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Stumbling on Happiness. Big idea The human being is the only animal that can think about the future Discriminates between nexting and predicting –We are.

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Presentation on theme: "Stumbling on Happiness. Big idea The human being is the only animal that can think about the future Discriminates between nexting and predicting –We are."— Presentation transcript:

1 Stumbling on Happiness

2 Big idea The human being is the only animal that can think about the future Discriminates between nexting and predicting –We are always in some way predicting what is to come next- moment by moment –Animals can do this- basic predictions about what is coming

3 The Frontal Lobe Development of this lobe has allowed for our species to plan for the future Frontal lobotomies –Patients are unable to plan for the future

4 The future We all automatically think about the future a lot –12% of our day is spent thinking about items from the future –Usually positive things about the future

5 Quick experiment When given a free meal –Would you rather have it tonight, tomorrow night or in the distant future –Most pick tomorrow night –The act of imagining and anticipating the event brings us joy

6 Problem with dreaming about the future Things that we dream about a lot, we overestimate the likelihood of these events happening –We think about positive things in the future more –We are probably overly optimistic about our future –American college students expect to: Live longer, stay married longer, travel more than average Have a gifted child, own their own home, appear in the newspaper, not have heart attacks, drinking problems, car accidents, broken bones or gum disease than average

7 Why are we stuck in the future With bad events –They help buffer what could happen –Two groups received shocks One got 3 high intensity shocks and 17 low intensity One got 20 high intensity shocks Whose hearts were beating faster? –The 3 high, 17 low –The other group got a warning before each shock –This group got no warning and it appeared to be scarier We want to have control over things

8 Hospital visitation study Two groups –High control group Able to plan out when visitors came by –Low control group Were told when the visitors were coming –After 2 months, high control group were happier, healthier and more active Side note: they stopped the study then –The high control group had a large number of people die in the months that followed –Losing control that you have is not good

9 What is happiness? A subjective experience –What is the color yellow? The “you-know-what-I-mean feeling” Living up to one’s potential? A virtuous life –But the Nazi on a beach may be happy, whereas the pious missionary that is being eaten by sharks may not be happy

10 Happiness could also be a point of view “I’m happy that the man that killed my mother will rot in jail for the rest of his life.” –Is this person really happy? –Probably not happy about life- or giving a life satisfaction rating here

11 Why is subjectivity bad? Does anyone really know whether they are happy or not? –We may question the cancer patient that claims it was better for them –The conjoined twins that swear they wouldn’t want to be separated –Everyone’s happiness is different, so how can we compare?

12 Comparing to one’s self Instead of comparing two views, let’s take one person that has experienced both –Comparing the current to a memory Memories are unreliable

13 Paint describers experiment Two groups –Stare at one paint color swatch –After a 30 second break, given 5 to chose from Which is the same? –One group was asked to describe the first swatch –One group was not –73% of the non-describers could identify the correct color –33 % of the describers could Apparently they were trying to match the memory (incorrect memory) and not tha actual color

14 What if we make the two experiences really close together? Change blindness –LoOk ClOsElY vs lOoK cLoSeLy

15 Language squishing hypothesis Lori says eating birthday cake is an 8/8 on the happiness scale –We know that it is only a 4/8 on our happiness scale –Thus her 8 must equal our 4 –She has never known what it means to really be happy –What about the things that we have never experienced? Maybe it is us that truly lacks ever knowing real happiness?

16 Experience stretching hypothesis Maybe she really means an 8- she feels the same way we feel when we climb Half Dome when she gets a piece of cake “they don’t know what they’re missing” –That’s the point –They can be happy with what they have never having had the other

17 Examples Ever learned to play an instrument? –The first time you play “Mary had a little lamb” you are ecstatic –After you have been playing for a few years, “Mary had a little lamb” is a little lame –Does that take away from the happiness that you experienced the first time? NO

18 Are we accurate at identifying our own emotions? Capilano bridge experiment says no

19 Are we aware of our own emotions? You’d think so Blindsight –People can not be aware of something yet can process it This is true of emotions –Alexithymia Inability to describe emotional states Have just as strong a physiological response as normal people, just can’t say what they are currently feeling

20 3 premises to dealing with a hard to measure idea like happiness Tools are flawed –All tools are flawed though, so since it is ok that thermometer isn’t perfect, why wouldn’t it be ok for a happiometer to be imperfect? People are fairly accurate about themselves –All other measures are based off subjective ratings of happiness- the only reason we know that a smile = happy is because someone has told us “I’m happy” and we can see a smile co-occur Measure from many people –“law of large numbers” –The more times you measure, the closer you get to reality

