Why Predicting Our Future Feelings Is So Difficult 为什么预测我们未来的感受这么难？
here's a lot of talk at the moment about the new normal and how we might feel about one day going back to a busy office or to the gym or to the theatre. Some say that they can't imagine doing some of those things ever again， let alone dancing in a packed club or greeting friends with a hug and kiss.
When we try to predict how we will feel in the future， we naturally try to use the past as a guide. That can work well， except that we have a bias in our thinking towards the recent past. So， if we imagine what a train journey might be like next year， rather than focussing on the hundreds of train journeys we've made over the years， we can't help but consider our most recent trip.
And if that was on a train where masked people were looking slightly nervous， that will be paramount in our minds when we think of a journey in the future， even though we have no idea how long we will need to wear masks for.
We can't help but concentrate on how we feel right now. When patients with chronic headaches describe the intensity of their pain， their descriptions are more swayed by the intensity of their headache the previous day than their intensity in general. If you ask people how much they would enjoy at bowl of spaghetti bolognese the following day， the hungrier they happen to feel at the moment when you ask them， the more they say they'd like it.
The Harvard University psychologist Dan Gilbert has found that when we consider events our cognitive processes favour the extreme， the first and the most recent. This is known as the “impact bias” and it also causes us to focus on the chief features of an event， so if we're heading for a pub lunch in the countryside， we might imagine the moment we're sitting in the sunshine in a pretty garden eating our food. We're less likely to picture the journey to get there， the search for a pub with a free table outside，the feeling of hungry impatience if there's a long wait for the food and the possibility of a long traffic jam on the way home.
When we expect an event in the future to be positive， we tend to the focus on the good bits， but when it's likely to be negative， the bad bits overshadow our expectations. So we imagine everything about going to the dentist will be terrible， while some of it like chatting to the receptionist or hanging your coat up or leaving will be fairly neutral and in fact the worst bits may only last for a few moments.
But the impact bias can lead us to make the wrong decisions. We might imagine that a new job with a modest pay rise will change our lives. If it takes away the stress of constant money worries then it might. Your friends will congratulate you， but when it comes to maximising your happiness， if you were already managing financially， loved your old job， knew the ropes and were good friends with your colleagues， it might not be the best move.
We also have a tendency to overestimate the strength of our emotions in the future. In a study where students in the US were asked to predict how they'd feel if their college football team won or lost their next match and were then asked how they actually felt a few days later， they had both overestimated their happiness at winning and their disappointment at losing. This is because they forgot all the other things that would also happen in a day that would also influence their mood for better or worse.
In the next year many of us will experience a series of firsts in a world fighting a pandemic – going back to an office perhaps， or maybe going on a plane. From psychological research we know that the first time will feel strangest， especially during those initial 10 minutes. But humans are ever-adaptable and we will quickly become accustomed to our new way of life. The second time won't be quite as strange.