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Happiness, 1.16 (V) Week 1 Video 9 - Why we devalue happiness - Part II

[MUSIC] [FOREIGN]. [FOREIGN] in my mother tongue, which is Tamil means welcome and [FOREIGN] means friend. So, [FOREIGN] means, welcome friend. The next time you meet a Tamil person, you can surprise them by saying [FOREIGN] to him or her. Now, you didn't expect that you were going to learn some Tamil by taking this course, I know it. I know that you're feeling immensely grateful to me for teaching you some Tamil as some added bonus of taking this class, but please don't send me any gifts. I'm serious. Talking of gifts, we should all consider happiness to be a gift because it has so many positive effects on us. On our productivity, on our altruism, and actually even on our objectivity. In a paper that I had the pleasure of working with, one of the most well respected names in all of social psychology, Yaacov Trope from New York University. We showed that people are more objective, that is more capable of handling the truth, when they are happy versus when they are not. And yet, as I started discussing in the last video, many of us devalue happiness. One reason we devalue happiness is because of the negative beliefs we have about it. We think that happiness will make us lazy, that it will make us selfish, or that happiness is fleeting. But as we saw, these beliefs are all wrong. Happiness actually makes us more successful, more altruistic, and it need not be fleeting. I'll have more to say about how happiness need not be fleeting in a video that's coming up soon, but for now, let me turn to discussing two other reasons why we devalue happiness. The second reason we devalue happiness is because we fail to define it in concrete terms. It turns out that when something is not clearly defined, we tend to devalue it, this is because of something called the fluency effect. According to this effect, we like something more when we understand it more easily. And as you can imagine, it's not easy to understand something if it is not completely defined. This idea, that we gravitate towards things that are more easily defined or easy to see, reminds me of a famous story of this Sufi saint called Mulla Nasrudin. In case you haven't heard it, let me tell you what happened. Once, Mulla was searching for something desperately under the street lamp. A passerby noticed him and asked him, what are you searching for? Mulla said, I've lost my wedding ring and my wife is going to kill me if she finds out that I've lost it. The man was able to empathize with Mulla's plight because he himself was married, and he started helping Mulla search for the ring. Soon, two other people who were also passing by, joined the search party. They too were eager to Mulla because they also were married and they could easily imagine Mulla's plight. After about ten minutes of searching, one of the men in the search party turned on Mulla and asked him, Mulla where exactly did you loose the ring? And Mulla said, oh, over there in the woods, pointing to a forest about 50 meters away. The three men were flabbergasted, their jaws dropped, and they asked Mulla in unison, why then were you searching for the ring out here? And Mulla, without batting an eyelid, says, oh, because we can more easily see here under the street lamp. Over there, it's dark and difficult to see. The story shows us, how we have a tendency to focus on things that we can see more clearly. Which is similar to the idea that we give greater value and priority to things that are more clearly defined. Here's a more scientific exploration of the same idea. Imagine that you're looking for some cough syrup and you walk into a supermarket and you come across two brands, Brand A and Brand B. As you can see, Brand A is easier to read. Brand B on the other hand is more difficult to read. Which brand are you more likely to buy? Studies show that you're more likely to choose brand A. Why? Because it is easier to read and process. Much the same way that we value things that are easier to see and process, we devalue things that are difficult to see and process. You are likely to devalue happiness if you aren't clear about what it means to you. In other words, a big reason we devalue happiness is because we don't have a readily available concrete definition of happiness. We'll fix this problem, by the way, in the next video where I will ask you to come up with a concrete definition of happiness. Let me turn my attention now to the third and final way by which we devalue happiness. This is due to something the researchers call medium maximization. The simplest way to understand medium maximization is that we often forget what we we ultimately want in life, and we end up chasing the mediums that are supposed to get us what we ultimately want. Money is a classic medium. By itself, money has little value, it's just pieces of paper. The only reason we want money is because it can help us get other things like a house, or a vacation, or medicine, or books. As the saying goes, money is what money does. But many of us seem to forget this and we start chasing money as if it were the end goal. There are several papers that have documented this phenomenon including this one, which is one of my favorite papers, by researchers