21 Memory is not perfect Yield sign experiment –Shown a video where a car passes through a yield sign, then hits a person –½ were asked the question: “Did another car pass the car while it was stopped at the stop sign?” –Asked to point to the pictures they saw (either a yield sign or a stop sign –90% of the people that did not get asked a question pointed to the correct sign –80% of the people that were asked the question pointed to the stop sign –Our brains construct our memories

22 List of words Bed Rest Awake Tired Dream Wake Snooze Blankt Doze Slumber Snore Nap Peace Yawn Drowsy

23 Which of the following was not on the list? Bed Doze Sleep Gasoline Sleep and gasoline…. Probably reconstructed the memory and knew the words were all about sleep and thus incorrectly remember sleep

24 Two facts about misremembering People are very confident in their misremembering You can be warned about it ahead of time and still misremember

25 Blind spot Our brain is always constructing our environment all of the time *eel experiment –Recorded a cough where the star is –Put it in these sentences (the same *eel sound) –“The *eel was on the orange” –“The *eel was on the shoe” –People swear that they hear the words peel and heel respectively –Their brains simply fill it in even if it is not really there –Had to wait until the last word of the sentence to fill in the missing portion- yet we are unaware that we fill it in

26 Realism vs idealism Realism –The idea that what you see is what is there Idealism –The idea that what you see is a combination of what is there and what you believe you should see

27 Piaget and the development of idealism Children are born realists –Children are egocentric and believe that if they know something it is true and thus others know it –Other people’s beliefs don’t lay a role in the way people work As they age, they become more idealists –Obj permanence study Candles of different size Eyes are realists even though we act as idealists do

28 So our brains fill in gaps We make predictions based on these gaps about our future selves

29 Easier to notice what is there than what is not there Give a pigeon a choice of 2 bars to press –Pigeons learn to press the illuminated bar to get seed –They never learn to press the unilluminated bar to get seed if the experiment is set up that way Humans work the same –Given 4 sets of 3 letters each: SXY GTR BCG EVX –The second one is special- what makes it special? –If takes about 34 series of numbers before a subject figures out that the presence of the letter T is what makes it special –If the thing that makes it special is the absence of the letter T, subjects never figure it out

30 Why is that important? Because to know whether two things are related, you must pay attention to when then co-occur (which is easy for us) but also to when they don’t happen (which is hard for us) –Thus we tend to conclude that pigeons have an uncanny ability to crap on us, even though they probably miss so many more times than they make

31 Extremia vs Moderacia Where would you want to vacation? –Extremia: beautiful weather, fantastic beaches, crummy hotels, bad nightlife –Moderacia: average weather, average hotels, average beaches, average nightlife Where to make plans? –Pay attention to the positives –Most pick extremia Say you have plans at both and you need to cancel one place –Pay attention to the negatives –Most pick extremia as well

32 So… when estimating future events We fail to consider how much our imagination fills in (that might be wrong) We also fail to consider how much our imagination leaves out

33 Predicting students Asked to predict how they would feel after their college’s team won the game this weekend –Group 1 had to describe the events of a typical day first –Group 2 did not The results? –Group 2 dramatically overestimated how happy they would be with a win or how sad they were with a loss –They failed to think about all of the details that their imagination left out- such as studying for finals in the hours after the game and how much of an effect that would have on them –The describers were forced to think about those other things and thus were able to predict a bit more accurately

34 Future events perceived differently If they are far away vs if they are tomorrow –Locking a door Far away: “securing the house” Tomorrow: “puttijng a key in a lock” –Getting married Far away: “making a serious commitment” Tomorrow: “having pictures taken” –In the distant future, we think about why things happen –In the near future, we think about how they will happen

35 Babysitting Typically people eagerly volunteer to babysit their neices and nephews –Until the day comes to do it –At that time, they details of what they are having to actually do are clear and now it is no longer an act of love but a chore to do

36 We judge events differently depending on when they happen Would you rather have $19 in 364 days or $20 in 365 days? Would you rather have $19 today or $20 tomorrow? Most say 20$ in 365 days, because waiting that extra day in a year isn’t much, but most say $19 today, because they don’t want to wait the day now

37 Our present messes with our memories of the past When college students hear speeches that change their political views, then tend to think they always felt the way the currently do When dating couples try to recall how they felt about romantic partners two months ago, they tend to remember that they felt as they do now When middle aged people are asked to remember how they felt about premarital sex, political issues, or how much they drank, these memories are influenced by now

38 Our present messes with our predictions of the future as well

39 Prefeeling Based on how we imagine the event, we have a feeling (a gut feeling) that screws with us –Monet vs garfield comic picture Which do you want in your house? –Group 1: go with your gut (prefeeling) –Group 2: think about it a bit before you decide One month later, who was happier? The prefeeling group –The thinkers overanalyzed and ended up choosing the one they thought they would like as opposed to the one that they actually liked

