"We don't choose between experiences, we choose between memories of experiences…we don't think of our future as experiences, we think of our future as anticipated memory." Daniel Kahneman
Having just returned from an amazing two weeks in SE Asia it was somewhat intriguing to see this fascinating new TED talk from Nobel winning Psychologist Daniel Kahneman, talking about the cognitive traps we all fall into that make it impossible for us to think straight about happiness, both our own and other peoples. There is, he says, a common confusion between experience and memory, a confusion that fails to distinguish between two very different notions of self:- an experiencing self who knows and lives in the present, and a remembering self that maintains the story of our life. Which leads us to confuse two very different notions of happiness:- that of being happy in your life and that of being happy about your life.
It is an important distinction. The remembering self is a storyteller, but it can be an unreliable witness. It chooses what we get to keep from our experiences, and is disproportionately affected by significant changes, moments and endings. Yet it makes the decisions and affects the choices we make (we go on holidays, for example, in the service of our remembering selves – if you knew that you were not going to remember anything about it, would you choose the same holiday?). And it has potentially profound implications for how public policy could be set. Captivating stuff.