Real time experience vs. recollection
Imagine that every hour people had to record what their last hour was like on a misery – happiness scale. Were they stressed, anxious, sad, having fun, happy? Now, imagine that hourly data of this type accumulated over years.
Alternatively, suppose we only asked people every year (or maybe even 5 or 10 years) about their misery-happiness rating. We ask them what their last year (or 5 years or 10 years) was like? Were they mostly happy, sad, anxious, etc.?
I think it’s been well documented that people tend to selectively remember the good things, and have an overall rosier view of their
So, I expect that, if you look at someone’s hourly happiness data, you’d get a much different picture about what their life was like than if you look at people’s perceived happiness based on longer recall. In real time their experience was worse than they think it was when they look back at it a year or more later. Maybe that’s why we are nostalgic and yearn for the good ol’ days.
This seems quite useful from a fitness perspective.
If we were relaxed, happy, and carefree most of the time, we wouldn’t be vigilant enough. Anxiety about status and protecting our families probably helps us and our offspring survive.
However, if we had an accurate memory and realized that most of our life we were stressed, worried, anxious and/or sad, we might think that live is too hard and miserable of a place. We might not want to bring kids into the world. We might not want to exist ourselves.
So, if we are worried and anxious in real time, but think that most of the time life is wonderful, we have a strong desire to live and reproduce, and also are always fighting for more security.
Depression and suicide
Is it possible that people who are depressed and/or suicidal have more accurate memories of their life experience and do not enjoy the benefits of rosy retrospection?