The Impact Bias: Why We Are Poor at Simulating the Impact of Future Events

Here’s a really fun lecture by psychologist Dan Gilbert of Stumbling on Happiness fame. He explains why we’re poor at simulating the effect future events will have on us.

Time and time again research on gaining or losing romantic partners, passing or failing exams, winning or losing elections has found they have little effect on our long-term happiness. In fact, Gilbert quotes a recent study finding that almost anything that happened more than three months ago has no effect on our current levels of happiness.

Entertainingly, Dan Gilbert proposes the following secrets of happiness:

  1. Accrue wealth, power and prestige then lose it.
  2. Spend as much of your life in prison as you possibly can.
  3. Make someone else really, really rich.
  4. Never, ever join the Beatles

Find out what he’s on about in this video of a presentation he gave at the Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED) Conference.

» Check out why too much choice is bad for us.

» Discover more insights from positive psychology.



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About the author


Dr Jeremy Dean is a psychologist and the author of PsyBlog. His latest book is "Making Habits, Breaking Habits: How to Make Changes That Stick". You can follow PsyBlog by email, by RSS feed, on Twitter and Google+.

Published: 8 September 2007

Text: © All rights reserved.

Images: Creative Commons License