The Neuroscience of Happiness

A new book “The Happiness of Pursuit: What Neuroscience Can Teach Us About the Good Life” by Shimon Edelman, PhD, professor of psychology and cognitive scientist at Cornell University offers some interesting insights into the brain’s basic computational skills – its ability to compute information, perform statistical analysis and weigh value judgments in daily life – as a way to explain our relationship with happiness.

According to Edelman,”our capacity to retain memories and develop foresight allows us to plan for the future by using a mental “personal space-time machine” that jumps between past, present and future. It’s through this process of motivation, perception, thinking, followed by motor movement, that we’re able not only to survive, but to feel happy. Whether he is citing Bayesian theory of probability or Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” Edelman presents a range of references and allegories to explain why a changing, growing self, constantly shaped by new experiences, is happier than the satisfaction any end goal can give us.

In the book, he details how the rewards we get for learning and understanding the workings of the world really show that it is the journey, not the destination, that matters most.

The Happiness of Pursuit: What Neuroscience Can Teach Us About the Good Life
Interview with Dr Edelman
Dr Edelman Cornell University