Monday, February 13, 2017

Foggy Forecasts

"Nothing in life is quite as important as you think it  is while you are thinking about it." - Daniel Kahneman, psychologist

If you imagine winning the lottery, do you think of the excitement extending months or years?  How long do you feel the thrill of your favorite team winning a big game?  What if you lost your best friend?  What if you lost $20 or found it on the street?

According to Daniel Khaneman, when you predict emotions, you employ affective forecasting. You're truly not good at it. Humans have what psychologists call an impact bias toward overstating the intensity and duration of emotional states in response to events they cast as good or bad. 

Kahneman explains, "The brain's emotional circuitry is well-grounded; it turns crises into blips." Events viewed as life changing end up being more like the loss or gain of $20. Even the pain of losing a friendship fades with the intensity of new experiences.

Foggy forecasts exist for several reasons. The brain falls into what Kahneman calls the "focusing illusion." Happiness arises from a variety of experiences but individuals tend to exaggerate the importance of a single factor such as money or love.

Individuals overestimate how they will feel in the future because they underestimate their resilience.  They do not realize how quickly a return to their emotional set point will occur. This equilibrium fluctuates and then stabilizes. When one says that getting there is half the fun, psychologists will tell you that getting there may be more fun. The anticipation of a goal can feel as good as, if not better than reaching the goal.

Think about how you deal with foggy forecasts.  In what ways does your emotional circuitry ground you?  

Let blue skies permeate sooner the next time fogginess appears.

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