December 3, 2012

Hedonic adaptation.

"It’s cruel but true:"
We’re inclined — psychologically and physiologically — to take positive experiences for granted. We move into a beautiful loft. Marry a wonderful partner. Earn our way to the top of our profession. How thrilling! For a time. Then, as if propelled by autonomic forces, our expectations change, multiply or expand and, as they do, we begin to take the new, improved circumstances for granted.
Understanding that might help you avoid making life's worst mistakes — like devaluing your marriage/throwing it away.

20 comments:

Kit said...

Gratitude and humility are it's antidotes.

edutcher said...

It's like the old wheeze about a coward dying 1000 deaths, but the brave man only 1.

Unless, of course, the brave man is cursed with imagination.

Same here - if you've had things rough, you will appreciate the good times more.

bagoh20 said...

Look, I can see the damned grass from here. It's much greener, and no dog crap. And what's that, Hawaiian noises? I'm out of here.

Dr Weevil said...

A. E. Housman made a similar but more general point in a letter to Gilbert Murray (April 23, 1920):

"I rather doubt if man really has much to gain by substituting peace for strife, as you and Jesus Christ recommend. Sic notus Ulixes? do you think you can outwit the resourceful malevolence of Nature? God is not mocked, as St. Paul long ago warned the Galatians. When man gets rid of a great trouble he is easier for a while, but not for long: Nature instantly sets to work to weaken his power of sustaining trouble, and very soon seven pounds is as heavy as fourteen pounds used to be. Last Easter Monday a young woman threw herself in the Lea because her dress looked so shabby amongst the holiday crowd: in other times and countries women have been ravished by half-a-dozen dragoons and taken it less to heart. It looks to me as if the state of mankind always had been and always would be a state of just tolerable discomfort."

(The Latin bit is from Vergil, Aeneid 2.44, in which Laocoon warns his fellow Trojans not take in the Trojan Hourse. In Ahl's recent translation, "Is that what we know of Ulysses?" In other words, knowing what we know of Ulysses, it would be naive to accept any gift from the Greeks.)

kcom said...

Which is the genius of captialism. It harnesses that pre-existing, natural human urge to do more. Try more. Have more. Any system that tries to say "Here's what you get, now sit down and shut up while we give the rest of yours to someone else" is bound to fail. It doesn't comport to reality. It also fails those it deprives of the reward of striving by teaching them dependency is there only option.

Erika said...
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Erika said...

I believe that is known as being spoiled, and in its severest form, spoiled rotten.

kcom said...

Which should be "their only option," of course.

EDH said...

At the other end of the scale, hedonic adaptation also helps explains why it is more politically advantageous for the the left to focus on income inequality rather than an objective measure of poverty.

Enough is never enough.

Mumpsimus said...

I knew that was from the New York Times before I moused over the link.

Peter said...

Hedonic adaptation is why spending money and/or effort on interesting experiences is usually a better value than spending that money and/or effort on acquiring things.

The experiences usually leave behind memories that become more valuable over time- even when the experiences themselves included some unpleasantness.

But hedonic adaptation will depreciate the value of things faster than you probably expected (and thus the things will prove to be less valuable than you expected them to be prior to the acquisition).

mccullough said...

Most people learn this over time. Except for Baby Boomers.

n.n said...
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n.n said...
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n.n said...
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n.n said...

Every body continues in its state of rest, or of uniform motion in a straight line, unless it is compelled to change that state by forces impressed upon it.

Psychology is a methodical interpretation of the natural order overlaid with conscious effects.

On a related note, relationships are dynamically stable as two or more motive forces result in a competition for a mutually reconcilable state.

Robert Cook said...

"Most people learn this over time. Except for Baby Boomers."

And rich people.

It seems no matter how rich one becomes, one always sees oneself as not rich and will always cry poor mouth at the prospect of tax increases.

Amartel said...

Poor dull Cookie had to make it political.

Dr Weevil said...

It seems that no matter how successful one is at disrupting a website by butting in with silly remarks, one always sees oneself as not successful and therefore feels compelled to butt in ever more often with ever sillier remarks.

MarkD said...

Not if you have a good memory.