Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Why don't we choose what makes us happy?

Hsee and Hastie provide an interesting review of this issue in Trends in Cognitive Sciences. Numerous studies prove that people systematically fail to predict or choose what maximizes their happiness. This casts doubt on the validity of social policies that assume that people can act in their own best interest in choosing between health providers, retirement plans, public offices, multiple commercial products, etc.

There are two central reasons for this failure: predictions biases and failures to follow predictions. Prediction biases occur because predictors do not full appreciate the differences between the state of prediction and the state of experience. One might be more or less hungry, rested, or sexually aroused while predicting versus experiencing (projection bias). Memory, beliefs, number of distinctions being made can also lead to bias errors. Failures to follow predictions of what will generate the greatest overall happiness can occur when instead the choice is made with the greatest immediate appeal (impulsivity), that is easy to justify (lay rationalism), that yields the greatest token reward such as money (medium maximization), or that fits choice rules (lay rationalism).

No comments:

Post a Comment