Daniel Gilbert of Harvard wrote a book titled “Stumbling on Happiness” (2006), in which he described errors humans make in their pursuit of happiness. One common mistake he mentioned involves thinking that specific future events will affect our level of happiness for longer than they actually do. This overestimation bias applies both to positive future events and negative future events. As a practical matter, that means that winning the lottery or getting married is not likely to make you happy for long, and that losing your job or a limb is not likely to make you unhappy for long. Humans tend to revert to their typical level of happiness after major positive and negative events. I have seen that happen in my life. Keeping this estimation bias in mind may help us predict our future reactions better and make our current emotions more realistic. Ability at this type of prediction may be part of emotional intelligence. Have you anticipated more happiness or unhappiness to result from a future event than you actually experienced?
For an interview with Gilbert about the book, see http://www.shambhalasun.com/index.php?option=content&task=view&id=3027&Itemid=0&limit=1&limitstart=0.
John Malouff, PhD, Associate Professor of Psychology