You can't always get what you want…

…but you just might find, you get what you need. Rolling Stones

Last week’s NY Times Magazine had an article on some interesting research about affective forecasting. That’s research about how well people can predict how they will feel about events such as getting something they want or losing something valuable. In general they found: “On average, bad events proved less intense and more transient than test participants predicted. Good events proved less intense and briefer as well.”

What’s this have to do with cancer? Well…

”We consider people capable of giving informed consent once they are told of the objective effects of a treatment, but can people anticipate how they and other people will react to a colostomy or to the removal of their vocal cords? The research on affective forecasting suggests that people may have little ability to anticipate their adaptation beyond the early stages.” …Dr. Peter Ubel, has done a great deal of work showing that nonpatients overestimate the displeasure of living with the loss of a limb, for instance, or paraplegia. To use affective forecasting to prove that people adapt to serious physical challenges far better and will be happier than they imagine, Loewenstein says, could prove invaluable.

I wonder how this squares with research on cancer patients?

Also, maybe there are fund raising implications in affective forecasting. They find, for instance, that buying an expensive new car doesn’t provide as much happiness as people anticipate for very long. So, you might do a fund raising pitch like: “You know buying that $75,000 car isn’t going to make you any happier than buying a $50,000 car, so why not buy the $50,000 car and donate the difference to ACS?”

It makes me wonder about major gifts. Do people get more satisfaction from giving $25,000 all at once, or is it better to give $5,000 five times and get five little hits of joy-juice? Does the satisfaction of giving match the anticipation? Do givers lose satisfaction after a while?

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