Everyday experiences may bring us unexpected joy in the future

Posted on September 8, 2014

Photo: flickr

According to the research team, led by Ting Zhang of Harvard Business School at Harvard University in Boston, MA, past studies have indicated that our predictions of how we will feel about a certain experience and how much of it we will remember are often wrong.

Zhang and colleagues note that these errors in predictions may explain why we tend to ignore the more mundane moments in life, but strive to document what we deem to be the more exciting moments, whether through pictures, mementos or journals.

For this latest study, recently published in the journal Psychological Science, the team conducted a series of experiments to further investigate how we underestimate the joy day-to-day experiences may bring us through memories.

In one experiment, the team asked 135 college students to create time capsules at the start of the summer.

The students were required to write about recent experiences they had, such as a recent conversation, the last social event they went to and three songs they were currently listening to. They also included a passage from a final study paper they wrote.

They were then asked to predict how meaningful and interesting they would find each experience when they read about it later and how curious and surprised they would be.
Undervaluing mundane experiences 'may lead us to forego joy in rediscovering them'

On opening the time capsules 3 months later, the team found that the students greatly underestimated their curiosity and interest in these mundane memories.

Similar findings were found in an online experiment, in which the researchers say participants were "particularly likely to underestimate the pleasure of rediscovering ordinary, mundane experiences, as opposed to extraordinary experiences."

Zhang and colleagues hypothesize that these findings may be because we have high expectations of extraordinary experiences but low expectations of everyday experiences, leading us to undervalue these ordinary events.

To read the full article, please click on the link below.


Source material from Medical News Today