el d i n cl os e f or ma-
lion wi th a f ew dozen ot her me n. At f i rst, Mc Ne i l l t hought t he ma r c hi ng
was j us t a way" t o pa s s t he t i me b e c a u s e hi s b a s e ha d no we a p o n s with
whi ch t o trai n. But af t er a f ew weeks of t rai ni ng, t he ma r c hi ng began t o in-
duc e i n hi m an al t ered s t at e of c ons c i ous ne s s :
Words are i nadequat e t o des cr i be the emot i on ar ous ed by t he pr ol onged
movement i n uni s on that dri l l i ng i nvol ved. A s e n s e of pervas i ve wel l -
bei ng i s what I recal l , mor e s peci f i cal l y, a s t r a ng e s e ns e of pe r s ona l
enl argement ; a "sort of swel l i ng out, becomi ng bi gger than l i fe, t hanks to
parti ci pati on in col l ecti ve ri tual .
6 0
De c a de s later, Mc Ne i l l s t udi ed t he rol e that s ync hr oni z ed move me nt i ^
dance, rel i gi ous ritual, and military t r a i ni ngha s pl ayed i n history. In Keep,
iug Together in Time,
6t
he c onc l ude s t hat h u ma n s oci et i es s i nce t he begin-
ni ng of r e c or de d hi st ory have us e d s y nc hr o ni z e d mo v e me n t t o cr eat e
harmony and cohes i on wi thi n gr oups , s o me t i me s i n t he s er vi ce of prepari ng
f or hosti l i ti es wi th ot her gr oups . McNei l l ' s c o nc l us i o n s ugge s t s that synchro-
ni zed move me nt a nd chant i ng mi ght be evol ved me c h a n i s ms for activating
t he al trui sti c mot i vat i ons cr eat ed i n t he pr oc e s s ol g r oup s el ect i on. T h e ex-
t r eme s el f -s acri f i ce charact eri s t i c of gr oup- s el ec t ed s pe c i e s s uc h as a nt s and
bees can of t en be f ound a mo ng sol di ers. Mc Ne i l l quot e s an extraordinary
2 3 8 ' i ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
pas s age f rom the book The Warriors: Reflections of Men in Battle that de-
scri bes the thrilling communal state that sol di ers s omet i mes enter:
"I" passes insensibly into a "we, " "my" becomes "our," and individual f at e
loses its central importance. . . . 1 believe that it is nothing l ess than the
assurance of immortality that makes self-sacrifice at t hese moment s so
relatively easy. . . . I may fall, but I do not die, for that which is real in me
goes forward and lives on in the comrades for whom I gave up my l i fe.
6 2
Ther e i s i ndeed s omet hi ng larger than t he self, abl e t o provi de peopl e
with a s ens e of pur pos e they think worth dyi ng for: the group. ( Of cour s e,
one group' s nobl e pur pos e i s s omet i mes anot her group' s pur e evil. )
\
T H E M E A N I N G O F L I F E
What can you do t o have a good, happy, f ul f i l l i ng, and mea ni ngf ul l i f e?
What is the answer to the quest i on of pur pos e within life? I bel i eve the an-
swer can be f ound only by unders t andi ng the kind of cr eat ur e that we are,
divided i n the many ways we are di vi ded. We were s haped by i ndi vi dual se-
l ecti on t o be s el f i s h cr eat ur es who s t ruggl e for r es our ces , pl eas ur e, and
prestige, and we were s haped by group sel ecti on to be hive cr eat ur es who
l ong to l ose oursel ves i n s omet hi ng larger. We are soci al creat ures who need
love and at t achment s , and we are i ndust ri ous creat ures with needs for ef-
f ect ance, abl e to enter a state of vital engagement with our work. We are t he
rider and we are the el ephant , and our ment al heal th de pe nds on the two
worki ng together, e a c h dr awi ng on t he ot hers ' s t r engt hs . I don' t bel i eve
there is an i nspi ri ng answer to the ques t i on, ' Wha t is the pur pos e of l i f e?"
Yet by drawi ng on anci ent wi s dom and moder n s ci ence, we can f i nd com-
pelling ans wers to the quest i on of pur pos e within life. The final versi on of
the happi nes s hypothesi s i s that happi nes s c omes f rom bet ween. Ha ppi ne s s
is not s omet hi ng that you can fi nd, acqui re, or achi eve directly. You have to
get the condi ti ons right and then wait. S o me of t hos e condi t i ons are within
you, s uch as c ohe r e nc e a mo ng t he par t s and l evel s of your personal i t y.