from the University of Chicago titled, what else, Medium Maximization. Judging by what's on people's genie wish list, it's not just money that distracts us from happiness. Other goals like status and fame do it too, and many times we don't even realize that we are sacrificing happiness for the sake of these other goals. I've been thinking about happiness and working on the topic for several years and yet, once in awhile even I get tripped up by the fundamental happiness paradox. Just the other day, I was shopping for a pair of glasses, and I found out that there was this deal going on. Buy one pair and get half off another pair of equal or lower value. I found this really good-looking pair of glasses that set me back by about $120 and I decided that I was going to buy it. Then, to take advantage of the deal, I started looking for another pair and I found this really good looking one. It was better than all the other options. I was about to select it when I noticed that it was only worth only $70. Remember that I could choose another pair that was also worth $120. So by selecting the $70 pair I felt that I was actually losing $50. But at the same time, I knew that none of the other pairs of glasses was as good looking as this $70 pair. So, what was I to do? Select the good looking pair that was worth only $70, or select a worse looking pair that would give me more value for money? As I was breaking my head thinking about this, a voice in my head suddenly popped up. It said Dr. Happy smart you've been working on the topic of happiness for a number of years and you of all people shouldn't commit the fundamental happiness paradox. You should select the $70 pair because that's clearly the better looking one. So what if it costs a little bit less? No one will know how much it cost and you too will forget about it. So select that path that you think looks good since that's the happiness maximizing choice, and that's what I did. But this example goes to show how easily we can be deviated by medium maximization. All right, with that let me turn now to summarizing what we discussed in the last two videos. We discussed how we devalue happiness for three main reasons. [SOUND] First reason is that we harbor negative beliefs about happiness. Second reason is that we fail to define happiness in concrete terms. And the third reason is that we're susceptible to medium maximization. So, it follows that to overcome the first deadly happiness sin, we'll need to figure out a strategy that takes care of all these three reasons why we devalue happiness. And that's exactly what we're going to do in the very next video. Til then, bye bye. [MUSIC]



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[MUSIC] [FOREIGN]. [FOREIGN] in my mother tongue, which is Tamil means welcome and [FOREIGN] means friend. So, [FOREIGN] means, welcome friend. The next time you meet a Tamil person, you can surprise them by saying [FOREIGN] to him or her. Now, you didn't expect that you were going to learn some Tamil by taking this course, I know it. I know that you're feeling immensely grateful to me for teaching you some Tamil as some added bonus of taking this class, but please don't send me any gifts. I'm serious. Talking of gifts, we should all consider happiness to be a gift because it has so many positive effects on us. On our productivity, on our altruism, and actually even on our objectivity. In a paper that I had the pleasure of working with, one of the most well respected names in all of social psychology, Yaacov Trope from New York University. We showed that people are more objective, that is more capable of handling the truth, when they are happy versus when they are not. And yet, as I started discussing in the last video, many of us devalue happiness. One reason we devalue happiness is because of the negative beliefs we have about it. We think that happiness will make us lazy, that it will make us selfish, or that happiness is fleeting. But as we saw, these beliefs are all wrong. Happiness actually makes us more successful, more altruistic, and it need not be fleeting. I'll have more to say about how happiness need not be fleeting in a video that's coming up soon, but for now, let me turn to discussing two other reasons why we devalue happiness. The second reason we devalue happiness is because we fail to define it in concrete terms. It turns out that when something is not clearly defined, we tend to devalue it, this is because of something called the fluency effect. According to this effect, we like something more when we understand it more easily. And as you can imagine, it's not easy to understand something if it is not completely defined. This idea, that we gravitate towards things that are more easily defined or easy to see, reminds me of a famous story of this Sufi saint called Mulla Nasrudin. In case you haven't heard it, let me tell you what happened. Once, Mulla was searching for something desperately under the street lamp. A passerby noticed him and asked him, what are you searching for? Mulla said, I've lost my wedding ring and my wife is going to kill me if she finds out that I've lost it. The man was able to empathize with Mulla's plight because he himself was married, and he started helping Mulla search for the ring. Soon, two other people who were