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You 2.0: Our Pursuit of Happiness

We start our episode with a story about a road trip that changed psychologist Elizabeth Dunn's life.
Malte Mueller
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Getty Images/fStop

Psychologist Elizabeth Dunn studies happiness. She says at the heart of her research is a sad idea.

"Whatever we have, we tend to get used to it. So no matter how awesome our lives might be, or what wonderful things come into our lives, we tend to get used to them over time, and the pleasure that they provide gradually diminishes."

This idea has sometimes been called the hedonic treadmill.

"It conveys this idea that we're sort of stuck. No matter how hard we try to get happier, we can't."

This week on Hidden Brain, we kick off You 2.0 — our annual summer series about how to approach life's chaos with wisdom — with ways to understand and step off of the hedonic treadmill.

Additional Resources:

Happy Money: The Science of Happier Spending by Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton, 2013.

" To Do or to Have? That is the Question" by Leaf Van Boven and Thomas Gilovich, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,2003.

" Prosocial Spending and Happiness: Using Money to Benefit Others Pays Off" by Elizabeth Dunn, Lara Aknin, and Michael Norton in Current Directions in Psychological Science,2014.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Shankar Vedantam is the host and creator of Hidden Brain. The Hidden Brain podcast receives more than three million downloads per week. The Hidden Brain radio show is distributed by NPR and featured on nearly 400 public radio stations around the United States.
Parth Shah is a producer and reporter in the Programming department at NPR. He came to NPR in 2016 as a Kroc Fellow.
Tara Boyle is the supervising producer of NPR's Hidden Brain. In this role, Boyle oversees the production of both the Hidden Brain radio show and podcast, providing editorial guidance and support to host Shankar Vedantam and the shows' producers. Boyle also coordinates Shankar's Hidden Brain segments on Morning Edition and other NPR shows, and oversees collaborations with partners both internal and external to NPR. Previously, Boyle spent a decade at WAMU, the NPR station in Washington, D.C. She has reported for The Boston Globe, and began her career in public radio at WBUR in Boston.
Rhaina Cohen is a producer and editor for NPR's Enterprise Storytelling unit, working across Embedded, Invisibilia, and Rough Translation.