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Why am I making this presentation?

Brussels LessWrong Meetup, October 2015

What can the scientific process teach us as of 2015?

Bad news

  • if only I wish I would be happier
  • when I get the head of department promotion
  • once I have my Tesla Model S
  • finally get on that flight to Bora Bora
  • if I buy this EuroMillion ticket and win clearly

...then I'll be happy!

Good news

It can fixed! We know the physiology of the human body, you can easily buy drugs and be blissfully happy.

That works, now some people consider you are hijacking the reward circuitry of the brain, disconnecting you from reality.

Bad news, again

Not by knowing the theory, they key principles, reading the latest study but...

by doing things

Yes, that's the trick, you can be happy but you have to WORK for it. You have to dedicate resources, time, money to DO activities that will make you happier in the moment.


  1. Misconceptions
  2. Mechanisms and Key concepts
  3. Own results
  4. References, from papers to movies
  5. Going further online and offline

Misconceptions on what leads to happiness

  • increase of wealth
    • no, you reach a plateau very rapidly better focus on fairness and equality
  • purchase of goods
    • no, the act of purchase itself is stressful, the product is rarely as advertised, etc
  • buying for myself makes me happier than buying for others
    • no, buying for others makes you happier than buying for yourself

More misconceptions

  • I can work alone on my own happiness
    • kind of... the intent comes from yourself but actions are often social
  • I will become a parent!
    • congratulations, it is a complex setting that usually leads to higher happiness on good moments but harsher emotions on rough moments, different variance but same average
  • I will get married!
    • congratulations, again but the average time to go back to pre-marital status : 2 years

Mechanisms and Key concepts

  • emotional evanescence
    • set point theory
      • hedonistic treadmill or hedonic adaptation
  • peak-end evaluation
    • impact bias
      • ordinizing or pre-rationalization
        • affective forecasting and the emotional immune system
  • prioritizing positivity

Own results

  • 3 Good Things over 21 days, 63 messages
  • self-reported improvement

Quick note on religions

  • Religions somehow got the practices right
  • What Comes After Religion, The School of Life
    • "The debate between believers and atheists usually goes nowhere. The real issue is: what should fill the gaps created by the end of widespread belief? What should fill the God-shaped hole?"

References, from papers to movies

Overall my notes about the MOOC to prepare this presentation


Going further online and offline