Ha-ppiness Comes from Between 22 1
Ot her condi t i ons requi re rel ati onshi ps t o thi ngs be yond you: J us t as pl ant s
need sun, water, and good soil to thrive, peopl e need l ove, work, and a con-
necti on to s omet hi ng larger. It is worth striving to get t he right rel at i onshi ps
bet ween yoursel f and others, bet ween yoursel f and your work, and bet ween
yoursel f and s omet hi ng larger than yoursel f. If you get t hes e rel at i onshi ps
ri ght, a s ens e of pur pos e and meani ng will emer ge.
Conclusion:
On Balance
All things come into being by conflict of opposites.
HEHACLI TUS,
1
C. 500 BCE
Without Contraries is no progression. Attraction and Repul-
sion, Reason and Energy, Love and Hate, are necessary to
Human existence.
W I L L I A M B L A K E ,
2
C . 1 7 9 0
T H E A N C I E N T C H I N E S E S Y M B O L of yin and yang represent s t he val ue of the
e ternally shifting bal ance between seemi ngl y opposed pri nci pl es. As the epi-
grams above f rom Heracl i tus and Bl ake show, this i s not j us t an East ern i dea;
ii is Great Idea, a ti mel ess insight that in a way s ummar i zes the rest of this
book. Religion and sci ence, for exampl e, are often thought to be opponent s,
but as I have shown, the insights of anci ent religions and of modern s ci ence
nre both needed to reach a full understandi ng of human nat ure and the condi -
tions of human satisfaction. The anci ent s may have known little about biology,
chemistry, and physi cs, but many were good psychologists. Psychol ogy and re-
I igion can benefi t by taking each other seriously, or at least by agreei ng to learn
from each other while overlooking the areas of irreconcilable di f f erence.
241
2 4 2 ' i ' L L H H A P P I N E S S H Y P O T H E S I S
The Eas t ern and Western appr oaches t o life are al s o sai d t o be oppos ed:
The Eas t s t res s es accept ance and col l ecti vi sm; the West enc our a ges striv-
ing and i ndi vi dual i sm. But as we' ve s een, both per s pect i ves are val uabl e.
Happi nes s requi res changi ng yoursel f and changi ng your worl d. It requi res
purs ui ng your own goal s and fitting in with others. Di f f er ent peopl e at dif-
f erent t i mes i n their lives will benef i t f rom drawi ng more heavi l y on one
appr oach or the other.
And, finally, liberals and conservati ves are opponent s in the mos t literal
s ens e, each us i ng the myth of pur e evil t o demoni ze the ot her s i de and
unite their own. But the mos t i mportant l esson I have l earned in my twenty
years of research on morality is that nearly all peopl e are moral l y moti vated.
Sel f i s hnes s is a powerf ul f orce, particularly in the deci s i ons of i ndi vi dual s,
but whenever groups of peopl e c ome together to make a s us t ai ned ef f ort to
change the world, you can bet that they are pur s ui ng a vision of virtue, j us-
tice, or s acrednes s . Materi al self-interest does little to expl ai n the pas s i ons
of parti sans on i s s ues s uch as aborti on, the envi ronment , or t he role of reli-
gion in publ i c life. (Sel f-i nterest certainly cannot expl ai n terrori sm, but the
sel f l essness made pos s i bl e by group sel ecti on can. )
An i mportant di ct um of cul tural psychol ogy i s that e a c h cul t ur e devel-
ops experti se i n s ome as pect s of human exi st ence, but no cul t ur e can be
expert i n all as pect s . The s a me goes for the two e nds of the pol i ti cal s pec-
trum. My research
3
conf i rms the c ommon percept i on that l i beral s are ex-
perts i n thi nki ng about i s s ues of vi cti mi zati on, equality, aut onomy, and the
ri ghts of i ndi vi dual s, particularly t hos e of mi nori ti es and nonconf or mi s t s .
Conservat i ves, on the other hand, are experts i n thi nki ng a bout loyalty to
the group, res pect for authority and tradition, and s a c r ednes s .
4
Whe n one
si de overwhel ms the other, the resul ts are likely to be ugly. A soci et y with-
out liberals woul d be harsh and oppressi ve to many i ndi vi dual s. A soci ety
wi thout conservati ves woul d l ose many of the soci al s t r uct ur es and con-
strai nts that Dur khei m s howed are s o val uabl e. Anomi e woul d i ncr eas e
al ong with f r eedom. A good pl ace to l ook for wi s dom, t heref ore, i s where
you l east expect to f i nd it: i n the mi nds of your opponent s . You al ready
know the i deas c ommon on your own si de. If you can take of f t he bl i nders
of t he myth of pure evil, you might s ee s ome good i deas for t he first ti me.
