My copy of the Harvard alumni magazine came in the mail yesterday, and it included a story about some interesting new research by Harvard Business School Professor Anat Keinan. Keinan and Columbia Business School professor Ran Kivetz have coined a new term - "hyperopia." They describe it as the habit of overestimating the benefits one will receive in the future from making responsible decisions now. Here's what the scholars found:
"Time after time, when subjects were asked to recall situations in which they had to choose between work and pleasure...More of the subjects who’d chosen play over work recently expressed regret, but those numbers reversed for choices made in the distant past. For instance, college students said they’d spent too much time relaxing during a recent winter break, but when they considered the previous year’s break, they said they’d spent too much time studying and working."
Keinan suggests that we could be happier if we took a long term perspective and anticipated our future regrets as we make current choices. She also highlights the fact that companies can retool their marketing to take advantage of this new understanding of how people judge their decisions about work vs. pleasure.