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Daniel Kahneman and his studies on happiness

Daniel Kahneman and his studies on happiness

June 11, 2024

Everyone talks about happiness . Books, conferences, coaching, mentoring ... are some of the products that people can buy today in supermarkets of happiness. Most are usually a compendium of beautiful phrases, motivational tips and aphorisms to frame that can be motivating while you read but lack practical long-term usefulness. The problem is that happiness is something so complex that it costs a lot to investigate about it.

Daniel Kahneman, one of the most influential psychologists of our time, reveals in the last chapters of the book that led him to get the Nobel Prize the current findings of science about well-being and happiness.


  • Related article: "How do we think?" The two thought systems of Daniel Kahneman "

Kahnmeman and his idea of ​​happiness

Basically, Kahneman's studies reveal that there is no single concept of happiness . This psychologist speaks to us of the existence of two "I": the "I that experiences" and the "I that remembers". Both are of great importance for the way in which we have to value our happiness.

Although the self that experiences is responsible for recording the sensations we have of events as they happen, the self that remembers is that it gives meaning to those experiences.

To illustrate both concepts relate the following example:


"A comment I heard from a member of the public after a conference illustrated the difficulty of distinguishing memories of experiences. He told how he was ecstatically listening to a long symphony recorded on a record that was scratched towards the end and produced a scandalous noise, and how that disastrous ending ruined the whole experience. "

But the experience was not really ruined, but only the memory of it . The reality of the spectator had been really pleasant for most of the time; nevertheless, the noise of the end made the general evaluation of the experience for the spectator have been scandalous.

The "I" that pleasantly enjoyed the course of the symphony in the present moment is the "I who experiences". On the other hand, the "I" that considered the experience as unpleasant is the "me that remembers".

The logics of memory

In this example, Kahneman shows the dilemma between direct experience and memory . It also shows how different these two systems of happiness are that are satisfied with different elements.


The "I who experiences" takes into account the emotions of day to day in the present moment. How you have felt most of the day, the excitement of an encounter with someone you love, the comfort of a nap or the release of endorphins when playing sports.

The "me that remembers" measures overall satisfaction with our life. When someone asks us how we are doing, how about vacations, work or just we take stock of our life . It is a narrator who values ​​specific experiences based on what we consider relevant in life.

Another example in which shows the difference between the two is the following: Imagine that in our next vacation we know that at the end of the holiday period all our photos will be destroyed, and they will administer an amnesic drug so that we will not remember anything. Now, would you choose the same vacation?

If we think in terms of time, then we will get an answer. And if we think in terms of memories, we will get another answer. Why do we choose the vacations we choose? It is a problem that refers us to a choice between the two selves.

  • You may be interested: "Types of memory: how does memory store the human brain?"

Well-being has more than one time

As the reader can see, happiness is presented as a complex and problematic concept in light of these studies . As Kahnemam says:

"In the last ten years we have learned many new things about happiness. But we have also learned that the word happiness does not have a unique meaning and should not be used as it is used. Sometimes scientific progress leaves us more perplexed than we were before. "

For this reason, in this article there are no tips, phrases or lessons about what makes our life more rewarding. Only relevant scientific findings that should make us more critical of authors who sell quick and easy solutions to lead a life of satisfaction and happiness.

Bibliographic references:

  • Kahneman, Daniel. Think fast, think slowly. Barcelona: Debate, 2012. ISBN-13: 978-8483068618.

Explorations of the Mind: Well-Being with Daniel Kahneman (June 2024).


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