Miswanting

I came across an article called Why Career Planning is Time Wasted. It takes an interesting look at our abilities in predicting our future wants.

This article introduces this term called “Miswanting”, used to describe how we may wrongly predict what we want in the future.

It occurred to me that this not only applied to our careers, but also to our marriages: who can predict what a person will be like after we are married to him or her?

Which leads me to believe that the institution of marriage probably won’t die in the near future.

Miswanting

“We are poor at predicting what will make us happy in the future.”

The idea of making mistakes about what we might want in the future has been termed ‘miswanting’ by Gilbert and Wilson (2000). They point to a range of studies finding we are poor at predicting what will make us happy in the future. My favourite is a simple experiment in which two groups of participants get free sandwiches if they participate in the experiment – a doozie for any undergraduate.

One group has to choose which sandwiches they want for an entire week in advance. The other group gets to choose which they want each day. A fascinating thing happens. People who choose their favourite sandwich each day at lunchtime also often choose the same sandwich. This group turns out to be reasonably happy with its choice.

Amazingly, though, people choosing in advance assume that what they’ll want for lunch next week is a variety. And so they choose a turkey sandwich Monday, tuna on Tuesday, egg on Wednesday and so on. It turn out that when next week rolls around they generally don’t like the variety they thought they would. In fact they are significantly less happy with their choices than the group who chose their sandwiches on the day.”

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