40 What’s the problem with prefeeling? We can mix it up with actual feeling –Are you happy with your life? Turns out that the current weather plays a large part in your answer If it is raining people are less happy than if it is sunny out Their current blah feeling substituted for their imagined feeling

41 Diversification Bias If you were given the choice of a variety of snacks over the next few weeks or the same snack over the next few weeks, in advance most would chose variety –Turns out that those that get no variety are happier than those that get variety If you had the choice of two identical plates of food or two different plates of food for a table, you would be better off getting variety –Because of habituation happening over time, but with a long enough rest (for the few weeks study) habituation is not a factor and it goes away

42 People predict future feelings by… Starting with the event happening now and then changing it –Starting points matter, because they effect the ending points –How many countries are there in Africa? 60? Fewer- when starting with 60, people guessed around 45 10? More- when starting with 10, people guessed around 25 Why the discrepancy? –Because where we start effects where we end

43 Would you rather have a job that pays… 30,000 the first year, 40,000 the second and 50,000 the third…. OR 60,000 the first, 50,000 the second and 40,000 the first Most people take the first option even though they make 30,000 less than the second option because pay cuts suck

44 Would you drive across town… To save $50 on a $100 stereo? –Most say sure… To save $50 on a $50,000 car? –Most say no But $50 is $50 either way –This doesn’t make sense economically –People compare everything to the past though –It is all relative

45 Two more Would you buy a vacation package that was on sale from $600 down to $500? Or the same package that is for sale for $400 but yesterday was $300? Most will jump at the first option, but not the second

46 Concert ticket example Concert ticket costs $20 –Group 1: You get to the show with a ticket and $20 in your wallet Before the show, you lose your ticket… do you buy a new one? –Most say no –Group 2: You get to the show with two $20s in your wallet Before the show, you lose a $20… do you buy a ticket? –Most say yes

47 Why? When we lose the ticket, we compare seeing the concert for $40 to seeing it for $20 (its previous price) –This is not a good deal When we lose the $20, the concert had no history, so it is still $20 for the show

48 Economic oddities You will spend more money in stores if they carry more expensive items with the lesser expensive items –People rarely buy the most expensive thing, but if they increase their most expensive item, many people spend more on the other items Would a doctor prescribe Med X to patients after reading about it –72% say yes If they read about a study with Med X and Y, equally effective at treating the problem –Only 52% say they prescribe something When asked to bid on a perfect condition 10,000 word dictionary –Average bid $24 When asked to bid on a worn 20,000 word disctionary –Average bid $20 When asked to bid on them when side by side with the other –Average bid for perfect condition one: $19 –Average bid for worn one with more words: $27

49 What does this have to do with happiness and the future The value of something is determined by –Comparison of one thing with another –There are many types of comparisons we can make –We may value it differently with one comparison than with another If we want to know how we will value something in the future, we need to compare it with choices in the future, not the present

50 Potato chip experiment How much do you think you would enjoy eating potato chips? –Group 1: potato chips next to chocolate bar –Group 2: potato chips next to sardines –The two groups predicted different levels of enjoyment from the chips, even though there was no difference between them when they actually ate the chips Their choices NOW influenced their values later, which caused them to predict incorrectly

51 Why are new things always better at first? Because you make comparisons to the old –Within a few days or weeks, you stop making those comparisons and aree no longer as happy about the item You may even begin to compare it with other newer items and be unhappy with your newish item We make different comparisons at different times –This is why people say losing a dollar is a much bigger deal than winning a dollar In fact, most people refuse to enter into a deal where there is an 85% chance to double your life savings and a 15% chance to lose it

52 The world is ambiguous We are navigating it and interpreting as we go –Don’t run into the bank If in a boat, makes sense one way If not, it makes sense another way

53 We can be biased If we are rewarded, we’ll see one version of the necker cube more than the other Are we naturally biased to see positive outcomes? –We evaluate colleges, appliances and jobs as better once we have been accepted, bought them, or been hired by them

54 When we make comparisons… We compare with people that make us feel better usually –We even ask questions that elicit the answers we want from people –We keep friends around us that will tell us the things we want to hear –A big confirmation bias going on here If you tell people extroverts make more money, then ask them to describe themselves, they will focus on all of their extrovert activities If you tell people introverts make more money, they do the opposite

55 Hurting our friends for ourselves? Volunteers given a test, then allowed to give hints to their friends that would either help or hinder them –If told it was a game, they helped –If told it was a measure of intellectual ability, they hindered Bottom line: the brain has agreed to believe what the eye sees, but the eye has agreed to look for what the brain wants

56 Confirmation bias Showed people research on capital punishment –Between states technique Comparing crime rates for states that had cap pun vs not –Within states technique Comparing crime rates for states that changed their laws- before and after –Volunteers concluded that one of the techniques was better than the other- which was better was influenced by their stance on the issue If one technique supported their views, they automatically saw the evidence that way as more compelling We hold our disfavored conclusions to a much higher standard of proof than our favored conclusions

57 Two groups of volunteers Group 1: if the strip turns green, you have an enzyme deficiency Group 2: if the strip does not turn green, you have an enzyme deficiency –It never turned green in either case –Group 2 waited far longer than group 1 before coming to their conclusion That is, it takes us longer to agree to the conclusion that we are ill than that we are well

58 We cook the facts So that we like them But we don’t want to know that we do this –They must seem credible –They must seem like we got them honestly

59 Looking forward vs looking back Looking forward to getting dumped –Very bad- the edge of despair Looking back on getting dumped –It wasn’t bad; it was good for me because he/she wasn’t right

60 Told we were applying for a job Either a judge would decide whether we get the job or a jury of people would decide –Only one person in the jury would have to pick you to get the job Then told we didn’t get it Beforehand, most predict equal disappointment with not getting it Afterwards, the judge group is happier than the jury group –It is easier to shrug off the judge’s opinion than the opinion of every jury member It seems obvious now, but when predicting their own disappointment, it was not obvious at all –All they considered was the sting of being rejected, not what they would do next (try and cope)

61 Action vs inaction We regret inaction more than action –We regret the things we don’t do as opposed to the bad things we did –Because we can rationalize the things we did and say “well at least we learned something” –But the things that we didn’t do have nothing for us to take from them

62 Our system is only activated to protest when the offense is very bad, not just bad Come join our club –First you get hazed Group 1: 3 strong shocks Group 2: 3 mild shocks –Group 1 ends up liking the club more than group 2. Thus we can predict future events wrong –Would it be better for your best friend to insult you or your cousin? Most say cousin You defenses are not activated though and so you don’t begin to rationalize- thus you might just look at your friend differently and think they are mean

63 Two people One the victim, the other a bystander –A psychologist gave a test and then gave negative feedback “people like you primarily because you don’t threaten their competance” –People predict that they would like the psychologist more as the bystander –Turns out the opposite is true –Bystanders believed the dr was mean –Victims rationalized “I must be dumb. But wait, this is only one test- it probably doesn’t mean much”

64 Escapable vs inescapable Students took photos –Told to take their favorite one home In group 1: told they could exchange it for any of the others at any time Group 2: told they could not exchange it –Which group was happier with the photo? The one that couldn’t exchange it because they began to rationalize their choice and forced themselves to like it Beforehand, the students did not believe that whether they could exchange or not would have any impact on whether they liked the photo What is interesting, is most students when given the choice to have options or not, choose options, even though this makes them less happy with the end result than the other group

65 Explainations Help diminish the negative impact of traumas Also diminish the impact of positive things A set of students had chats with fake other students –After, they were asked to write a notes to their favorite person –They also received notes from the fakes saying they were the favorite In fact, all of the fakes chose them as their favorite person

66 Group 1 received names and identifying info Group 2 received no identifying info at all Those students in group 2 were happier than those in group 1 –Why? –Group 1 were able to explain away why they were liked We shared X in common –Group 2 could not explain it away and thus felt happy

67 Why do unexplained events have a stronger impact on emotions? They are rare We keep thinking about them

68 The smile society Approach people and give them a dollar with a card –On the card it says they are the smile society doing random acts of kindness –On a different card, it says two extra phrases… –“who are we” and “why do we do this” –The group that got the explaining questions were less happy after than the group that didn’t Most of the time, people choose to know these things and get explainations even though it actually makes them not as happy in the end

69 Our memories are wrong We remember the unusual things more Due to availability heuristic, we then overestimate how often they happen –Don’t you always seem to pick the longest line in the grocery store?

70 Peak end theory screws with our memories Would you rather put your hand in cold water for 60 seconds or 90 seconds? –Group 1: in 57 degree water for 60 seconds –Group 2: in 57 degree water for 60 seconds, in 59 degree water for 30 more Group 2 reported more pleasant memories of the event

71 Studies of memory biases Group 1: just asked to remember how they felt a month ago –Remembered equal intensities for both genders Group 2: before being asked to remember how they felt, they were told to think about gender –Males remembered less intense emotions, and women remembered more intense emotions

72 Study 2 When playing a game, asked to not their emotions –Men and women felt the same emotions throughout A month later asked to recall the emotions they felt –Women felt more typically feminine emotions (sympathy and guilt) –Males felt more typically masculine emotions (anger and pride)

73 Study 3 Women were asked to write about their feelings for 4-6 weeks –Showed that their feelings did not change with their cycles –Later, when they reread certain days in the diary, they remembered more negative emotions on days that they were menstruating

74 Before an election was called… People expect to feel extreme highs and lows if their candidate wins or loses –When it actually happens, the emotions are much less than predicted –6 months after the event, when asked about it, they remember what they had predicted would happen as having happened


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