Decision and experience: why don't we choose what makes us happy?

Trends Cogn Sci. 2006 Jan;10(1):31-7. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2005.11.007. Epub 2005 Nov 28.


Recent years have witnessed a growing interest among psychologists and other social scientists in subjective well-being and happiness. Here we review selected contributions to this development from the literature on behavioral-decision theory. In particular, we examine many, somewhat surprising, findings that show people systematically fail to predict or choose what maximizes their happiness, and we look at reasons why they fail to do so. These findings challenge a fundamental assumption that underlies popular support for consumer sovereignty and other forms of autonomy in decision-making (e.g. marriage choice), namely, the assumption that people are able to make choices in their own best interests.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Choice Behavior*
  • Culture
  • Decision Making*
  • Happiness*
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events*