Liveblog – Dan Gilbert Speaks at Elon Convocation

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Daniel Gilbert, Elon Convocation speaker

Daniel Gilbert is a psychology professor at Harvard University.  He has completed important research in the field, but is perhaps most commonly recognized for his international best-seller Stumbling on Happiness and several popular TED Talks.  At Elon’s 2017 Convocation, he will discuss the flaws in common understandings of happiness and how applications of psychology can have large implications for business practice.  More information can be found on his website.  Check back for updates starting at 3:30 p.m.

3:30 – Processional begins.

3:36 – Invocation begins, delivered by associate chaplain for Protestant Life Joel Harter and director of Jewish Life at Hillel Jessica Waldman.

3:38 – President Leo Lambert welcomes the audience.

3:42 – Lambert challenges audience to “dive into national dialogue about higher education,” and “to prepare yourselves with the fundamental facts about the importance of education.”

3:45 – Assistant professor of psychology India Johnson introduces Daniel Gilbert.

3:47 – Applause as Gilbert takes the stage.

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Gilbert addresses convocation crowd.

3:47 – “I get to talk to a room of several thousand really nice people who don’t have to ask me what’s on the test,” Gilbert begins, to laughter.

3:50 – Gilbert begins by offering a brief discussion of human history, culminating in present day happiness:  “People who have everything they want aren’t any happier than the rest of us.”

3:53 – Gilbert shows old product advertisements for cigarettes, Coke and TV, all promising happiness – we don’t think the same thing anymore because of science.

3:54 – “Lucky for us, for the last couple of years, scientists have gotten into the happy business.”

3:56 – How do we measure happiness?  Gilbert says EMG, EEG and f-MRI – but none is as effective as asking people questions.

3:59 – Marriage, money and children – his mother’s recipe for happiness.  Gilbert later discovered that moms all over the world give the same advice.

4:01 – But do they actually work?  Gilbert begins with marriage and polls the audience – almost none of the students and surprisingly few adults think it makes us happy.

4:02 – But they’re wrong!  Married people, according to Gilbert’s research, are happier than single people or unmarried people who live together.

4:06 – He also covers the happiness levels of divorced couples – it’s sad beforehand, but happiness tends to shoot up afterwards.

4:09 – Now it’s on to money – people tend to think that money can’t by happiness but, “NO! THEY’RE WRONG!” says Gilbert, emphatically.

4:11 – Happiness actually goes up quickly with increased money until about $65,000, interestingly.

4:12 – “If money doesn’t bring you happiness, you’re not spending it right.”

4:16 – So how should you spend your money?  Gilbert says experiences (not things) and others (not yourself).

4:18 – Now, children.  Almost everyone thinks that children make people happier – unless they have kids themselves.

4:19 – It’s also harder on stay-at-home parents – stay-at-home moms are almost twice as likely to experience depression than women with no children or working women with children.

4:21 – The more you know – spending time with children is about as invigorating as vacuuming for average parents.

4:23 – “The young people are all thinking ‘Oh my God, do my parents hate me?'”  Seems like the audience might think he’s not far off.

4:24 – Why is this so backwards sounding?  “The answer is that it might not apply to you because you are not average.”

4:26 – “Children are hardest on the people who have the fewest resources to deal with stress,” and on people hardest hit by the stress, young people and women, respectively.

4:29 – “The more we learn about the true cause of happiness, the more of it we can get for ourselves.”  Gilbert steps down from the lectern (or minibar, as he had called it earlier,) to great applause.

4:31 – President Lambert takes the stage again, recognizing fourth year students, students on the President’s List and students in various honors societies.

4:34 – Lambert also takes time to recognize faculty and staff, pausing for a round of applause as they stand.

4:36 – Another round of applause for Gilbert as the recessional begins.

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