Conclusion: On Balance 243
By dr awi ng on wi s dom t hat i s ba l a nc e da nc i e nt a nd new, Ea s t e r n a nd
Wes t er n, even l i beral a nd c ons e r va t i ve we c a n c ho o s e di r ect i ons i n l i f e
t hat will l ead t o s at i s f act i on, ha ppi ne s s , and a s e ns e of me a ni ng . We can' t
s i mpl y s el ect a des t i nat i on a nd t hen wal k t her e di r e c t l yt he ri der d o e s
not ha ve t hat mu c h authori ty. But by dr awi ng on humani t y' s gr ea t es t i dea s
a nd bes t s c i enc e, we c a n trai n t he el ephant , know our pos s i bi l i t i es as wel l
as our l i mi t s , a nd live wisely.
Acknowledgments
I HIS BOOK EMERGED FROM my rel ati onshi ps with many peopl e, whi ch de-
vel oped as I pa s s ed through Four support i ve uni versi t i es. If thi s book is
broader in its s cope than most in psychol ogy it is be c a us e I had the great
fortune to be ment or ed by J ohn Fi s her at Yale, J ohn Bar on, Al an Fi ske,
Kick McCaul ey, J udi t h Rodin, Paul Rozin, and J ohn Sabi ni at the Univer-
sity of Pennsylvania, and Ri chard Shweder at the Uni versi ty of Chi cago. As
an iissistant prof essor at the University of Virginia, I recei ved f urther men-
luring from Dan Wegner, and al so from Marty Sel i gman back at Penn. I am
forever grateful to t hese generous t eachers and br oad- mi nded thi nkers.
Books al so requi re that somebody besi des the aut hor s ees a possibility
and takes a chance. I am deeply grateful to Sir J ohn Templ et on, the J ohn
l empl eton Foundati on, and its executi ve vice pres i dent , Arthur Schwartz,
for supporti ng my research on moral elevation and for gi vi ng me a s emes t er
of sabbatical leave to begin the research for this book. My agent, Es mond
I larmsworth, al so took a chance; he invested a great deal of time and skill
in gui di ng a first-time author through the compl exi t i es of the publ i shi ng
world, and then to a partnershi p with editor Jo Ann Mi l l er at Basi c Books.
| o Ann encouraged me to write this book long bef ore s he became my edi-
lor, and she has improved the book in count l ess ways. Above all she hel ped
me to ai m high while writing accessibly, and I know my academi c writings
will benefi t from her wi sdom. I thank all these risk t akers .
Many fri ends and col l eagues read chapters and s aved me from errors,
overstatements, and puns. J es s e Graham, Suzanne Ki ng, J ayne Riew, and
2 4 5
2 4 6 Acknowledgments
Mark SHulman gave me detailed comment s on the entire manuscri pt. The
following people helped me improve one or more chapters: Jonathan Adler,
Sara Algoe, Desi ree Alvarez, J en Bernhards, Robert Bi swas-Di ener, David
Buss, Fredrik Bjorklund, Jerry Cl ore, William Damon, J udy Del oache, Ni ck
Epley, Sterl i ng Hai dt, Gr eg LaBl ane, Angel Lillard, Bill McAl l i ster, Ri ck
McCaul ey, Hel en Miller, Brian Nos ek, Shi ge Oi shi , J a me s Pawelski, Paul
Rozin, Si mone Schnall, Barry Schwartz, Patrick Seder, Gary Sherman, Ni na
Strohminger, Bethany Teachman, Kees Van den Bos, Dan Wegner, Dan Will-
ingham, Nancy Weinfield, Emily Wilson, and Ti m Wilson. I thank them all.
Finally, a book emerges f rom the personal i ty of its author, and whether
personality is shaped by nature or nurture, I thank my parent s, Harol d and
El ai ne Hai dt, as well as my si sters, Rebecca Hai dt and Samant ha Daven-
port, for their loving support. Above all I thank my wife, J ayne Riew, who
gave me a bet ween.
Notes
I N T R O D U C T I O N : T o o M U C H W I S D o M
1. From Hamlet, I I . i i . 249-250. All quot at i ons f rom Sha ke s pe a r e are f r om
< ;. Ulakemore (Ed), 1974. The Riverside Shakespeare (Boston: Hought on Mi f f l i n).
2. Sel i gman, 2002.
3. Keyes and Haidt, 2003.
4. Technically one should say "The Buddha" (the awakened one) , j ust as one
.Imnld say "The Chri st" (the anointed one). However, I will f ol l ow common us age
HI referring to Buddha and Chri st.
C H A P T E R I
1. Thi s and all s ubs equent quotati ons f r om the Ol d and Ne w Tes t ament s
me from the New Revised Standard Version.
