paul dolan

paul dolan.png

intro’d to Paul via edge interview (may 2016):

(video notes)

1 min – i’m interested in trying to figure out how happy people are w/o asking them... big data and other forms of analysis give us that opportunity..

another question.. (bigger in my mind).. the role of stories/narratives in people’s lives

2 min – complaining all eve about where work (day to day moments).. but at end.. i love where i work..

3 min – i’m interested in the social construction of the stories.. and how they might sometimes get in way of our experiencing better lives…

intimate relationships – so many stories… the idea of romantic love.. and that is complete science…

4 min – we get ourselves into the mess.. by telling ourselves these.. one size fits all .. stories

5 min – i’m mostly interested in quantitative data


story: couples that sleep in separate beds – happier… last longer… doesn’t fit with the stories of romantic love… see where data conflicts w stories..

6 min – recognition/status/achievement.. that narrative again.. gets in way of people being happier..

7 min – people in high-status jobs, who are sacrificing considerable amounts of time.. which is the scarcest resource of all.. w people they would otherwise enjoy being with.. family/friends/leisure ques/pursuit of achievement/success, are just making themselves miserable in order to achieve something that has been constructed for them as being what they should strive or aim for.  .

supposed to ness

on achievement/success quest – making selves miserable to achieve something that has been constructed for them as being …  that they should strive/aim for

8 min – i’d like to try to push the case that we need to get rid of stories and narratives and live life in experiences that are essentially about pleasure and purpose, rather than evaluations and constructions about things we think we should be doing and the lives we should be leading.      

rev of everyday life..      

9 min – we are pretty being able to predict the impact of changes in life and other things..on our well-being

10 min – living with..over long periods..mental health problems is much worse than living with.. over long periods.. physical functioning problems…reason is because of attention. mental health problems continue to draw attention to themselves in the experience of our lives over time. ………..what it led me to argue was that we’re misallocating resources…we’re spending much more on physical than mental health problems given the impact that those conditions have on people’s lives.

mental health ness

11 min – bene’s of happiness data..

13 min – you’ve got no one thinking about what the well-being and happiness consequences of the nudges are..

science of people in schools ness.. don’t know what people are really like..

15 min – looking at the happiness consequences of the nudges that we make.. i’m interested in showing and knowing whether.. when we nudge people to be a little bit healthier.. or save a bit more for their retirement.. or to use less energy.. they’re better off as a result of doing that. it’s not obvious that we always are.

16 min – one thing we don’t like is lack of explanation.. has no agency… but i do think.. luck is hugely important…

17 min – we should prob not use word: happiness… misery/suffering are much more salient to policy makers..

19 min – most of data/measures we have of happiness are life satisfaction reports. i’m interested in if those questions really reflect/capture happiness…reflecting much more the degree to which you feel like you’ve achieved things …nothing to do with happiness or mental states in the way that we would think about it…also..takes people about 3 sec to answer.. so they’re clearly not answering

20 min – i’m much more interested in understanding much more than we do people are feeling as they experience their lives.. day to day.. moment to moment..

perhaps we try – self-talk as data.. as the day. capturing essence of us.. because we’re not paying attention.. to proving/validating/impressing/verbiaging.. et al.

in terms of purpose.. purpose has always had valuation.. ie: does my life have meaning.. not interested in the meaning of life.. more interested in the meaning of moments…

rev of everyday life..

21 min – whether this convo now.. has purpose in the experience.. whether it feels .. meaningful/fulfilling .. as i engage in the activity.. not just as i reflect upon whether it’s been worth it..afterwards or in some global sense..

yes.. just knowing it does.. and living it.. rather than seeking to measure it.. eudaimoniative surplus ness

21 min – so my meaning.. as a father.. doesn’t show up when i reflect on being a dad.’s in the experiences i have w/ stuff that sometimes is …not particularly pleasurable..

22 min – life contains these elements of both pleasure and purpose in our experiences..happy lives ..contain right balance for that individual…that’s what happiness is

eudaimonia – fittingness

23 min – we’re driven and motivated.. to seek out things that we at least think will make us feel better rather than worse…i’m not particularly interested in international comparisons of happiness data…don’t think it tells us very much…can’t translate the word into some languages… very different meanings if you can translate it…whole range of cultural effects in the *self-reporting of the data which leads me to conclude that people are making quite a big deal of something that is problematic.. draws me much more to measuring more directly people’s experiences of pleasure/purpose.

self reporting as we’ve done in past.. perhaps a nother way..

24 min – 2.5 thous yrs of ethical discourse we’ve not managed to resolve the question about what it is that we’re substantively driving/striving for as individ’s or as pop’s

26 min – self report question in happiness research.. what we’ve been using.. what is more challenging.. asking reflective/evaluative questions.. so good way to tap in.. but not only way.. should be using data much more than are..much more could be used on conversational… tone/moods.. et al.. w/o any self report.. i think that’s a way we’re going to improve reports on happiness..

28 min – on replication – and role of unconscious.. and on how much context matters…  ie: trivial environment change… opens up whole issue about priming.. no doubt we’re primed at all times.. perhaps accept we’re not going to replicate.. because of .. influencers..

29 min – subtleties of priming are so difficult..unconscious environ.. vs conscious awareness..

30 min – policy making.. our inability to get over ourselves.. embrace that.. (how influential we are).. then we can design environments.. org society that make it easier for people to do things that enhance welfare and harder to do things that don’t

something else to do ness..  short – a nother way.. for the day..

tell less stories to our selves/each other.. but in order to get sci evidence… we need to tell stories.. to back up evidence/science… all policy is really about narrative..

really..? or do we just need to do/be.. ie :graeber model/revolution law.. and graeber min/max law..

36 min – on finding people that could present interesting stuff to them in a language and in a way that would appeal to them, is something that I’m now realizing is where my public-facing life might go.

finding your people.. as the day

..we need to understand much more about the people that we’re talking to than we do currently.. maybe that’s the main message. ..understand the audience that you’re communicating to, and do it in a language that is accessible to them

2 convos.. ness

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Paul Dolan, Prof of Behavioural Science at the LSE, is an expert on human behaviour and happiness, and author of best-selling ‘Happiness by Design’.

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He is a best selling author and an internationally renowned expert on happiness, behaviour and public policy, he conducts original research into the measurement of happiness, its causes and consequences.


Most of us would like to be happier in his book Dolan defines this as experiencing more pleasure and/or purpose for longer. He describes how being happier means allocating attention more efficiently; towards those things that bring us pleasure and purpose and away from those that generate pain and pointlessness. Easier said than done of course, and certainly easier than thought about. But behavioural science teaches us that most of what we do simply comes about rather than being thought about. So, by clever use of priming, defaults, commitments, norms, you can become a whole lot happier without actually having to think too hard about it. You will be happier by design.


happyness – happi\ness – ness