The difference between our remembering self

Posted on July 8, 2014

How many of us when asked if we're happy distinguish between the happiness we're experiencing right now in this present moment versus how happy we feel about life in general? It's an important question because until quite recently, many working in the field of happiness research tended to conflate the two making it almost impossible to "think straight about happiness."

According to psychologist and Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman, this is but one "cognitive trap" scholars often fall into when studying happiness. The other is failing to acknowledge that humans "can't think about any circumstance that affects well-being without distorting its importance."

The example he gives to illustrate this point is that of a person who after attending a concert performance tells how the music was wonderful but that the whole experience was ruined because at the very end there was a terrible screeching sound. On the contrary says Kahneman, "What [the screeching sound] ruined were the memories of the experience. He had the experience. He had 20 minutes of glorious music. [But] they counted for nothing because he was left with a memory; the memory was ruined, and the memory was all he got to keep."

Kahneman says what this reveals is we really have two selves: an experiencing self that lives in and knows the present, and a remembering self that dictates what experiences will ultimately shape our life story.

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Source material from Think