In his Ted Talk, Dan Gilbert discusses his theory on synthetic happiness. He use examples of Monet paintings and personal photographs to illustrate what synthetic happiness is as well as the limitation freewill places on happiness. He found that in an experiment with Monet Paintings, people will like the print that they got to keep over the one they did not get to keep. When the same experiment was done with amnesia patients, the results were the same even though the patients did not remember which painting they got to keep. This study blew my mind. I immediately tried to make sense of it yet could find no real notion to explain this phenomenon. It makes sense to me that individuals will appreciate something that they are familiar with and have ownership of rather than another option, but that is not really applicable to the amnesia patients.

The studies done on Harvard students regarding their ownership of meaningful photographs reveals how doubt found in free will comes into play. There is a constant unsettling feeling of “did I choose the right photograph?” When students were not given the option to exchange photographs  however, they noted that they were content and satisfied with their photograph and loved it more over time. I can see this factor play out in my day to day life. I am constantly wondering if the grass would have been greener if I did Action B instead of Action A.

For me, I can incorporate the principles regarding synthetic happiness by not attaching myself so heavily to my decisions and other things in my life. I can let things go after the decision has made and move forward with the repercussions of my decisions. Synthetic happiness seems to be simply being grateful and thankful for the opportunities that an individual is given and living without regret towards the actions they did not take. With that said, I still don’t understand the amnesia patients and how/why that happened.


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