If you have something on your to-do list that you’re dreading, I have good news! It won’t be as rough as you think. Why? Because new research shows we’re not very good at predicting how future events - good or bad – will make us feel. This is courtesy of Science Daily: Psychologists at New York University wanted to see how accurate we are at predicting our reactions to events we think of as important.
- To check on negative events, they asked die-hard football fans to rate how they’d feel if their team lost the Super Bowl.
- To see how people respond to something positive, they asked shoppers who were about to buy a big-screen TV to predict how they’d feel when they got their TV set home.
The result: Researchers found that all of the volunteers inaccurately predicted their future feelings. They also wrongly recalled their predictions! For example, the football fans initially said they’d be totally bummed if their team lost, but afterwards, they shrugged off the loss and said they always knew they'd be OK after the loss. The people buying a new flat screen predicted the TV would make them ecstatic – but that high wore off very quickly for every single buyer. Yet, all of them misremembered their prediction, and reported that they always knew the TV wasn’t going to be all that awesome.
Like most things, the tendency to misremember is a double-edged sword. Lead researcher Tom Meyvis says a faulty memory helps us avoid situations that could be harmful and keeps us motivated to pursue our goals. On the flip side, not acknowledging real disappointment or sadness after unfortunate events prevents us from learning from our mistakes.