2. Franklin, 1980/ 1733- 1758, 3.
3. Lakoff and J ohnson, 1980.
4. Dhammapada, verse 326, in Mascaro, 1973.
5. Plato, Phaedrus 253d, in Cooper, 1997.
6. Freud, 1976/ 1900.
7. Ovid, Metamorphoses, Bk. VII, 249.
8. Montaigne, 1991/ 1588, 1 15. The s econd quot e is al s o f r om page 115.
9. Gershon, 1998.
10. Lyte, Varcoe, and Bailey, 1998.
I 1. Gazzaniga, 1985; Gazzaniga, Bogen, and Sperry, 1962.
12. Gazzaniga, 1985, 72.
2 4 7
248 - Notes
13. Fei nberg, 2 0 0 1 .
14. Ol ds arid Mi l ner, 1954.
15. Bur ns a nd Swerdl ow, 2 0 0 3 .
16. . Damas i o, 1994; Rol l s, 1999.
17. Rol l s, 1999.
18. For s umma r i e s of f i ndi ngs on t he " emot i onal br ai n" s e e Berri dge, 2003;
Le Doux, 1996.
19. Da ma s i o, 1994, Da ma s i o, Tr anel , a nd Da ma s i o, 1990.
20. Bargh, Che n, a nd Bur r ows , 1996.
21. Bargh et al. , 1996, for t he el derl y ef f ec t ; Di j ks t er hui s a nd van Kni ppen-
berg, . 1998, f or t he ot hers .
22. J a me s , 1950/ 1890.
23. S e e revi ew i n Leakey, 1994.
24. For a revi ew of why mos t me nt a l s ys t ems work so wel l , yet l ogi cal reason-
i ng works s o poorly, s e e Mar gol i s , 1987.
25. Rol l s, 1999.
26. Hu me , 1969/ 1739, 4 6 2 .
27. Shoda , Mi s chel , a nd Peake, 1990.
28. For a revi ew of t hes e s t udi es a nd a full account of t he i nterpl ay bet ween the
hot ( aut omat i c) and cool ( cont rol l ed) s ys t ems , s ee Met c a l f e a nd Mi s chel , 1999.
29. Sal ovey a nd Mayer , 1990. Po s s e s s i ng e mot i ona l i nt e l l i ge nc e doe s not
me a n that one' s emot i ons are i nt el l i gent .
30. Ba ume i s t e r et al . , 1998.
31. Obeyes eker e, 1985.
32. Wegner, 1994.
33. Hai dt , 2 0 0 1 , Hai dt , Rol l er, a nd Di a s , 1993.
34. Gl adwel l , 2 0 0 5 .
C H A P T E R Z
1. Meditations, 4 : 3 .
2. Dhamm-a-pada, ver s e 1, in Ma s c a r o, 1973.
3. Ca r negi e, 1984/ 1944, 113.
4. Fr om Dr. Phi l ' s " Ten L i f e L a ws , " r et r i eved f r om www. dr phi l . c om on
12/ 16/ 04.
5. Boet hi us , 1962/ c. 522 CE, 24.
6. Boet hi us , 1962/ c. 5 2 2 CE, 22.
7. Boet hi us , 1962/ c. 5 2 2 CE, 29.
Notes 2 249
8. S e e Mi l l er and C' de Baca, 2001, for a review.
9. Bargh et al., 1996; Fazio et al. , 1986.
10. Nos e k, Banaj i , and Gr eenwa l d, 2 0 0 2 ; Nos e k, Gr e e nwa l d, a nd Ba na j i ,
in press.
I 1. Pel ham, Mi renberg, and J ones , 2002.
12. Pinker, 1997.
13. S e e two recent reviews: Baumei s t er et et at., 2001; Rozin and Royzman,
2001.
14. Got t man, 1994.
I 5. Kahneman and Tvers ky 1979.
16. Rozin and Royzman, 2001.
17. Frankl i n, 1 9 8 0 / 1 7 3 3 - 1 7 5 8 , 26.
18. Gray, 1994; Ito and Caci oppo, 1999.
19. Miller, 1944.
20. L a Ba r a n d LeDoux, 2003.
21. Shakes pear e, Hamlet, I.ii. 1 33134.
22. Shakes pear e, Hamlet, I I . i i . 249- 250.
23. Angl e and Nei mark, 1997.
24. Lykken et al., 1992.
25. Bouchar d, 2004; Pl omi n and Dani el s, 1987; Turkhei mer, 2000.
26. Ma r c us , 2004.
27. Pl omi n and Dani el s, 1987.
28. Lykken and Tel l egen, 1996.
29. Davi ds on, 1998.
30. Davi ds on and Fox, 1989.
31. Kagan, 1994; Kagan, 2003.
32. Mi l t on, Paradise Lost bk. 1, lines 2 5 4 - 2 5 5 .
33. S e e Shapi ro, Schwart z, and Sant erre, 2002, for a review. Mos t of t he pub-
lished s t udi es on medi tati on have us ed weak or f l awed des i gns ( s uch as c ompa r -
ing peopl e who chos e to sign up for a medi t at i on cl as s with peopl e who di d not).
