Listen: Psychologist Barry Schwartz Discusses "Essence of Happiness"

Stacey Kutish

Psychologist Barry Schwartz
Discusses "Essence of Happiness"

by Stacey Kutish
6/23/2009

Barry Schwartz

Barry Schwartz

Psychologist Barry Schwartz explores the social and psychological effects of free-market economic institutions on moral, social, and civic concerns. On a recent Minnesota Public Radio broadcast, he discussed what some call the "changing definition" of happiness:

"I think for a lot of us, happiness is really abut feeling good - experiencing positive emotion and not experiencing negative emotion - and that really is the sort of thing that you experience in the moment. So that's the smiley face definition of happiness. I don't think that's the right one, but it's probably one that dominates our everyday experience...  So if you're focused on that, you end up continually disappointed because the thing that made you happy made you happy for 10 minutes and now you need another thing to make you happy. I think  a deeper, more profound understanding will focus not on how we feel moment to moment, but on our assessment of how our lives are going overall, which means you take a longterm view." more

Schwartz is the Dorwin P. Cartwright Professor of Social Theory and Social Action. His books include The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less and The Costs of Living: How Market Freedom Erodes the Best Things in Life. Earlier this year, he gave a TED Talk in which he called for "practical wisdom" as an antidote to a society gone mad with bureaucracy. His article, "Tyranny for the Commons Man," also appears in the July/August 2009 issue of The National Interest.