LIVE BLOG: Dan Gilbert Speaks at Elon’s Spring Convocation

danDaniel Gilbert is a Professor of Psychology at Harvard University. He has won many awards for his research and teaching, including the American Psychological Association’s Distinguished Scientific Award for an “Early Career Contribution to Psychology”. In 2008 he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. For more information visit his website He will be speaking at Elon University’s Spring Convocation about his book “Stumbling on Happiness” and how determining what will make “us” happy has dramatic implications for business strategy, sales and marketing, and understanding customers.

3:30 – Processional begins

3:37 – Associate Chaplain for Protestant Life Joel Harter and Director of Jewish Life at Hillel Jessica Waldman deliver invocation.

3:38 – “Good afternoon and welcome to Spring Convocation” – Elon University President Leo Lambert

3:40 – “Higher education matters in terms of jobs, overall well-being, and joy in your life” President Lambert goes on

3:42 – “Education and training beyond high school leads to a better and more secure life,” says LambertIMG_0617

3:44 – “Dr. Gilbert, welcome to Elon University,” says Leo Lambert as he introduces Associate Professor of Psychology India Johnson to the podium to introduce Dr. Daniel Gilbert

3:49 – “What is the secret to happiness?” Dr. Gilbert asks, approaching the podium

3:50 – “Happiness is what you would experience if only you can have everything you needed, everything you wanted,” says Gilbert, pacing the stage

3:51 – “People who have everything they want aren’t any happier than the rest of us.”

3:52 – Gilbert takes no interest in the two microphones attached to the podium as he continues to pace, showing the audience some advertisements from his childhood on the video boards.

3:54 – “There’s lots of places we can turn for information about happiness. Where most of us turn is to our communities, right?”

3:54 – “Scientists have gotten into the happiness business.”

3:55 – “To do science requires really only one thing, you have to measure something. If you can’t measure stuff, you do poetry.” Dr. Gilbert notes the “mini-bar” underneath the podium as the audience bursts into laughter.

3:56 – “The most common question in every human culture is ‘how are you?'” Gilbert provides an analogy about glasses. Saying that eye doctors use questions like “how’s that look?” and “how about now?” to make estimates about science.


Gilbert delivers his speech to the eager audience

3:59 – Marriage, money. and children are the three things that happiness boils down to according to Gilbert’s personal experiences.

4:00 – “How many people here think marriage causes happiness?” Less than 5 students raise their hands while few other people raise their hands either. “You are WRONG,” says Gilbert.

4:01 – “Marred people are happier than single people. Married people make more money per capita, married people live longer,” Gibert says as he shows a chart showing happiness among married people vs unmarried people.

4:03 – “There’s a U-shaped curve to happiness.” Gilbert says younger people and retirees are happier than middle-aged people.

4:06: – Gilbert shows a graph with data about the happiness of men and women as divorce approaches. “Does this mean we should get married and divorced and married and divorced and married and divorced? No!”

4:08 – “If your husband says he’s living you kill him,” Gilbert jokes. People explode into laughter again.

4:09 – Now Gilbert moves onto to money’s relationship with happiness. “MONEY BUYS HAPPINESS,” he says emphatically.

4:09 – “The relationship between money and happiness isn’t simple.”

4:11 – “When you get $65,000 in a year, you’ve gotten about all the happiness you’re gonna get out of money”

4:12 – “When people are resting they are about as unhappy as they are at their miserable jobs. People aren’t happy when they’re resting. An occupied mind is a happy mind, an open one, not so much.”

4:13 – “Spend more money experiences and less on stuff.”

4:15 – “Doing for others, dollar for dollar, brings more happiness than doing things for yourselves.”

4:17 – “Children are the thing that we name after happiness. “How’s that new bundle of joy?’ In study after study after study over decades, across the entire world, people with children are less happy than people with children.”

4:18 – Gilbert compares his mom’s theory that a family’s first child makes people happier to data that shows people are much less happy after having their first child.

4:20 – “Being with your kids is like scrubbing the toilet, according to the data.”

4:21 – Gilbert explains that while people can adapt to negative circumstances, “babies stay around.”

4:28 – “I want to suggest to you that what makes humans happy IS a scientific fact. I really do believe that the more we learn about the true causes of happiness, the more we can learn about ourselves.”

4:29 – “Thank you very much, I appreciate your time.”

4:30 – Dr. Gilbert leaves the stage as President Lambert comes back to the podium and recognizes students who have made the Dean’s List this past semester.

4:31 – Leo Lambert invites members of several prestigious honor societies to stand and receive congratulations for their academic achievements.

4:33 – “Undergraduates, commencement is in 51 days,” says Lambert. Students boo with displeasure. Lambert then recognizes faculty members sitting in the audience for their excellence in teaching and academics.

4:35 – Lastly, members of the audience who have made donations in the past year are honored.

4:36 – President Lambert thanks Dr. Gilbert as well as all the attendees. “Thank you all and have a wonderful evening.”


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