I lnwever, Shapi ro et al. review several s t udi es that us ed r andom as s i gnment to
ril her a medi t at i on condi ti on or a control condi ti on. The benef i t s I ment i on in
I lu- text are t hose s upport ed by s t udi es that us ed r andom as s i gnment .
34. Def i ni t i on f rom Shapi ro et al., 2002.
<5. Dhammapada, verse 205, in Mas car o, 1973.
36. Beck, 1976.
37. Dobs on, 1989; Hol l on and Beck, 1994.
38. De Rube i s et al. , 2005.
250 - Notes
39. Sel i gma n, 1995.
40. An eas y pl a c e t o st art i s wi t h t he popul ar book Feeling Good by Davi d
Bur ns , 1999. J us t r eadi ng t hi s book ha s be e n s hown t o be an ef f ect i ve t r eat ment
f or depr es s i on ( Smi t h et al . , 1997) .
41. Prous t , 1 9 9 2 / 1 9 2 2 b, 2 9 1 .
42. Nes t l er, Hyma n, a nd Ma l e nka , 2 0 0 1 .
43. Schat zber g, Col e , and De Ba t t i s t a , 2 0 0 3 . Oc c a s i ona l report s that S S RI s
are no mor e ef f ect i ve t han pl a c e bos a ppe a r t o be ba s e d on f l awed s t udi es ; for ex-
ampl e, s t udi es t hat us e d very l ow d o s e s of S S RI s . S e e Hol l on et al . , 2 0 0 2 .
44. Kramer, 1993. .
45. Hai dt , 2 0 0 1 ; Hai dt a nd J o s e ph, 2 0 0 4 .
C H A P T E R 3
1 .Analects, 15. 24. In Leys , 1997.
2. Babyl oni an Ta l mud, Tr act at e S ha hbos , Fol i o 31a , Sc hot t ens t ei n edi ti on,
A. Di cker, t r ans . ( Ne w York: Me s o r a h Publ i cat i ons , 1996) .
3. The Godfather, di r e c t e d by F. F. Co p p o l a , 1 9 7 2 . Pa r a mo unt Pi ct ur es .
Ba s e d on t he novel by Ma r i o Puzo.
4. Ca mpbe l l , 1983; Ri cher s on a nd Boyd, 1998.
5. Hami l t on, 1964, fi rst wor ked out t he det ai l s of kin s el ect i on. We all share
mos t of our g e ne s wi t h all peopl e, a nd even wi th mos t c hi mpa nz e e s , mi c e, and
fruit f l i es. Wha t mat t er s here i s onl y t he s ubs et of g e ne s t hat vary wi thi n t he hu-
ma n popul at i on.
6. Of cour s e, t he a nces t or s di d no "parl ayi ng"; t hey j us t survi ved bet t er than
their compet i t or s , and i n t he pr oc e s s , r epr oduct i on s hi f t ed over t o a que e n and
ul trasoci al i ty e me r ge d.
7. De s c r i be d i n Ridley, 1996.
8. Kunz and Wool cot t , 1976.
9. Ci al di ni , 2 0 0 1 .
10. Axel rod, 1984.
1 1. Wi l ki ns on, 1984.
12. Tri vers, 1971.
13. Ridley, 1996.
14. Pant hanat ha' n a nd Boyd, 2 0 0 4 ; Ri cher s on a nd Boyd, 2 0 0 5 .
15. Co s mi d e s and Tooby, 2 0 0 4 .
16. Gut h, Schmi t t ber ger , a nd Sc hwa r z e , 1982.
17. Sa nf e y et al . , 2 0 0 3 .
Notes 2 251
18. Bj or kl und, 1997.
19. Dunba r , 1993.
20. Dunba r , 1996.
21. Horn a nd Hai dt , i n pr epar at i on.
22. For a de f e ns e of gos s i p, s e e Sabi ni and Silver, 1982.
23. Ci al di ni , 2 0 0 1 .
24. Ci al di ni , 2 0 0 1 , ci t es an unpubl i s he d st udy by Lynn and Mc Ca l l , 1 9 9 8 .
25. J a me s and Bol s t ei n, 1992.
26. Ci a l di ni et al . , 1975.
27. Be nt on, Kelley, and Li ebl i ng, 1972.
28. Laki n a nd Char t r and, 2 0 0 3 .
29. va n Ba a r e n et al . , 2 0 0 4 .
