"The Futile Pursuit of Happiness" by Jon Gertner was published in September of 2003. It is an essay that discusses the difference between how happy we believe we will be with a particular outcome or decision, and how happy we actually are with the outcome. The essay is based on experiments done by two professors: Daniel Gilbert and George Loewenstein. The experiments show that humans are never as happy as we think we will be with an outcome because affective forecasting and miswanting cause false excitement and disappointment in our search for true happiness.
Gertner jumps right into his essay with examples. He repeatedly states that we are wrong to think that nice things will make us happy. His language starts out blunt and maybe even a little scornful for being so naïve. He tries to bring out a sense of disappointment in the reader by telling us that, basically, we can't be happy. This continues throughout the essay especially with his discussion of affective forecasting and miswanting.
Following his introduction, Gertner spills into a discussion of affective forecasting. He uses real life examples to get his point across. Also, results from experiments done by Gilbert and Loewenstein were used to show that affective forecasting is a valid idea. This term is used to describe the inability of humans to predict how they will feel after a certain event takes place. The reason for this is that we don't realize that things become normal to us. This can be quite a disappointment to someone who goes out and blows fifty grand on a car. But, the concept of affective forecasting goes the other way also. Whenever something bad happens, such as the death of a family member or the loss of a job, we think the grief will be unbearable and will last for years. This isn't the case. Nearly all of the experiments done by Gilbert and Loewenstein show that the grief is milder and briefer than expected. Gertner claims that these mistakes in expectations can lead to making bad choices in what we think will make us happy. This is called "miswanting."
Gertner's explanation of miswanting is filled with more examples and experiments. The experiments are credible; they are done by professors at prestigious colleges. The examples are also believable. They are very helpful because they make the reader think back to a time when they really wanted something that they couldn't have, which is what miswanting is. People think that the key to being happy is getting the...