The Situationist

Introspection, Retrospection, & the 2008 Election

Posted by The Situationist Staff on November 3, 2008

Situationist contributor Tim Wilson and Situationist friend Dan Gilbert have shown that, although we expect the outcomes of presidential elections to significantly influence how happy we feel, the evidence indicates otherwise.  As with most things, our affective forecasting is not to be trusted.  Gilbert summarizes one study this way:

Democrats predicted they’d be devastated if Bush won the last presidential election, they were not nearly as devastated as they predicted . . . , and yet several months later they remembered being just as devastated as they had expected to be. It turns out that this is a very common pattern of memory errors.

Our miswanting and misremembering reinforce our continued inability to forecast our own happiness.

But what do you think?  Is this election different?  Will your happiness level be seriously influenced by the outcome of this election?  Answer the questions below.


If you think that this election will significantly influence your happiness level, please feel free to leave a comment explaining why.

2 Responses to “Introspection, Retrospection, & the 2008 Election”

  1. nara said

    Are you kidding me? I mean, perhaps I’m “misremembering” the past 8 years. But for those of us who keep up with what is going on, you bet there’s been a major change. Katrina, particularly, and the horrible way it was handled (is being handled) by the Bush Administration, sent me into a spiraling depression that lasted for over a year. I have feel tainted and complicit in torture, in detaining people without charges in inhumane conditions, in the slow erosion of our civil rights, in the foolish war that has internationally shamed us in front of the world, and in the decline of our economy. I didn’t vote for him, but I’m still American, and I’ve been tarred with the brush of everything he does, and largely helpless to stop it. My anxiety has skyrocketed and my trust in government and other people has eroded.

    I’m still happier than I was eight years ago, but that’s because I’ve gotten married, had a kid, gone back to school and made my career really happen for myself, and stayed active politically, doing what I CAN do. The part of my happiness that is related to larger national and world affairs was devastated by the last eight years. If McCain wins this election, I will NEVER believe that it was not through voter fraud and intimidation, and I’m not sure what I would do in a world where I believe our democratic process itself is a sham. I hope I never have to find out.

    As I’ve said before in the comments to this blog, I think the “spot checking” of happiness (“How happy are you right now?”) rather than trusting to people’s statements about their overall happiness has some major flaws, and yields inaccurate results. This may be another instance of that.

  2. If you are interested in how happiness level might be “influenced” by election results, maybe you should also ask respondents what their happiness level was before the election.

    Let’s say I’m “somewhat happy” now. The possible influence of the election on my happiness looks different if I was “very happy” before the election v. if I was “very unhappy” before.

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