Friday, August 28, 2009

The poor payoff of pleasure postponed.

An interesting article describing work of Harvard Business School assistant professor Anat Keinan, in collaboration with Columbia Business School professor Ran Kivetz.
Keinan and Kivetz set out to see if they could observe, in formal studies, people overestimating discipline’s payoff and underestimating future feelings of having missed out. Time after time, when subjects were asked to recall situations in which they had to choose between work and pleasure, their responses emulated those of the Columbia doctoral students. More of the subjects who’d chosen play over work recently expressed regret, but those numbers reversed for choices made in the distant past. For instance, college students said they’d spent too much time relaxing during a recent winter break, but when they considered the previous year’s break, they said they’d spent too much time studying and working.

They call the habit of overestimating the benefits one will receive in the future from making responsible decisions now "hyperopia" - the name, drawn from ophthalmology, means “farsightedness.” It works to our detriment by driving people to underconsume precisely those products and experiences that they enjoy the most.

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