Do you know what made you happy?
Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman is engaged in some fascinating work, read this summary:
“…the duration of an experience plays essentially no role when evaluating how well it becomes etched in our memories.
Kahneman believes the most direct way to evaluate experienced utility is to ask people how they feel at a certain moment, a notion he calls “moment utility.”…But because researchers are more interested in extended outcomes, more often the question they ask is memory-based: “How was it?” Kahneman said this is a different question that reflects the individual’s global evaluation of an entire episode in the past and it may not be a direct assessment of the individual’s real-time state. This “remembered utility,” said Kahneman, is not a very good guide when predicting outcomes. The “total utility” of a state is derived from the moment-based approach of measuring the real time pleasure or pain experienced by the individual.”
In other words, one of our selves does the living, another keeps the memories.
“”When people make decisions, the remembering self is in control, Kahneman explained. “We make our decisions in terms of our memories and basically, we maximize remembered utility, not the actual total utility,” he said. “The only thing we can learn to maximize through personal experience is remembered utility.””
And don’t you forget that.
Also read our earlier blog posts on whether people understand their own happiness, here, and here.