LIVE BLOG: Daniel Gilbert, convocation speaker

016a827cc0757092a0439ab2a63feca8655b6c29_1600x1200Daniel Gilbert, popular author, Harvard professor and giver of one of the 15 most popular TED talks of all time, is speaking at spring convocation at Elon University today in Alumni Gym. Stay tuned right here for updates on his speech.

3:33 pm – Students walk in during the Processional.

3:36 pm – Associate Chaplain for Protestant Life, Joel Harter, encourages students, “To consider the lillies of the field and the fruit of our lives, we invite you to renew our hope in new life and new beginnings…”

3:38 pm – President Leo Lambert explains how, “education and higher education has long been viewed as a gateway to opportunity in our country…higher education matters, in terms of jobs, overall wellbeing and joy in your life. Research has consistently shown that college graduates earn higher wages, are more invested in their communities…Higher Education helps us create a more engaged and democratic society.”IMG_0140.JPG.jpeg

3:42 pm – President Leo Lambert asks each of us to “dive into  our national dialogue about education. I ask you to be vocal champions of higher education…I ask you to be advocates for the liberal arts and sciences, to be the voice in your community, to help others understand the value that education has…I believe we place our country in peril if we allow our country to backslide…I thank each of you for making Elon…this country a better place.”

3:45 pm – India Johnson, Associate Professor of Psychology takes the stage to introduce the speaker.

3:46 pm – Johnson speaks about how Gilbert’s career “has been marked by success and certainly is worthy of having many fans.” She speaks about how his work influenced her to seek a career in psychology. She spoke about how Gilbert’s nontraditional beginnings as a high school dropout gave her the confidence she needed to find her way in the field.

3:48 pm – Gilbert jokes about how, after that introduction, he wants us all to go “out for drinks, it was the nicest introduction,” he’d ever had. He tells us that he comes to us today to answer the world’s biggest question: “What’s the secret to happiness?”

3:49 pm- He tells us that “what is the secret to happiness?” is actually one of the world’s newest questions. He says “happiness is what you would experience if you got to have everything you needed and wanted, this was the theory that our ancestors had,” and how this is the theory

A captivated audience listens to Gilbert speak.

that our ancestors had. He says this has never been possible.

3:51 pm – “In these places where the lights are on in the world, these are the places where everyone has everything they want, but still, they’re not happy.” He speaks in reference to the most populated and industrial parts of the world.

3:53 pm – Gilbert speaks about the ads that his mother and him saw when he was young, ads that pushed parents to “Start cola earlier” or “smoke today, no cigarette hangover tomorrow” – which were empty promises of happiness, as there was no basis in science. He then asks if we can use the tools of science to find out what really controls happiness.

3:55 pm – “To do science, you really only need to be able to do one thing – to measure things. “If you can’t measure things, you can’t do science, you need to write poems about it, or something..”

3:56 pm – “Most happiness research uses a technology called ‘APQ’, or known as ‘Asking People Questions.'” When you ask people questions, you can begin to “do science.” He makes a joke that when people challenge him by saying you can’t ‘do science’ based off of questions, they should throw out their glasses, because the way they got a prescription was by answering the questions of the optometrist.

3:59 pm – Gilbert speaks about the things that his mother used to tell him about how to be happy – find a nice girl, settle down, make money and have kids. He says he found out that basically all mothers, all over the world, tell their children that this is how to find happiness and enjoyment in the world. He says he can now tell us the real science behind this happiness.

4:00 pm – Gilbert poses a question to the room – “Raise your hand if marriage causes happiness.” He makes fun of the responses, saying none of the young people rose their hands. He shows some data about how, on average, married people are happier than single people, time after time.

4:04 pm – “Does marriage cause happiness, or does happiness cause marriage,” asks Gilbert. He says this is a seriously arguable question, and that “happy people do better on the marriage market, we know that.” He shows that people tend to be happier after they’re married than they were before.

4:07 pm – Gilbert shows us a graph about how happy people are when they’re divorced as well. He says that happiness comes from, “a marriage that’s good.” He then speaks about how women do better when a spouse dies so, “if your husband says he’s leaving you, kill them”

4:09 pm – Gilbert speaks about the correlation between money and happiness. “If you think money can’t buy happiness, ask someone who lives in a box! Although money can’t buy happiness, the correlation between them,” is a bit more complicated. The real happiness level for money is $65,000 – “this is what Bill Gates leaves in a tip, but when you earn this, you have 95% of the happiness that you can have.”
4:12 pm – Gilbert says that people are

A student watches from the distinguished section for those on the President’s List.

just as happy when they’re resting as they are when they’re at work – not happy. His research proves that people are happiest when listening to music or exercising.

4:13 pm – Gilbert says we can be happier when we spend, “more money on experiences and less on stuff,” he speaks to this in an analogy between if we are asked if we would rather have a vacation in Paris or a new car. “Human beings get great amounts of happiness from their human relationships.” Comparing one person’s stuff to another person’s stuff creates jealousy. No one is jealous of someone else’s experience, or trying to compare theirs to claim that they had better.

4:16 pm – Gilbert says “that research shows that when people spend money on others, they themselves get a happiness boost.” If you ask people who bought things for other people how happy they are, they’re happier than people who didn’t.

4:17 pm – Parents are happy but, “people with children are less happy than people without children.” He shows us a graph that shows that parents are less happy after the birth of their child. There is a big spike in happiness right before a baby is born, but then a large drop in happiness.

4:21 pm – Gilbert says that “when you have a baby, life doesn’t go on,” showing us a graph that says there’s a larger spike in unhappiness after the birth of a child than after the death of a spouse. “My perception as a person who has a child is that ‘these data are crazy, they’re obviously wrong.’ I wanna suggest to you that the way it looks when we are living it than how it looks from a scientist’s point of view are different. “Why does this seem to backwards, he asks.”

4:24 pm – He says this might alarm us, but we aren’t (none of the people in this room) the average person in the world. He says that the world average of happiness is lowered for women much more than it is for men. “It’s their happiness that’s taking a hit, not the men’s.” Children seem to “bring happiness to older, married men, and take happiness from younger, single women…Children are a source of stress, and so, they are hardest on people who have the fewest resources for stress.”

4:26 pm – Gilbert questions if his mother was wrong. Rather, he says she wasn’t wrong, but right with conditions. He says “I came here trying to talk to you about happiness,’s our project…but we look to the wrong places about where it can be found.”

4:28 pm – “The more we learn about the true causes of happiness, the more we can get for us and those in our communities.” Gilbert thanks us for our time, and takes a seat.

4:30 pm – President Leo Lambert takes the podium, and invites all the students on the Dean’s and President’s list to stand and take our congratulations. They were applauded. He does the same with the students recently inducted to Phi Beta Kappa.


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