30. van Ba a r e n et al . , 2 0 0 3 .
C H A P T E R 4
1. Dhatnma-pada, vers e 2 5 2 , i n Ma s c a r o, 1973.
2. " Out i ng Mr. Schr ock, " Washington Post, S e p t e mb e r 2, 2 0 0 4 , A2 2 .
3. Hor n a nd Hai dt , i n pr epar at i on.
4. For ext ens i ve di s c us s i ons of t he pri soner' s di l e mma g a me , s e e Axel rocj ,
l
l
>84; Wr i ght , 1994.
5. Ma c hi a v e l l i , 'live Discourses, 1. 25.
6. Byr ne a nd Whi t en, 1988.
7. Ba t s on et al . , 1997; Ba t s on et al . , 1999.
8. Buc ha na n, 1965, 53.
9. Pachoci ns ki , 1996, 222.
10. Wr i ght , 1994, 13.
I 1. Kuhn, 1991. - ,
12. Perki ns , Farady, a nd Bus hey, 1991.
13. Kunda , 1990; Pyszczynski a nd Gr e e nbe r g, 1987.
14. Frankl i n, 1962/ c. 1791, 4 3 .
I 5. Al i cke et al . , 1995; Hoor e ns , 1993.
16. He i ne a nd I^ehman, 1999; Ma r kus and Ki t ayama, 1991.
17. Epl ey a nd Dunni ng, 2 0 0 0 .
I 8. Thi s anal ys i s of l eader s hi p, a nd t he s t udi es ci t ed i n thi s pa r a gr a ph c o me
I mm Dunni ng, Meyerowi t z, a nd Hol zberg, 2 0 0 2 .
19. Cr o s s , 1977.
20. Tayl or et al . , 2 0 0 3 .
252 - Notes
21. Ros s and Si col y, 1979.
22. Epl ey and Ca r us o , 2 0 0 4 .
23. Ba bc o c k and Loe we ns t e i n, 1997.
24. Proni n, Li n, a nd Ros s , 2 0 0 2 .
25. Hi ck, 1967.
26. Rus s el l , 1988; Boyer, 2 0 0 1 .
27. Baumei s t er , 1997.
28. S e e revi ew i n Baumei s t er , 1997 ( c ha p. 2) .
29. Baumei s t er , Sma r t , and Boden, 1996; Bu s hma n a nd Ba umei s t er , 1998.
However, evi dence t hat ant i s oci al behavi or i s a s s oc i a t ed wi t h low s el f - es t eem
has r ecendy be e n r epor t ed by Donnel l an et al . , 2 0 0 5 .
30. Gl over, 2 0 0 0 .
31. Ski t ka, 2 0 0 2 .
32. Geer t z, 1973, 5, par aphr as i ng t he s oci ol ogi s t Ma x Weber.
33. Bhagavad Gita, 1 2 . 1 8 - 1 9 . In Zaehner , 1969.
3 4 . Se nt - t s ' a n, Hsin hsin ming. In C o n z e , 1 9 5 4 .
35. Shapi r o et al . , 2 0 0 2 .
36. Bu ms , 1999.
C H A P T E R 5
1. Dhammapada, ver s e 83, i n Ma s c a r o, 1973.
2. Epi ct et us , 1983/1 s t - 2 nd cent . CE, 9.
3. Davi ds on, 1994; s ee al s o Br i m, 1 9 9 2 .
4. Troilus and Cressida, I . i i . 287.
5. Wi l s on a nd Gi l bert , 2 0 0 3 .
6. Br i ckman, Co a t e s , a nd J a nof f - Bul ma n, 1978; s e e al s o S c hul z and Decker,
1985, for l ong-t erm f ol l ow-up of s pi nal i nj ury pat i ent s . No s t udy ha s obt ai ned
happi nes s or life s at i s f act i on rat i ngs i n t he fi rst days af t er wi nni ng t he lottery or
be c omi ng a par apl egi c, but a p p e a r a nc e s s ug g e s t t hat e mot i ona l r eact i ons are
very st rong. We c a n t heref ore i nf er t hat t he s urpri s i ngl y mode r a t e ha ppi nes s rat-
i ngs gi ven by bot h gr oups a f ew mont hs l at er i l l ust rat e a ret urn " mo s t of t he way"
to bas el i ne.
