4 Biases That Hinder Everyone’s Happiness

Happiness is quite simple to fathom. This is probably because it is seen everywhere. The paradox is that while it is free, for some it is surprisingly difficult to achieve.

Experience has taught many that getting what you want does not necessarily guarantee happiness. Happiness derived from such things is short-lived and not as fulfilling as expected.


This has pushed many people to try to discover why this is so. A professor of psychology- Professor Laurie Santos who teaches the course ‘The Science of Well-Being’ explains this overlooked biases which people hold and consequently unknowingly hinder their own happiness. The Science of Well-Being is taken by over 300,000 students thus earning it the title; Yale’s most popular course. The biases Professor Laurie are definitely worth studying in order to overcome.


1. Your Intuition Could Very Well Be Wrong

Most times when we want something, we also have an idea of how we think what we want will make us feel. We assume that acquiring a particular thing will undoubtedly make us happy. However, the fact is that most of these assumptions of thoughts are wrong. The term ‘miswanting’ explains this. We assume a certain thing will result in a particular feeling. Common examples which we all experience are assuming you will feel more confident in those new clothes when n reality the new clothes just make us feel more self-conscious. Miswanting also plays a role when we assume eating fast food will make us feel better but in reality, it just makes you feel sick. If you think acquiring a degree will leave you feeling accomplished but t only leaves you wanting a career change, you simply miswanted.

Simply, the concept of miswanting simply proves that your intuition could be wrong. Sometimes, what we assume will happen does not. You could end up enjoying that party you swore you would hate. You could end up having the time of your life after the breakup you thought would kill you. Most people give their intuition too much credit thereby refusing to explore the possibilities which could actually make them happy. A lot of people lack the ability to correctly foresee where decisions are likely to land them. Breaking out of the bias which pushing you to believe your intuition always s a step in the right


2. Happiness Cannot Always Be Measured Relatively

The concept of relativity is one that appears in many aspects of life. If one man eats a loaf of bread, it goes without saying that two men will eat two and that three men will eat three. However, in some situations, relativity does nothing for us. Relatively thinking, we can assume that if a man who won the bronze medal in Olympics would be happy, the man who won the silver medal would be happier and the gold medal winner would be the happiest. But this is simply not the case. Studies show that while the gold medal winner is the happiest, the silver medal winner is not always happier than the bronze medalist. Studies show that the bronze medalist is happier because he realizes that he almost won nothing while the silver medalist usually experiences a modicum of grief simply because he thinks that he could have won the gold medal is he pushed a little bit harder.

Our brain weighs value similarly to the way Olympians weigh medals. We are wired to relate our experiences to what we think we could have and how happy we would be with it. A survey shows that fifty percent of people would willingly earn $50,000 less annually if it meant they would e making more than their contemporaries. Obviously, in this case, what they have or do not have is not the issue here. The issue is what they think they could have and how they think it would make them feel due to how they assume others feel. Another study shows that unemployed people are happier in places with high unemployment. However, watching people such as celebrities or billionaires who live vastly different lives can portray an image of the world which would live you unhappy once comparison sets in.


3. You Get Used To Things

Adaptability is one of the main things human beings need to survive. This, however, plays a role in our happiness. If you cast your mind back to the last three things that made you happy you will most likely find out that you do not feel the same way you felt when you acquired or achieved them; the happiness was not long-lasting. This is due to the phenomenon of hedonic adaptation. When a particular thing makes you happy, your brain does not remain in that same state of total happiness indefinitely. Rather, our brain adapts to the feeling and goes back to normal within a period of time.

A study performed in 1978 testifies to this phenomenon. Researchers carried out a study on 22 lucky people who had just the lottery in the past year. They were asked to rate their present happiness and how happy they assumed they would feel in the years to come. Averagely, their ratings were no higher than people who had not won any lottery.

This phenomenon is not limited to lottery winnings alone. It is one which we come across in every ramification of our lives. Going to a dream institution, purchasing a new car, and even winning the lottery are things that produce temporary happiness. Professor Laurie Santos who spoke on this phenomenon referred to it as sad because we all tend to want the feelings to last forever.


4. You Don’t Realize That You Get Used To Things

With how frequently and fast we get off the cloud nine feelings which achievements give to us, one would think we would be used to it. Sadly that is not the case. Often, losing the ‘high’ we get from these achievements shocks us. We chase achievement after achievement expecting the next to last forever. We overestimate the impact we feel a future experience will have on us. This is known, according to Wilson and Gilbert, as impact bias. This has to do with overestimating how long the happiness we gain will last and overestimated the level to which we will feel the happiness we gain. Rather than the extreme feeling of satisfaction we assume we will gain from winning a championship, we are left unsatisfied and unfulfilled by the actual celebration which follows. In the same vein, a car crash which results in the loss of a limb could result in building a closer relationship with your loved ones rather than the abject doom and disaster you predicted.

This happens because of two significant and individual things which Wilson and Gilbert refer to as immune neglect and focalism. Focalism has to do with predicting our reactions to our achievements. We focus on only our reactions and somehow manage to forget that other things will be happening at the same time. These other things will most likely have nothing to do with your major achievement. While you may enjoy the party, music, cake, and confetti, you will most definitely have to wake up the next morning and go about your daily duties. Immune neglect occurs when we underestimate our brain’s ability to move past feelings of bliss.


Follow us

Don't be shy, get in touch. We love meeting interesting people and making new friends.