Immune to Reality, by Daniel Gilbert, is a book about the psychology of self-delusion. He describes himself as an experimental psychologist who studies happiness. This book is his first work of popular science, which contains some research done by him, along with stories he has heard from people all around him. The book starts with a couple of stories. These are anecdotes from his life, or he has heard about other people’s lives that have made him think about the way humans behave. Some of these anecdotes appear in the book multiple times because Gilbert wants to reinforce certain ideas that he is trying to get across.
The first story talks about two men who went through wealth and poverty. One was Horatio Alger, an American writer best known for his rags-to-riches novels. Alger was born in 1832 to poor parents but managed to escape poverty by finding success as a writer. Alger’s name would become synonymous with rags-to-riches stories because he wrote so many of them! The second man was Charles Cunningham Boycott, an English land agent. In 1880, a group of Irish tenants boycotted his lands in protest at the high rents he charged them.
They ostracized him by refusing to take any actions that would benefit him, and so this became known as the “Boycott” which later gave rise to the word ‘boycott’. Both these men went from being poor to rich. Alger was born into poverty but died a millionaire. He had experienced both sides of the spectrum, and yet throughout all this change, never changed how he acted or thought about himself or other people. In contrast, Boycott went from being comfortably well off to having no servants because nobody wanted him for fear of repercussions from their community.
He also became the victim of physical bullying and lost all his friends because nobody wanted anything to do with him. This shows that you cannot rely on wealth to solve your problems, or buy happiness. A common theme throughout Immune To Reality is how people make judgments about themselves, and Gilbert uses anecdotes to show this. The next story he begins with is an experiment called ‘the terminator study’. It comes from a book written by Joel Kramer called “Creative Aggression” (1983). Basically, in this experiment 72 trombone players were divided into 3 groups of 24 each.
They were even given identical trombones to play! Group 1 had trombones that emitted a barely audible sound; group 2 had trombones that were slightly too loud for comfort, and group 3 had trombones that were much too loud to bear. So, each of the participants was divided into groups at random and it looked like they would be asked to play some tunes on their respective instruments. The experimenter told them about another study happening next door and said that they could go help out sometime during the hour for course credit.
This is where the deception comes in; after a couple of minutes, while some of the participants were still getting used to their instruments, one of the walls dividing the room fell over i. e. there was an accident in the other study where something heavy had fallen! What happened next was very interesting; every single participant from group 3 dropped their trombones and almost ran out of the room. They had believed that this accident was real and had to help out, even though they would have preferred to continue playing on their instruments.
The people from groups 1 and 2 did not believe anything was wrong because the ambient sound coming through was no different than before; they stayed put and continued to play. The participants were then tested for how aggressive they were as a result of the noise made by the trombone groups. Group 3 which had been told about an accident scored highest on tests measuring how aggressive they were towards others. However, these people were only aggressive because of what they had heard!
This shows that your beliefs or judgments can change how you perceive the world around you, and therefore affects how you act as a result of those judgments. Furthermore, Immune To Reality examines why some people can constantly succeed in life while others constantly fail. Gilbert uses the example of Thomas Edison who was extremely successful; he became known as ‘the wizard of Menlo Park’. He created the light bulb and phonograph and also invented many other things which we would use today like a motion the picture camera and a stock market ticker!
On average, he failed around 10,000 times before he made one of these inventions work successfully. This shows that failure is an important part of learning because it helps us learn from our mistakes so that we don’t make them again in the future. However, if we never fail, then we will never learn from our mistakes and therefore not improve as a person. Immune To Reality is an inspiring book that shows how people’s beliefs about themselves affect their behavior i. e. they act in certain ways or take actions because of this.
The book also gives examples of why failure is important for helping us learn from our mistakes so that we can improve ourselves at what we do. Immune To Reality also examines the consequences of wealth versus poverty e. g. it isn’t possible to solve all problems with money; you need to take into account other factors too if you want to be truly happy! I hope the above has helped provide some background information but remember: ‘Immune to Reality by Daniel Gilbert is a book to engage with for yourself and not just use as an aid in your studies!
Immune to Reality by Daniel Gilbert is a book that focuses on the idea of happiness being influenced heavily by how people think, not just what they do. One main point in the book that Gilbert brings up is that humans are viewed as anti-social animals. It’s hard for them to adapt past their antiquated familial settings because it restricts their social life. He uses multiple concepts throughout his book to illustrate why people have trouble leading happy lives, one example being social comparison theory.
This means that instead of comparing themselves to someone who has more than them, people tend to compare themselves with other people who have less than them. They will lower or raise themselves to the level of the people they are comparing themselves to and label it as “fair” or “unfair”. This is an interesting concept because people believe that if someone else has more than them, then their life must be better. If society were to be able to adapt this from a young age, instead of always trying to reach above others, they could learn contentment.
Immune To Reality by Daniel Gilbert also brings up some pretty confusing concepts about happiness. He talks about how people think that after a certain point in life, you should have already had accomplished what makes you happy. When you haven’t done something by a certain time frame, people use it as a benchmark for what makes them fulfilled. It’s true that to be happy, you need to do what makes you happy and enjoy your life.
The world is full of people who push their lives onto others and neglect the things that make them fulfilled such as family, friends, and hobbies. Immune to Reality brings up some interesting information that many people can relate to. It’s hard for people to understand why everyone wants something different when they all want the same basic things: happiness, family, friendship, etc. Gilbert also points out how humans are social creatures which are true because throughout history we have relied on each other even if it was just for survival or hunting purposes.