A Nobel Prize-Winning Psychologist Says Most People Don’t Really Want to Be Happy

Daniel Kahneman contends that happiness and satisfaction are distinct. Happiness is a momentary experience that arises spontaneously and is fleeting. Meanwhile, satisfaction is a long-term feeling, built over time and based on achieving goals and building the kind of life you admire. On the December 19 podcast “Conversations with Tyler,” hosted by economist Tyler Cowen, Kahneman explains that working toward one goal may undermine our ability to experience the other. For example, in Kahneman’s research measuring everyday happiness — the experiences that leave people feeling good — he found that spending time with friends was highly effective. Yet those focused on long-term goals that yield satisfaction don’t necessarily prioritize socializing, as they’re busy with the bigger picture. Such choices led Kahneman to conclude that we’re not as interested in happiness as we may claim.

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