Your experiencing self vs your remembering self

Dec 4, 2011

Why do people behave the way they do? And what is the meaning of ‘happiness’?

These questions have been the life work of Daniel Kahneman.

Prof Kahneman may be the only non-economist to win the Noble Prize for Economics (2002). He is professor emeritus of psychology at Princeton University, and is known as one of the ‘fathers’ of the field of Behavioural Economics for his work on the psychology of judgement and decision making. He has often been included in

lists of the world’s great thinkers.

In the TED talk below, from October 2010, Professor Kaheman explains that each of us is made up of two selves – the experiencing self and the remembering self.

The experiencing self lives each of the 600 million ‘psychological moments’ that make up our lives. The remembering self ‘keeps score’, and constructs the stories through which we create memory and meaning.

The remembering self is the one that makes most of our decisions. Kahneman makes the point that we seem to choose our vacations in service of the remembering self, rather than the experiencing self – thinking of our future as anticipated memories. Yet we spend very little time ‘consuming’ these memories. (You can think of this the next time you see someone spending their wedding day creating photos, rather than enjoying the ‘experiencing self’.)

The question of whether one is happy therefore is a ‘cognitive trap’. Whether one is satisfied with one’s life in general has a poor correlation with how one is feeling at the moment.

Just recently, Kahneman released his new book ‘Thinking Fast and Slow‘, which describes the two systems that drive the way we think (Intuitive and emotional, or deliberative and logical). It has been judged as one of the best books of 2011.

I think this is a terrific example of a TED talk. We have mentioned TED previously. Incidentally, last week TED  released a new iPad and iPhone app which allows you to download and save selected talks, and also has a ‘radio’ function that automatically streams talks of interest.


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