7. Kapl an, 1978.
8. Int ervi ew by De bor a h Sol omon, New York Times Magazine, Sunda y De-
c e mbe r 12, 2004, 37. I t s houl d be not ed, however, t hat adapt at i on t o s ever e dis-
ability i s sl ow a nd of t en i ncompl et e. Eve n year s later, pa r a pl egi c s have not, on
average, r et ur ned ful l y t o thei r pr e- acci dent l evel s.
Notes 2 53
9. Hel s on, 1964.
I 0. For a s ens i t i ve expl orati on of goal purs ui t , ambi t i on, a nd ha ppi ne s s , s e e
Ihi m, 1992.
I I. Lykken and Tel l egen, 1996.
12. Smi t h, 1976/ 1759, 149.
IB. Br i ckman and Ca mpbe l l , 1971.
14. Di ener et al. , 1999; Ma s t e ka a s a , 1994; Wai t e and Gal l agher , 2 0 0 0 . How-
ever, i t i s not cl ear that marri ed peopl e, are, on average, happi er t han t ho s e who
never marri ed, b e c a us e unhappi l y mar r i ed pe opl e are t he l eas t ha ppy gr oup of
nil and they pul l down t he average; s e e De Pa ul o and Mor r i s , 2 0 0 5 , f or a c r i t i que
nl' res earch on t he benef i t s of marri age.
15. Har ker a nd Kel tner, 2001; Lyubomi rsky, Ki ng, and Di ener, i n pr e s s .
I 6. Ba ume i s t e r and Leary, 1995. I Iowever, i t i s not cer t ai n t hat ma r r i a g e i t sel f
i s mor e benef i ci al t han ot her ki nds of c ompa ni ons hi p. Mu c h e vi de nc e s ays yes ,
parti cul arl y for heal t h, weal t h, and l ongevi ty ( revi ewed i n Wai t e a nd Ga l l a gher ,
.'.()()()); but a l arge l ongi t udi nal s t udy f ai l ed to f i nd a l ong-l as t i ng be ne f i t of mar -
i l age on r epor t s of wel l -bei ng ( Luc a s et al . , 2003) .
17. Di ener et al . , 1999; Myer s , 2 0 0 0 .
18. Argyle, 1999. S o me s t udi es f i nd a l arger r ace di f f er enc e, but wh e n di f f er -
ences i n i nc ome and j ob s t at us are cont rol l ed for, t he di f f e r e nc e s b e c o me s ma l l
HI i nsi gni f i cant .
19. Di ener et al . , 1999; Luc a s a nd Go hm, 2 0 0 0 .
20. Ca r s t e n s e n e t al . , 2 0 0 0 ; Di e ne r a nd S u h, 1 9 9 8 . Mr o c z e k a n d S pi r o,
. ' 005, f ound a pea k ar ound age sixty-five.
21. Fr eder i ck a nd Loewens t ei n, 1999; Ri i s et al. , 2 0 0 5 .
22. Luc a s , 2 0 0 5 .
23. S c hka de and Ka hnema n, 1998.
24. Fei ngol d, 1992.
25. Di ener, Wol si c, and Fuj i ta, 1995.
2ft. Di ener a nd Oi s hi , 2 0 0 0 .
27. Lyubomi rsky, Ki ng, and Di ener, i n pr es s ; Fr edr i cks on, 2 0 0 1 .
2K. Di ener a nd Oi s hi , 2 0 0 0 ; Frank, 1999.
2<). Bhagavad Gita, XVI . 12. Th e s e c ond quot e i s f r om XVI . 1 3 - 1 4 . In Zaehner ,
I' l l /).
40. Pl omi n a nd Dani el s , 1987. Th e unique envi ronment t hat e a c h c hi l d cr eat es
i t Itiit the f ami l y mat t ers , but not usual l y as mu c h as hi s or her uni que g e ne s .
<1. Lykken, 1999.
U. Ma r c us , 2004.
254 - Notes
33. Lyubomi rsky, Shel don, a nd S c hk a d e , i n pr es s .
34. S e e Lyubomi r s ky e t al . , i n p r e s s , a nd S e l i g ma n, 2 0 0 2 , c ha p. 4.
Lyubomi rs ky et al. call t he l ast t er m " act i vi t i es " ; Se l i g ma n cal l s i t "vol unt ary vari-
abl es . " I am combi ni ng thei r t er ms , f or s i mpl i ci t y of expl anat i on, by referri ng t o
"vol untary act i vi t i es. "
35. Gl a s s a nd Si nger, 1972, a nd ot her s r evi ewed i n Fr eder i c k a nd Loewen-
st ei n, 1999.
