LIVE BLOG: Daniel Gilbert, popular TED Talk lecturer, headlines Elon Spring Convocation

Multimedia reporting by Ginna Royalty

Daniel Gilbert speaks in a TED Talk.

Daniel Gilbert, Harvard psychologist and professor, will be discussing how beliefs about what will make us happy are often wrong, among other topics, at Elon University’s Spring Convocation.


The idea comes from his best-selling book, “Stumbling on Happiness” which was on The New York Times bestseller list for six months and has been translated into over 30 languages.

His TED Talk “The Science of Happiness” is one of the 15 most popular talks of all time and more than 20 million people have seen Gilbert’s TED talks.

“He’s a great example of Elon’s priority on bringing world leaders and scholars to campus, giving students, faculty and staff the opportunity to learn from and interact with people who have challenging and inspiring ideas,” said Dan Anderson, vice president for university communications.


The procession begins with faculty, staff and students entering the gym.


“It seems like we have forgotten how to talk to one another.” – Joel Harter


“We invite you to contemplate the lessons of springtime…and to recommit ourselves to live lives of purpose and meaning.” -Joel Harter


President Leo Lambert welcomes the crowd and talks about the purpose of Spring Convocation.

“Education, specifically higher education, has long been viewed as a gateway to opportunity”    -President Lambert


Lambert speaks of the benefits of higher education including higher wages and happier lives as well as the endless opportunities.

“Higher education lights a path for the future…It helps us create a more engaged and democratic society.”


“I ask each of you to dive into our national dialogue about education. I ask you to be vocal champions of higher education.”


Lambert thanks the Elon community for helping make the world a better place and welcomes India Johnson to welcome Dr. Gilbert to the stage.


Associate professor of psychology India Johnson takes the stage and talks about how Dr. Gilbert has inspired her to follow the academia route.

His not-so-traditional beginnings helped her find her way.


The audience members listen to Daniel Gilbert

Dr. Daniel Gilbert takes the stage.

“I want to hear that one more time and then we should all go get drinks. That was the nicest introduction I’ve had” -Dr. Gilbert


Gilbert jokes about how the audience won’t ask him what will be on the test and goes into what is the secret of happiness.


Happiness is what you would experience if you got to have everything you needed and wanted according to our ancestors.


“In places where people have the lights on at night, people basically have everything they need.”

“We are aiming for things that will bring us happiness but when we get them they are just not true….People often want the wrong thing.”


“Cigarettes, coke, and tv were happiness for my mother.”

“Where most of us turn for happiness is our culture. Every taxi driver and bartender have a theory about what you need to do if you want to be happy. But guess what, none of their theories are based on evidence.”


“To do science it really only requires one thing, you must be able to measure it. If you can’t measure things, you can’t do science. Then you need to write poems about it or something.”


“Some of you are skeptical, I’m not sure you can do science by asking people questions about what science means to them.” Gilbert provides an example of going to the eye doctor and answering questions about which lens is better.


Gilbert’s mom said if you want to have a happy life you need three things: marriage, make money and children. This is advice mothers all over the world give. “Find someone, do well, and have babies.”


Gilbert asks, “How many people here think marriage causes happiness?” The audience laughs as none of the young people raise their hand and an older woman raises her husband’s hand.


Gilbert discusses the differences in happiness between married and single people. Young people and older people are in the happiest days of their lives.


“Isn’t it possible that happier people are more likely to get married? Yes, it’s possible and even makes sense.” Happier people do better on the marriage market.

“We still see that marriage is a cause of happiness”


As people are moving toward marriage they are getting happier and happier. And then after the wedding, the line [of happiness] goes down”


Gilbert talks about how happiness rebounds after divorce.


“Does money make you happy?” People always will say no, but money will make people happy. People don’t become sadder when you increase their income.


How much money do you need to actually be happy? It’s about $65,00 a year, you have gotten 90% of happiness out of money that you can possibly get.


“The way people spend money is incorrect, often it’s not the kinds of things that will make you happy.”


“An occupied mind is a happy mind.”


Gilbert discusses how you should spend your money. “Spend more money on experiences and less on stuff.”

“Experiences are usually done with other people. Human beings get great amounts of happiness from their human relationships.”


Gilbert talks about how you can’t compare experiences with other people as you can with ‘stuff.’

“Doing good things for other people makes you happy.”


“Children are the thing we name after happiness. ‘How’s the new bundle of joy?'”

“People with children are less happy than those without them and people with children are the least happy when they live with them.”


“For women, being with their children is like scrubbing a toilet.”


“My perception as a living breathing human with a child is that they’re crazy.”


“There is a “parenthood penalty.” Across the world, children mainly lower the happiness of women and barely lower the happiness of men.”

Women are doing all the work, which is why their happiness is going down.

“Children actually increase happiness if you’re a widow. If you’re 18-25 children will not make you happy. But if you’re in your 50’s you’ll get a benefit out of children.”


“Children seem to bring happiness to older, single men and take happiness from younger, single women.”

Gilbert goes back to the things that his mother said would make him happy.


“Happiness is what matters. It’s our project…It’s the thing that we’re on earth to do. But we look to the wrong places for where it can be found.”

“The more we learn about the true causes of happiness, the more we can get for us and those in our communities.” Dr. Gilbert thanks the audience for their time and exits the stage.


President Lambert comes back to the stage and recognize’s students on the President and Dean’s List. He also recognizes members of different honor societies and the class of 2017.

Daniel Gilbert discusses the differences women have in terms of happiness


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