Sunday, October 21, 2012

Experience counts

There is plenty of research that most of us are not all that good at predicting how we will feel at some future time.  Actually, we aren't too good according to similar research at remembering our emotional state at a previous time, either.  If I am in a positive mood, I will have a tendency to predict that I will have such a mood at tomorrow's dinner and the same with a currently negative mood being my basis for my prediction for tomorrow.  I have difficulty escaping the feeling I have now and I tend to be influenced by it in remembering and in predicting.

Daniel Gilbert (one of the three Daniels of Harvard's psychology department, Gilbert, Schacter and Wegner) has written a book called "Stumbling on Happiness".  He reviews research he and others have performed on various aspects of enjoying and being satisfied with life.  

We all know that our initial impression of some activity or experience may be quite different from what we feel after we become habituated.  I have been listening to Frank Muller's narration of Martin Cruz Smith's "Polar Star", in which Moscow detective Arkady Renko, banished from the Party for "political instability", works as a fish gutter on a Russian fishing ship in the Bering Sea.  The author and narrator work hard to give a feel of the cold, the fish guts and blood, the gray sky.  I am confident that my first year on such a ship would be a big adjustment.  So, to get an estimate of whether I should hire on to such a ship, I might ask a seasoned worker how he likes it, how long it took for him to feel comfortable, etc.  

Still, my lifelong experience has been that my tastes and my kicks and joys are of a rare type. What I like to do, most people don't.  What most people naturally enjoy, I don't.  I am interested in the experiences of others and I may ask about them but I am not sure that hip hop, bodice-rippers, survivor or talent shows on tv will ever appeal to me.  I feel that there is good evidence that what appeals to many Russian fishermen is not my cup of tea.  That type of experience counts, too.

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