36. S e e revi ew i n Frank, 1999.
37. Kos l ows ky a nd KJuger, 1995.
38. Cs i ks zent mi hal yi , 1997.
39. Gl a s s and Si nger, 1972.
40. Langer a nd Rodi n, 1976; Rodi n a nd Langer , 1977.
41. Hai dt a nd Rodi n, 1999.
42. Revi ewed i n Lyubomi rs ky, Ki ng, a nd Di ener , i n pr e s s ; Rei s and Gabl e,
2 0 0 3 .
43. S e e Argyl e, 1999; Ba ume i s t e r a nd Leary, 1995; Myer s , 2 0 0 0 ; Sel i gman,
2 0 0 2 . However, Luc a s a nd Dyr enf or t h (in pr e s s ) pr e s e nt e vi de nc e that t he di-
rect caus al ef f ect of i mpr oved soci al r el at i ons hi ps on ha ppi ne s s may be smal l er
t han mos t ps ychol ogi s t s real i ze, pe r ha ps no l arger t han t he e f f e c t of i ncome on
happi nes s . Thi s deba t e has j us t be gun; its r es ol ut i on mus t awai t f ut ur e research.
44. Lyubomi rsky, Ki ng, a nd Di ener , i n pr es s ; Rei s a nd Ga bl e , 2 0 0 3 .
45. Fr eder i ck and Loewens t ei n, 1999.
46. Bront e, 1973/ 1847, 110. S po ke n by J a ne Eyre.
47. Bel k, 1985; Kas s er, 2 0 0 2 ; Ka s s e r a nd Ryan, 1996.
48. Cs i ks zent mi hal yi , 1990.
49. S e e Mi l l er, 1997, on t he " di s gus t of s ur f ei t . "
50. Sel i gman, 2 0 0 2 , 102.
51. Wr zes ni ews ki , Rozi n, a nd Be nne t t , 2 0 0 3 ; s e e al s o Ka s s , 1994.
52. Epi c ur us , Letter to Menoeceus, 126. In O' Connor , 1993.
53. Pet erson and Sel i gma n, 2 0 0 4 .
54. E mmo n s and Mc Cul l o ug h, 2 0 0 3 ; Lyubomi rs ky, S he l don, a nd Schkade,
i n pr es s .
55. Frank, 1999.
56. Ada pt e d f rom Sol ni ck a nd Me me nwa y, 1998.
57. Van Boven a nd Gi l ovi ch, 2 0 0 3 .
58. Too Te Ghing, 12, in Fe ng a nd Engl i s h, 1972.
59. Thi s s a me a r g ume nt ha s b e e n ma d e wi t h ne ur os c i e nt i f i c evi denc e l>y
Whybrow, 2 0 0 5 .
Notes 2 255
60. I yengar a nd Lepper , 2 0 0 0 .
61. Sc hwa r t z , 2 0 0 4 .
62. S c hwa r t z et al . , 2 0 0 2 .
63. S c hwa r t z et al . , 2 0 0 2 .
64. Co nz e , 1959.
65. Co nz e , 1959, 4 0 .
66. S o me p e o p l e s ay " t he Bu d d h a " ( t he a wa k e ne d one ) , j us t a s s o me p e o p l e
sny " t he Chr i s t " ( t he a noi nt e d one) . Howe ve r I f ol l ow c o mmo n u s a g e i n r e f e r r i ng
l o Bu d d ha a nd Chr i s t .
67. Bi s wa s - Di e ne r a nd Di ener , 2 0 0 1 ; Di e ne r a nd Di ener , 1 9 9 6 .
68. Bi s wa s - Di e ne r a nd Di ener , 2 0 0 1 , 3 3 7 .
69. I l at er f o und a publ i s he d ver s i on of t he tal k: S o l o mo n, 1 9 9 9 .
70. Br oder i ck, 1990, 2 6 1 .
71. Me mor i a l Da y Addr e s s , del i ver ed on Ma y 30, 1884. I n Ho l me s , 1 8 9 1 , 3.
C H A P T E R 6
1. S e n e c a , Epi s t l e XLVI I I , i n S e ne c a , 1 9 1 7 - 1 9 2 5 / c . 50 CE, 3 1 5 .
2. Me di t a t i on XVI I , i n Do nne , 1 9 7 5 / 1 6 2 3 .
3. T h e f a c t s i n t hi s pa r a gr a ph ar e dr a wn f r om Bl um, 2 0 0 2 , C h a p t e r 2.
4. Wa t s on, 1 9 2 8 .
5. My a c c o u nt of Harl ow' s c a r eer i s t aken f r om Bl um, 2 0 0 2 .
6. Har l ow,