Monday, May 09, 2005

Hedonic Adaptation

Have you ever noticed that you are just one more gadget away from pure technology bliss? If only I could get the newest back-lit, bluetooth, high resolution, 64 Mb turnip twaddler, I wouldn't ever need another gadget. But a funny thing happens a week after you get back from the electronics, you need something else. I had recognized this pattern in myself, but recently discovered that, not only am I not the only one, but psychologists have named this: hedonic adaptation. This comes from studies of happiness. For example, lottery winners, right after they win, report that they are very happy. However, they quickly adapt, and, after a while, their sense of happiness and well being returns to their pre-winning levels. The same is true for technological innovations. No matter how dramatically a bit of technology improves our lives, we quickly take it for granted and start looking for the next thing. This helps explain why people in 2000 were not measurably happier than those in 1900, even though technology has made our lives astoundingly easier.

For more information about this, check out this fascinating article Technology and Happiness in Technology Review. And, as much as it seems like it, that new Powerbook with Tiger on it won't make you blissfully happy...Well, maybe just a little. I'm willing to try.


Dustin said...

Turnip Twaddler. Is that a Bloom County reference? I miss Bloom County.

Glenn Stephens said...

You should check out the book or the DVD Status Anxiety by Alian DeBotton. It contains a huge amount of information on why we crave things at a fundamental and society level. You'll rethink the way you look at consumerism from an internal and external perspective.

Neal Ford said...

Yes, Turnip Twaddler was the item that Opus could never resist on the shopping channel.

I miss Bloom County, too. Once a week on Sunday isn't enough.

Chris said...

I dunno. The new PowerBook has given me universal understanding, peace, and happiness! But I'm really wanting an XBox 360 now....

Fernando (Nerd Gaucho) said...

From the linked article: "In fact, the percentage of people who say theyre very happy has fallen slightly since the early 1970seven though the income of people born in 1940 has increased, on average, 116 percent over the course of their working lives."

That's the problem with *AVERAGE* incomes... if just the top 1% of the pyramid earn 10x more -in other words if the growth benefits just a minority- , the power of statistics make the "average income" increase "automagically", even while those at the bottom or middle of the pyramid might end up earning even LESS than before. ;)

I'd kill to be paid the "average income" or in other words, "I want my share of the country's per-capita GDP". ;)

Stagnant salaries in the U.S. push more families towards the breadline

Published: May 10 2005

"real wages in the US are falling at their fastest rate in 14 years, according to data surveyed by the Financial Times."

Anonymous said...

I highly recommend looking at the recent Time Mag. issue that delt with happiness:

I also recommend this article on consumerism: