Emotional Equations

Not a joke:  briefly at #1 on Amazon today was Emotional Equations:  Simple Truths for Creating Happiness + Success, a book that claims to reveal the simple mathematical formulations that govern emotional life.

Publisher’s jacket copy: ” “Equations like “Despair = Suffering – Meaning” and “Happiness = Wanting What You Have/Having What You Want” (Which Chip presented at the prestigious TED conference) have been reviewed for mathematical and psychological accuracy by experts.”


And yes, that even goes for —

Wait, are you sure you’re ready for this?

“Wisdom is the square root of experience.”

P.S.  One of the Amazon reviews suggests that despite the inanity of the equations that give the book its hook, the actual text is reasonably good, standard, empirically supported self-help.  The presence of blurbs by Daniel Goleman and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi supports this hypothesis.





10 thoughts on “Emotional Equations

  1. Yemon Choi says:

    “…reviewed for mathematical and psychological accuracy by experts”

    To be fair/snarky – it doesn’t say *what* these experts are expert in…

  2. gowers says:

    Strictly speaking, it also doesn’t actually say that those experts concluded that the equations were OK.

    Serge Lang once gave a talk in Cambridge where he laid into sociology, in part because of this kind of equation. It’s interesting in those examples that despair has an additive equation and happiness a multiplicative one. Surely, one might have thought, happiness could be negative. Wait a minute, that’s possible I suppose, because wanting what you have can be negative. But if on average you are completely indifferent to what you have, then the amount that you have what you want has, according to the equation, no effect on your happiness.

    Come to think of it, the second equation doesn’t even seem to be monotonic in the right direction. Let’s suppose that the amount you want what you have remains constant but the amount that you have what you want goes up (e.g., because you get a great job that it was your long-standing ambition to get). Then your happiness goes down?

    Strictly speaking, the book has now definitely been reviewed for mathematical and psychological accuracy by at least one expert. (It doesn’t say that they are relevant experts either.)

    I wonder whether Amazon sales rank = use of mathematics / bull****

  3. plm says:

    Dear Jordan, thanks for the interesting post. How do you know those equations have not been reviewed by experts (in relevant fields)?

  4. Jason Dyer says:

    If “wisdom is the square root of experience” was reviewed by an expert, it was an “expert” in quotes. Possibly multiple ones.

  5. Matthew Kahle says:

    I’m just wondering how to read the title of the book — is that “creating happiness *and* success” or “creating happiness *plus* success”?

  6. Richard Séguin says:

    Finally, the successor to New Math: New Age Math.

  7. Experts in selling books.

  8. NDE says:

    Density of pseudomathematical nonsense / Amazon rank = C * rate at which Serge Lang is spinning is his grave.

  9. David Speyer says:

    I like that this one is concave in the correct direction: The amount of wisdom gained in one year of experience is more than the amount of additional wisdom gained in a second year.

  10. Willie Wong says:

    Yeah, that wisdom = sqrt of experience thing is pure baloney. Everybody knows that how Wis scales with XP depends on your character class and modifiers.

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