ASSEMBLEME: Sorry for the light posting for the last week. I've been trying to figure out how my boyfriend and I can tackle a pretty large debt that struck us out of left-field. (Long story short: never trust your immature younger brother to an apartment that has your name on the lease.)
Anyway, I found myself coming back to an interesting article that I read about a year ago in the New York Times Magazine. It's called "The Futile Pursuit of Happiness" and is about Daniel Gilbert's research of human emotion and behavior. It really changed my views about my own "future forecasting" and consumerism generally. I highly suggest it to everyone. Here's a clip to pique your stubborn curiosity.
One experiment of Gilbert's had students in a photography class at Harvard choose two favorite pictures from among those they had just taken and then relinquish one to the teacher. Some students were told their choices were permanent; others were told they could exchange their prints after several days. As it turned out, those who had time to change their minds were less pleased with their decisions than those whose choices were irrevocable.
The original article used to be here, but the Gray Lady will charge you three bucks to read it. Instead, read it here or here.
Another good article written about Gilbert's work is here. This one being about forecasting regret rather then happiness.
People thought they'd feel worse having just missed the subway than arriving several minutes late. What researchers also found, however, was that no matter how much regret subjects anticipated, none actually experienced anywhere near as much as they expected. It turns out the human ability to absolve ourselves, to rationalize quickly and to dodge blame, even from ourselves, is quite remarkable.
You can also check out Daniel Gilbert's home page at Harvard for a ton of psycho info goodness.
Speaking of good reads, I'm about halfway through Sam Harris' The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason. I'll wait to post my feelings about the book until I'm done, but so far I can say without a doubt that it's the most interesting and objective book on current affairs I've read in years. You can read the review in the Times (until they charge you $3 for it that is) here. More to come.