Why…? Why will sighted people pay more to avoid going blind than blind people will pay to regain their sight? Why do dining companions insist on ordering different meals instead of getting what they really want? Why can’t we remember one song while listening to another? Why does the line at the grocery store always slow down the moment we join it?
Imagining Happiness “The human being is the only animal that thinks about the future.” “The greatest achievement of the human brain is its ability to imagine objects and episodes that do not exist in the realm of the real, and it is this ability that allows us to think about the future.” “Making future” ‘predicting’ ‘nexting’
Nexting “As long as your brain’s guess about the next word turns out to be right, you cruise along happily, left to right, left to right turning black squiggles into ideas, scenes, characters, and concepts, blissfully unaware that your nexting brain is predicting the future of the sentence at a fantastic rate. It is only when your brain predicts badly that you suddenly feel avocado.” That is, surprised. See?
Prefrontal Cortex Part of the frontal lobe that enables us to imagine the future Frontal lobotomies were practiced to treat anxiety and depression Anxiety Planning THE FUTURE… Without it…a “permanent present”
Prospection Daydreaming is itself a source of joy ACHIEVIVING & SUCEEDING!!! vs. fumbling & failing “Because most of us get so much more practice imagining good than bad events, we tend to overestimate the likelihood that good events will actually happen to us, which leads us to be unrealistically optimistic about our futures.” Unrealistically optimistic sound familiar?
Control After simulating the future, our brains aim for control of the future Electric shock experiment 3 jolts are more painful than 20? Nursing home houseplant experiment More in the low-control group died Nursing home visitor experiment Perceived control…more low-control or high-control group deaths?
Control “Apparently, gaining control can have a positive impact on one’s health and well-being, but losing control can be worse than never having had any at all.” Picking lotto numbers Gambling Watching the re-run of last night’s game Vacation to Extremia or Moderacia
Subjectivity Conjoined twins are happier than separate twins How can we tell? “Subjective states are ‘irreducible’, which is to say that nothing we point to, nothing we can compare them with, and nothing we can say about their neurological underpinnings can fully substitute for the experiences themselves.” Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.
Habituation aka Declining Marginal Utility As an individual undergoes the same experience multiple times, they are affected less and less Habituation dependant on variety and time Chicken or steak? Works for both positive and negative stimuli “Psychologists call this habituation, economists call it declining marginal utility, and the rest of us call it marriage.”
Prefeeling Imagining what an emotion or experience will feel like Allows for better predictions than logical thinking “Future events may request access to the emotional areas of our brains, but current events almost always get the right of way.”
Shortcomings of Imagination Imagination tends to add and remove details, but people do not realize that key details may be fabricated or missing from the imagined scenario. Imagined futures (and pasts) are more like the present than they actually will be (or were). Imagination fails to realize that things will feel different once they actually happen.
Relevance to Ecological Economics How to imagine, simulate, and prepare for the future How to analyze those simulations http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_gilbert_asks_why _are_we_happy.html http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_gilbert_asks_why _are_we_happy.html