Introduction 00
Journey to Elsewhen 01
The View from in Here 02
Outside Looking In 03
In the Blindspot of the Mind's Eye 04
The Hound of Silence 05
The Future is Now 06
Time Bombs 07
Paradise Glossed 08
Immune to Reality 09
Once Bitten 10
Reporting Live from Tomorrow 11
Afterword 12

Printable Version

The Future is Now
In Chapter 6, I describe the second mistake we make when we try to estimate our future happiness. People gauge how happy a particular future will make them by imagining it, and then asking themselves how they feel when they do. The problem is that people get their current feelings and their future feelings all mixed up. We buy too much when we shop on an empty stomach because we can't separate how much we want the potato chips right now from how much we will want them tomorrow. Psychologist Leaf van Boven and decision-scientist George Loewenstein explain how and why this happens.

We gauge the goodness of the future (and hence the wisdom of our decision) by asking how we feel when we imagine it, and the neurologist Antonio Damasio describes a case of a brain-damaged man who has no feelings when he imagines the future, which makes it nearly impossible for him to decide what to do next.

Question We apparently can't do without our prefeelings, and yet, using them leaves us susceptible to a variety of errors. Is there a way to use them more wisely?

"A modern Phineas Gage" in Descartes' Error, Emotion, Reason and the Human Brain, A.R. Damasio, (New York: Avon Books, 1994) 34-51.

"Cross-Situational Projection," L. Van Boven, and G. Loewenstein in The Self in Social Perception, ed. M. Alicke, D. Dunning, and J. Krueger (New York: Psychology Press, in press).