Washington : If you want to know to what extent you will enjoy an experience, you are better off knowing the extent to which someone else enjoyed it before.
“Rather than closing our eyes and imagining the future, we should examine the experience of those who have been there,” said Harvard psychology professor Daniel Gilbert.
Gilbert and colleagues studied how people make decisions based on predictions about how much pleasure, satisfaction, utility or reward those decisions will bring them.
But poor decisions often result from people’s difficulty in predicting what they will enjoy and how much they will enjoy it.
Often bad decisions come from a person imagining their reactions in a given circumstance and attempts to improve such decision making has generally has been unsuccessful.
So the researchers eliminated imagination from decision making in their experiments by asking people to predict how much they would enjoy a future event about which they knew absolutely nothing.
Some subjects were told how much a total stranger enjoyed the same event and made exceptionally accurate predictions.
In one experiment, for example, women predicted how much they would enjoy a “speed date” with a man. Some women learned nothing about the man, except how much another woman, whom they had never met, enjoyed dating him. Other women read the man’s personal profile and saw his photograph.
The women who learned about a previous woman’s experience did a much better job of predicting their own enjoyment of the speed date than those who studied the man’s profile and photograph, said a Harvard release.
Interestingly, both groups mistakenly expected the profile and photo to lead to greater accuracy and held to that belief even after the experiment ended.
“People do not realise what a powerful source of information another person’s experience can be,” says Gilbert.