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McGinn AP English Language and Composition Terrence Lonam A Study into our Studies Gertner starts his powerhouse essay with a strong second person intervention telling the readers what they do, what everyone does, wrong, at least according to Daniel Gilbert. A laundry list of false predictions and comparisons that people are likely to make, for example, when they believe that they will “be more unhappy with a big single setback (A broken heart) than with a lesser chronic one (a trick knee)” (1) or when “they [sic] reckon that a cheeseburger…will definitely hit the spot” (1), is provided to illustrate Gilbert’s thesis that people are completely wrong about what will actually make them happy. So forceful in his sketch of our psychology, Gertner compels the reader to examine his methodology. In a 5 man study, Gilbert et al. examined “how we forecast our feelings” and concluded that people in fact not “good at maximizing their [sic] utility” (1). With another long list of examples, Gilbert and his colleagues find that human decision-making is affected strongly by “impact bias” which causes us to believe that bad things will be worse than they are and viceversa with good things. The conclusion reached by all studies on the subject, something important to note in its own right as it confirms the validity of the study through peer-review, is that people are incompetent at making long term decisions that will make them the happiest, such as becoming a doctor or plumber. Lightening the paper with a reference to the stones, “You can’t always know what you what” (1), Gertner explains that his pessimistic conclusions hit home for him, causing “despair
fear. Lowenstein wondered why climbers. even though the trick knee will follow them through their whole life. explaining his history as a high school dropout turned sci-fi author turned psychologist. Gertner explains Gilbert’s studies with Harvard students. “man to man” with Gilbert. drug craving. The novel point that these studies make is that we fail to account for our adaptations. but often reneged on the day of. He then furthers his personal narrative. and ultimate unhappiness that they cause us to inflict upon ourselves. After explaining the research. As we become acclimated to something. courage. Lowenstein and Wilson. According to Gilbert and his contemporaries Kahneman. Moving to an outline of his various studies. This illustrates that a large part of impact bias is dependent on the emotional state we are in when we make decisions “„hot‟ states (those of anxiety. in an attempt to connect the reader. Gertner explains Lowenstein‟s motivation for the study. finding universally that the largest source of impact bias is that subjects predict that larger or longer events will always dwarf smaller or shorter ones. these results are due largely in part to adaptations that our brains go through in order to incentivize certain actions in favor of survival. Our “psychological immune system” is one which propels us to short term benefits. Gertner then shows us Loewenstein‟s related points about dancing in public. sexual excitation and the like) and ''cold'' states of rational calm” (Gertner 3). not predicting these acclimations. our brains will reduce “Happiness” incentives to pursue it. instead pursuing new goals for us to achieve. predicting that a trick knee would be a better thing to have than a broken leg. as an avid mountaineer. even he. made perilous decisions to ignore regulations . without simultaneously propelling us to long term ones. many were willing to agree given financial benefits beforehand. Boston transit riders and grieving families.about his failing marriage” (2) the ability for any human to make themselves truly happy in the long run.
With such personal insight. it seems easier to understand the widespread prevalence and effect of the bias on everyone‟s lives. Gertner also explains the downsides that result politically. optimistic over the impacts that this study could have. Should the impact bias be tamed. These observations leave the reader wondering what will happen with the studies. explaining that the results could be misinterpreted on a large scale. always clouding our judgments and thoughts. to name a few. '‟They keep us moving towards carrots and away from sticks‟ ” (Gertner 4). the results could lead to a much higher average rate of happiness for the normal person. the impact bias is a self-perpetuating beast.‟ he adds. the true purpose of the paper.and stay out too long. as the marginal utility of the luxuries of the rich is extremely minimal as opposed to the great benefit that it could provide to those in need. while allowing them to ponder and debate the question. However. scared about a car ride. The impacts of this bias are manifold but might be seen nowhere clearer than in “buyer‟s remorse” after a large purchase. Gertner makes the interesting observation that it is impossible for even the researchers to avoid the bias. Gertner minimizes the reach that he wants the work to have. even if they are illusions. even those trying to combat it. in the common overreaction to a colonoscopy. often causing tendencies to lean to the left of the political sphere. This point clearly illustrates that while there may be many rational things to garner from this study. . However. and irrational fear of losing a limb. getting overly excited about a marriage. He concludes the paper on the note that the impact bias might be best left alone for “ „there to be carrots and sticks in the world. Gertner discusses the pros and cons of dealing with bias in order to clarify what the study could mean in our everyday life.