When we attempt to imagine how happy we will be in thinking about future events or plans, scientific evidence supports the significant importance of seeking advice from people who have similar backgrounds and experiences.
Dr. Daniel Gilbert has spent much of his career studying the nature of happiness and has explored various mental illusions that are apt to distort our perceptions of enjoyment. He discovered that, without realizing it, we tend to drop or add key details (many that make us happy) when we imagine our happiness, sadness or other assumed state of mind.
Most of the time our mental picture of the future or the past depends on our present—here and now—feelings.
Our current state of mind strongly influences our predictions or memories.
When things really occur, we experience it far differently than before it actually happened according to Gilbert’s book “Stumbling on Happiness.”
Our emotional "immune system" will twist our view of major mental events to help safeguard us from things like pain or depression. The visual area of our brain gets called into action when we start to imagine something. It begins to paint a mental picture.
Sometimes we may put our hands over our ears when we try to remember a favorite tune. We need that part of the brain for processing sound.
Just like the sound example, the same goes for our sensory imagination. Just as we can’t focus on hearing two things at once, we can’t use our imagination for two differing events at the same time.
Trying to imagine hunger, when we are very full, or imagining happiness when we are depressed is near impossible.
Dr. Gilbert concludes that we often regret our inactions for more than we do our actions because it is so difficult for our brains to create positive views of our delays and indecisiveness.
According to Dr. Gilbert, the best way to correctly assess our happiness about an event is to get the opinions from others with similar backgrounds and experiences.
If we really want to draw a conclusion, and prediction about the joy we will get from our plans and future events, the difference in bias of happiness is a lot lower than the misrepresentation of our own imagination.