28 09 2014

Yes, the title is a reference to Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Yes, I intend to relate it to current research. Fun times ahead, folks.



But in all seriousness, I’ve been thinking a lot about anticipation.
Earlier this year I read “Stumbling on Happiness”. Author Daniel Gilbert, a professor of psychology at Harvard, presents a mountain of research regarding our emotional entanglement with “affective forecasting” — Gibert’s phrase describing our ability to anticipate whether we will be happy, or not, in the future and how it alters our decision making. Long story short, we do a terrible job at affective forecasting. And it seems, the more we try to predict what will make us happy, the less happy we are in the end. This is of course, a grave simplification of the book. So read it for yourself and let me know your thoughts. It’s a fun read; Gilbert blends cognitive neuroscience, philosophy, psychology, and humor throughout the twelve chapters.

More recently, I came across this article in the New York Times: What a Great Trip! And I’m Not Even There Yet. Author Stephanie Rosenbloom suggests that the very act of planning travel (the anticipation), creates a stronger sense of happiness than the travel itself. Rosenbloom cites her own personal experience, in addition to research by assistant professor Leaf Van Boven, at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Van Boven’s research found that subjects were happier when anticipating travel than when reminiscing about it. His research also seeks to show that our emotional entanglement makes the future pyschologically ‘closer’ to us than the past. (Again, a grave simplification.)

So where does all of this research leave a self-proclaimed over-planner and anticipation-lover, such as myself? On one hand I shouldn’t think too much about what I think will make me happy when traveling, but on the other hand planning travel will make me happier now
I’m deep in the planning stages our upcoming travel to Seoul and Hong Kong, and I’m very much enjoying it. I always do. +1 for Rosenbloom. But I do find myself wondering if I’ll be less happy when I get there if I over-plan. I’ve had that let down too; I thought I would enjoy a particular museum or site more than I actually did. +1 for Gilbert. I’ll report back on the reminiscing component. For now, I’ll keep reveling in planning and counting down the days.




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