Experience vs. Memory
I was watching this great talk by Daniel Kahneman the other night and two things struck me. The first was the way that we remember pain versus the way we experience it. It seems that we remember pain based more on how the painful event ended than actually taking into account the entire event. I would imagine that the same principle holds true with many different feelings: joy, sadness, exhilaration, boredom, etc. Think about a roller coaster. If the first 45 seconds of the coaster are filled with speed, hills and loops, but the last minute and a half is like the Snow White ride at Disney World, you’ll probably leave thinking it was a boring coaster. If, however, you reverse the order of those two things – if you spend a minute and a half meandering through scenery with light and airy music playing in the background, then you spend 45 terrifying seconds white-knuckled to the coaster’s restraining device, I think you’ll leave with a memory that is much more exhilarating.
My application? I think this must be why the “compliment sandwich” works so well.
Scot: “Liza, I love your hair. Your work sucks. Where did you get that sweater?”
Liza: Thanks for the compliment sandwich, Scot.
(courtesy of the Urban Dictionary)
The second thing that jumps out at me is the disparity between what makes for happy experiences and what makes for happy memories. Watch through to the end to see what it is that we think makes us happy (in our contrived memory) and what actually makes us happy (during our life of experience).