Thursday, May 19, 2005

Affective Forecasting

My interest in Affective Forecasting began less than two weeks ago, when reading The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2004 . The book only has two nonfiction pieces, and one of them was The Futile Pursuit of Happiness by Jon Gertner. This one little bit caught my eye:

We often yearn for a roomy, isolated home (a thing we easily adapt to), when, in fact, it will probably compromise our happiness by distancing us from neighbors. (Social interaction and friendships have been shown to give lasting pleasure.) The big isolated home is what Loewenstein, 48, himself bought. ''I fell into a trap I never should have fallen into,'' he told me.
I'm a sucker for anything about urban planning or architecture.

Now I'm trying to find the following sources that should give me some more info on social relationships as a critical determinant of happiness: Argyle, 1999; Biswah-Diener & Diener, 2001; Diener, Gohm, Suh, & Oishi, 2000; Diener, Suh, Lucas, Smith, 1999; Larson, 1990; Myers, 1999; Sheldon, Elliot, Kim, & Kasser, 2001.

Some sources on the idea that people know social aspects are more important than material comforts: Putnam, 200; Schor, 1991.

You got to love Harvard. This paper ends with a section called Policy Implications. Here, the author points to slum clearance projects of the past, and the decision to replace crumbling tenements with modern high-rises. There are innumerable anecdotes about folks who are poor but happy, living in tiny and/or decaying houses, but all the fun they have with their neighbors. To some extent we all know that crappy houses are okay in a close-knit neighborhood, but when it's time to choose someplace to live this knowledge is ignored. Some of it is beyond us: there are only so many houses for sale when we're looking, and many of those will be new suburban (or even exurban) models with big, private yards, and big private houses, and no social interaction at all. And it may not be possible to buy somewhere we'd like to, due to mortgage lenders' redlining neighborhoods. Some of the problem is widespread, such as the common belief that you need a yard to raise kids. We tend to overlook the corollary that a giant yard isn't as much fun if you have to ply in it all by yourself.


Lisa said...

When I was working in architecture, god's gift to housing was the two-family townhouse. I suppose that kind of thing runs in trends like anything else.

I've never heard the term Affective Forecasting before, but I think it's an interesting subject too. The concept of happiness (or: "happiness") and people's relationships to it fascinates me. I got my mom a copy of Exuberance: The Passion for Life and would very much like to borrow it back for a while.

Kaethe said...

I hope it's a trend that comes back. We're incredibly lucky to have found a house with a granny flat for my mother. Now there's another granny flat on the block.

That's two happier households, anyway.

Exuberance sounds like what I need. It sounds so energetic.