also passing by, joined the search party. They too were eager to Mulla because they also were married and they could easily imagine Mulla's plight. After about ten minutes of searching, one of the men in the search party turned on Mulla and asked him, Mulla where exactly did you loose the ring? And Mulla said, oh, over there in the woods, pointing to a forest about 50 meters away. The three men were flabbergasted, their jaws dropped, and they asked Mulla in unison, why then were you searching for the ring out here? And Mulla, without batting an eyelid, says, oh, because we can more easily see here under the street lamp. Over there, it's dark and difficult to see. The story shows us, how we have a tendency to focus on things that we can see more clearly. Which is similar to the idea that we give greater value and priority to things that are more clearly defined. Here's a more scientific exploration of the same idea. Imagine that you're looking for some cough syrup and you walk into a supermarket and you come across two brands, Brand A and Brand B. As you can see, Brand A is easier to read. Brand B on the other hand is more difficult to read. Which brand are you more likely to buy? Studies show that you're more likely to choose brand A. Why? Because it is easier to read and process. Much the same way that we value things that are easier to see and process, we devalue things that are difficult to see and process. You are likely to devalue happiness if you aren't clear about what it means to you. In other words, a big reason we devalue happiness is because we don't have a readily available concrete definition of happiness. We'll fix this problem, by the way, in the next video where I will ask you to come up with a concrete definition of happiness. Let me turn my attention now to the third and final way by which we devalue happiness. This is due to something the researchers call medium maximization. The simplest way to understand medium maximization is that we often forget what we we ultimately want in life, and we end up chasing the mediums that are supposed to get us what we ultimately want. Money is a classic medium. By itself, money has little value, it's just pieces of paper. The only reason we want money is because it can help us get other things like a house, or a vacation, or medicine, or books. As the saying goes, money is what money does. But many of us seem to forget this and we start chasing money as if it were the end goal. There are several papers that have documented this phenomenon including this one, which is one of my favorite papers, by researchers from the University of Chicago titled, what else, Medium Maximization. Judging by what's on people's genie wish list, it's not just money that distracts us from happiness. Other goals like status and fame do it too, and many times we don't even realize that we are sacrificing happiness for the sake of these other goals. I've been thinking about happiness and working on the topic for several years and yet, once in awhile even I get tripped up by the fundamental happiness paradox. Just the other day, I was shopping for a pair of glasses, and I found out that there was this deal going on. Buy one pair and get half off another pair of equal or lower value. I found this really good-looking pair of glasses that set me back by about $120 and I decided that I was going to buy it. Then, to take advantage of the deal, I started looking for another pair and I found this really good looking one. It was better than all the other options. I was about to select it when I noticed that it was only worth only $70. Remember that I could choose another pair that was also worth $120. So by selecting the $70 pair I felt that I was actually losing $50. But at the same time, I knew that none of the other pairs of glasses was as good looking as this $70 pair. So, what was I to do? Select the good looking pair that was worth only $70, or select a worse looking pair that would give me more value for money? As I was breaking my head thinking about this, a voice in my head suddenly popped up. It said Dr. Happy smart you've been working on the topic of happiness for a number of years and you of all people shouldn't commit the fundamental happiness paradox. You should select the $70 pair because that's clearly the better looking one. So what if it costs a little bit less? No one will know how much it cost and you too will forget about it. So select that path that you think looks good since that's the happiness maximizing choice, and that's what I did. But this example goes to show how easily we can be deviated by medium maximization. All right, with that let me turn now to summarizing what we discussed in the last two videos. We discussed how we devalue happiness for three main reasons. [SOUND] First reason is that we harbor negative beliefs about happiness. Second reason is that we fail to define happiness in concrete terms. And the third reason is that we're susceptible to medium maximization. So, it follows that to overcome the first deadly happiness sin, we'll need to figure out a strategy that takes care of all these three reasons why we devalue happiness. And that's exactly what we're going to do in the very next video. Til then, bye bye. [MUSIC]


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