The determinants of happiness are remarkably similar around the world, in countries as different as Afghanistan, the U.S, and Chile. Income matters to happiness but only so much; friends, freedom, and employment are good for happiness, while crime, poor health, and divorce are bad. Paradoxically, however, people in places like Afghanistan can be as happy as those in much wealthier and safer ones like Chile. One explanation is the remarkable human capacity to adapt to adversity and hardship. While adaptation may be a good thing for individual wellbeing, it can also result in collective tolerance for bad equilibrium which are difficult for societies to escape from.
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Jonah Lehrer is editor-at-large for Seed Magazine and a contributing editor at NPR`S Radio Lab.
Since Plato, philosophers have described the decision-making process as either rational or emotional: we carefully deliberate or we blink and go with our gut. But as scientists break open the minds black box with the latest tools of neuroscience, theyre discovering this is not how the mind works.
Jonah Lehrer, author and editor-at-large for Seed Magazine, suggests that our best decisions are a finely tuned blend of both feeling and reason and the precise mix depends on the situation. The trick is to determine when to lean on which part of the brain, and to do this, we need to think harder (and smarter) about how we think.