Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Rediscovering mundane moments brings us unexpected pleasure

Date:
September 2, 2014
Source:
Association for Psychological Science
Summary:
We like to document the exciting and momentous occasions in our lives, but new research suggests there is value in capturing our more mundane, everyday experiences, which can bring us unexpected joy in the future.

We like to document the exciting and momentous occasions in our lives, but new research suggests there is value in capturing our more mundane, everyday experiences, which can bring us unexpected joy in the future.

"We generally do not think about today's ordinary moments as experiences that are worthy of being rediscovered in the future. However, our studies show that we are often wrong: What is ordinary now actually becomes more extraordinary in the future -- and more extraordinary than we might expect," explains psychological scientist and lead researcher Ting Zhang of Harvard Business School.

The findings are published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Science has shown that we consistently make errors in trying to predict how we'll feel about something and how much we'll remember from that experience later on. Zhang and colleagues speculated that these prediction errors might explain why we're keen to document the extraordinary moments in our lives through pictures, journal entries, and mementos but we overlook documenting the more mundane moments, such as conversations with friends or a day at the office.

In one study, the researchers had 135 college students create time capsules at the beginning of the summer; they wrote about a range of different experiences they recently had, including the last social event they attended, a recent conversation, three songs they were currently listening to, and an excerpt from a final paper they had written.

For each memory, the students were asked to predict how curious and surprised they would be to read about it later, and how meaningful and interesting they would find it. The students "opened" these time capsules three months later, at the beginning of the following school year, and rated the memories again.

The results showed that students had significantly underestimated their curiosity and interest in the time capsules, findings that were echoed in a second online study.

This may occur because we have different expectations for how we'll feel about ordinary and extraordinary events that lead us to underestimate the value of ordinary experiences.

Indeed, participants in another study underestimated how much they would enjoy reading about a "typical" experience with their partner, while they were fairly accurate in estimating how much they would enjoy reading about what they did on a more extraordinary day, Valentine's Day.

The research suggests that undervaluing mundane events may actually lead us to forego what would be pleasurable experiences of rediscovery.

A final study revealed that only 27% of participants chose to write about a recent conversation over watching a video of a talk-show interview. However, when it came time to decide which one they'd rather revisit 1 month later, 58% of participants chose to read about the conversation they had had.

Participants were overly optimistic in estimating how much of the conversation they would remember -- the more they overestimated the fidelity of their memory, the more they underestimated how interesting they would find the accounts of their conversation one month later.

While we don't remember as much as we might have expected, bringing memories back to life may not be too difficult: Participants' feedback indicated that reading a few sentences was all it took to evoke the feelings and circumstances that surrounded the documented experience.

"People find a lot of joy in rediscovering a music playlist from months ago or an old joke with a neighbor, even though those things did not seem particularly meaningful in the moment," says Zhang. "The studies highlight the importance of not taking the present for granted and documenting the mundane moments of daily life to give our future selves the joy of rediscovering them."

This doesn't mean that we should start documenting everything we do in order to maximize pleasure, however.

Some acts of documentation, such as trying to get just the right shot of your artfully prepared restaurant meal, can interrupt the present moment and detract from the overall experience. Additional research is needed to discover where the tipping point lies between enjoying the present and documenting the present for enjoyment in the future, says Zhang.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Association for Psychological Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. T. Zhang, T. Kim, A. W. Brooks, F. Gino, M. I. Norton. A "Present" for the Future: The Unexpected Value of Rediscovery. Psychological Science, 2014; DOI: 10.1177/0956797614542274

Cite This Page:

Association for Psychological Science. "Rediscovering mundane moments brings us unexpected pleasure." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 September 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/09/140902114635.htm>.
Association for Psychological Science. (2014, September 2). Rediscovering mundane moments brings us unexpected pleasure. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/09/140902114635.htm
Association for Psychological Science. "Rediscovering mundane moments brings us unexpected pleasure." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/09/140902114635.htm (accessed September 22, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Monday, September 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Newsy (Sep. 19, 2014) The study found elderly people are much more likely to become susceptible to infection than younger adults going though a similar situation. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Food Addiction Might Be Caused By PTSD

Food Addiction Might Be Caused By PTSD

Newsy (Sep. 18, 2014) New research shows that women who suffer from PTSD are three times more likely to develop a food addiction. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Corporal Punishment on Decline, Debate Renews

Corporal Punishment on Decline, Debate Renews

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) Corporal punishment in the United States is on the decline, but there is renewed debate over its use after Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was charged with child abuse. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
FDA Eyes Skin Shocks Used at Mass. School

FDA Eyes Skin Shocks Used at Mass. School

AP (Sep. 15, 2014) The FDA is considering whether to ban devices used by the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center in Canton, Massachusetts, the only place in the country known to use electrical skin shocks as aversive conditioning for aggressive patients. (Sept. 15) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins