Chapter 6. Forecasting the Future with Feelings

IMAGINE IT’S 10 YEARS ago, and I tell you about an idea for taking photos that disappear after they’re viewed. Maybe I add a detail, like there would be virtual “stickers” that you could put on the pictures or that you could write on them before they disappeared. Meh. Polaroids had their day already, hadn’t they?

How many of us would have predicted that Snap would have such emotional force? And that Polaroid would make a comeback, too? If there’s one truth about happiness, it’s this: human beings are terrible at predicting it. We overestimate how happy we will be on the weekend and we underestimate how happy we will be on Mondays. We think that we’ll be happy when we have more money, even though that is consistently not the case. We make these same mistaken predictions over and over again.

Emotional intelligence is a bit of a time hack. When you’re overcome with regret, you’re paying too much attention to the past. When you are feeling distracted, you’re not appreciating the present. When you worry, you’re dwelling on an unpleasant future. Negative emotions not only signal some bigger-picture frustrations; they can also spiral into despair in which the future feels hopeless. By shifting attention to the past, present, and future in a positive way, you can effect real change.

In this chapter, we mix techniques from affective forecasting, prospective psychology, future foresight, and speculative design. Paying attention to emotion ...

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