The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt

Is it just luck that some people find purpose and fulfilment while others do not? Jonathan Haidt ( compares philosophical, religious, and theoretical texts with recent scientific insights to find out. He draws on psychology’s ‘attachment theory’, sociological research, and recent developments in the neuroscience of emotion. Haidt uses this research to illuminate ancient and more recent thought – from Buddhism to Benjamin Franklin, the New Testament to Nietzsche, Plato to Freud.

This is not a self-help book. Haidt argues that self-help psychology places too much importance on conscious thought and the analytical mind. Self-help books suggest that if we’re just self-aware enough in our daily lives, we can use our intellect to override our emotional instincts, willing ourselves to be happy. Instead, the author argues that we can best promote happiness through the emotional and unconscious parts of our brains.

The Happiness Hypothesis is about the origins of positive psychology in ancient wisdom, and it’s also a guide to how we can apply what scientists know about the mind to find ever greater happiness. Along the way Haidt offers an interpretation of the culture wars in the United States, some keys to understanding romantic relationships, and insights into how Western concepts of virtue and morality have narrowed to the point that they may well be costing us happiness and well-being. Enjoy this insightful and highly readable book.

Check if this popular examination of happiness is in stock at your local library by consulting the online catalogue at

320 pages in Basic Books

First published 2005

ISBN 978-0465028016

Professor Jonathan Haidt

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