Dan Gilbert: The psychology of your future self


Dan Gilbert is a Harvard psychologist and author of “Stumbling on Happiness”


Why do people look back at decisions that they regret – that the ideas they embraced 10 years ago they would now rush to reject? Dan looks at a misconception of time – that we have turned into the person we are over time, but will stay as we are now into the future.

People change less as time goes on – the older the person is, the less they change. Dan asks people to predict how much they will change over the next decade and compare it to people of the same age who say how much they changed over the last decade. The finding was that people greatly underestimate how much they will change in the future.

This same pattern can be seen in a number of things – their best friend, favourite vacation, favourite band, their personality traits, their level of success in life. People expect their values right now will persist into the future, while in truth they will change.

Dan suggest this is because it is much easier to remember who we were, rather than imagine or predict what they will become. So because it is difficult, we assume it will not happen.

This leaves us with an illusion that right now is a special moment where we become the person we will always be. Human Beings are works in progress that mistakenly think they are finished.

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