By Olivia Zayas Ryan
On Thursday, the Elon University community gathered in Alumni Gym for the annual Spring Convocation. This year’s speaker, Dan Gilbert, is the Edgar Pierce Professor of Psychology at Harvard University.
Gilbert is also well known for his TED Talks on the science of happiness. His first TED Talk, The Surprising Science of Happiness, has been viewed more than 13 million times and remains one of the 25 most popular TED Talks of all time.
Additionally, in 2007 he published his book Stumbling on Happiness, which made it to the New York Times bestsellers list and has since been translated into more than 35 different languages.
03:31 p.m.: Procession of graduating students, students who are on the Dean’s and President’s lists and faculty and staff members begins.
03:36 p.m.: Joel Harter, associate chaplain of protestant life, and Jessica Walden, director of jewish life at Hillel, introduce the event with a prayer.
03:38 p.m.: “Convocation is an important rite of Spring here at Elon,” President Leo Lambert said.
03:39 p.m.: “Education and higher education in particular has long been seen as a gateway to opportunity in this country,” Lambert said.
03:40 p.m.: “Higher education makes possible what we could not have imagined before … Higher education lights a path for the future,” Lambert said.
03:41 p.m.: “Education and training beyond high school leads to a better and more secure life,” Lambert said.
03:43 p.m.: “As always, I thank each of you for all you do, to make Elon, this country, this community and the world, a better place,” Lambert said.
03:44 p.m.: Lambert thanks Gilbert for coming to Elon today.
03:45 p.m.: India Johnson, associate professor of psychology, takes the stage to introduce Gilbert as the convocation speaker.
03:45 p.m.: Johnson shares her own story about her education as a single mother of two.
03:46 p.m.: “I thought to myself, if Dr. Gilbert could go on to become a professor of psychology, so could I.
03:48 p.m.: “So Dr. Gilbert, Daniel, thank you. Thank you for finding your way to social psychology and the academy and sharing your journey so I could find my way as well,” Johnson said.
03:48 p.m.: Gilbert thanks Lambert and Johnson for the introduction and takes the stage.
03:50 p.m.: “Happiness is what happens when you get what you want, and that’s never what happens in this lifetime on Earth,” Gilbert on ancient theories of happiness.
03:51 p.m.: “People who have everything they want aren’t any happier than the rest of us.”
03:52 p.m.: Gilbert shows advertisements from his childhood.
03:53 p.m.: “The culture was telling my mom that cigarettes, Coke and TV were the keys to happiness.”
03:54 p.m.: “We are surrounded by people who tell us where happiness should be found … None of their theories are based on science.”
03:55 p.m.: “To do science requires really only one thing: you have to be able to measure something. If you can’t measure something, you have to write poems about it.”
03:55 p.m.: Gilbert jokes that there is a mini-bar under the podium. There is a lot of laughter from the crowd. Attendees seem engaged and entertained.
03:58 p.m.: After joking about his mother and childhood, Gilbert shows a picture of his mother. He tells the three things his mother said he needed to be happy: a good marriage, money and children.
03:59 p.m.: Gilbert asks the crowd if they believe that marriage makes people happier. An overwhelming majority of attendees did not raise their hands.
04:00 p.m.: “Every single piece of data in social science states you are wrong: marriage causes happiness … Married people are happier than single people.”
04:04 p.m.: Gilbert shows graphs on the data of happiness for married people versus single people.
04:07 p.m.: “When you look at men and women as they approach divorce, what do you see?” Gilbert said, as he shows that divorce also makes people happier.
04:07 p.m.: “It’s not just ‘I do’ that makes you happier, it’s being in a marriage that’s good.”
04:08 p.m.: Gilbert addresses the question, does money make people happier?
04:09 p.m.: “The relationship between money and happiness isn’t simple … The amount of happiness money can buy levels off.”
04:11 p.m.: “My friends who are economics say ‘If money doesn’t make you happier you’re not spending it right,’ they say this in an amusing way but they are right.”
04:13 p.m.: Gilbert explains the goods and services that people should be spending money on to make them happier: experiences and things for others.
04:16 p.m.: “Research shows that when people spend money on others, doing things for others, they themselves get a happiness boost.”
04:18 p.m.: “People with children are less happy that people without them and people with children are the least happy when their children live with them.”
04:21 p.m.: “When you have a baby, life doesn’t go on,” Gilbert said. Studies show that having children does not make people happier.
04:23 p.m.: “I wanna suggest to you that the way we look when we’re living our lives and the way we look when scientists take a step back are two very different worlds … The view of human happiness I’ve shared with you is the view from outer space.”
04:24 p.m.: “There is a parenthood penalty, on average across the world, people with children are just a little bit shy of the zero point, children bring happiness down.”
04:28 p.m.: “I wanna suggest to you that what makes human beings happy is a scientific fact.”
04:29 p.m.: I really do believe that the more we learn about the true causes of happiness the more of it we can get for ourselves and our communities.”
04:29 p.m.: Gilbert concludes his speech and Lambert takes the stage. Graduates of the class of 2017 and students on the Dean’s and President’s list stand and are recognized.
04:32 p.m.: Lambert recognizes students inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, Pi Kappa Phi and Omnicron Delta Kappa.