Natural selection and the elusiveness of happiness

Randolph M. Nesse

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter relates the evolution of mankind's quest for happiness, which has its roots in the queries of ancient philosophers and is interwoven in the tenets of many religions. In the modern era, with advances in technology that have eliminated many of the sources of suffering, people are still unhappy. The book attempts to determine the source of happiness by providing examples of the experiences and milieu of individuals with relatively high subjective well-being (SWB). It also explores the biological mechanism of the emotion through a discussion on genetics and brain function, and tries to present an alternative framework for the discussion of positive and negative emotions, as well as presenting a motivational model for the pursuit of social and physical goals. The author also discusses advances in science and medicine that enable human beings to control their emotions from current chemical manipulations to more futuristic electrical brain impulse methods.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Science of Well-Being
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780191693670
ISBN (Print)9780198567523
StatePublished - Mar 22 2012


  • Brain impulse
  • Chemical manipulation
  • Happiness
  • Motivational model
  • Negative emotion
  • Positive emotion
  • Subjective well-being
  • Technology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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