The Science of Well-Being course

I’m auditing the Yale “Science of Well-Being” course over at Coursera. It just began this week. Would anyone like to take it with me, and maybe discuss here? (Also: is this an appropriate topic for the BBS? If not, please shut me down with impunity.)


Absolutely is. Let us know your thoughts!


I’ve just finished week one, which is mostly just the overview, but one tidbit I thought was fun: The GI Joe fallacy. The lecturer uses the example of the Muller-Lyer illusion to illustrate.

If you are familiar with this illusion. You know that the lines are of equal length. But even knowing that, it really, really looks like one line is much longer. So the GI Joe fallacy: knowing isn’t always half the battle.


Has anyone else signed up?

Here are my notes for the beginning of week 2:

Savoring & Gratitude

  • Savouring: stepping outside an experience to review and appreciate it
    • Savouring improves your life in three ways
      • Thwarts hedonic adaptation; helps you remember the good things in life
      • Keeps your mind from wandering, keeps you in the moment
      • Increase gratitude; makes you thankful for the experiences
    • Just take part in an activity you enjoy
      • Take a second to realise why it makes you happy
      • Take a picture to help remember it later
      • Track what you savoured
  • Gratitude
    • Strengthens immune system and lowers blood pressure
    • Strengthens social connections
    • Just write down, or take pictures of the things for which you’re grateful
    • Really try and experience the gratitude you feel

Things we think will make us happy, but won’t

  • People think material success will make you more happy
  • They also believe that people who don’t achieve these things will be unhappy
    • Example of not getting a job people really wanted:
      • Expected drop in happiness > 2 points
      • Actual drop < 1 point
    • Salary: how much do you feel you need?
      • Currently making $30K needs $50K
      • Currently making $100K needs $250K
      • Not a fixed amount, increases whenever salary increases
  • National Freshman Survey (US 2005): dramatic increase in people who though material success is most important, decrease in people who thought meaningful life was important
  • Actual correlation between income and life satisfaction: 0.10 (10%)
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