The riddle of experience vs. memory | Daniel Kahneman

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Using examples from vacations to colonoscopies, Nobel laureate and founder of behavioral economics Daniel Kahneman reveals how our “experiencing selves” and our “remembering selves” perceive happiness differently. This new insight has profound implications for economics, public policy — and our own self-awareness.

TEDTalks is a daily video podcast of the best talks and performances from the TED Conference, where the world’s leading thinkers and doers give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes. Featured speakers have included Al Gore on climate change, Philippe Starck on design, Jill Bolte Taylor on observing her own stroke, Nicholas Negroponte on One Laptop per Child, Jane Goodall on chimpanzees, Bill Gates on malaria and mosquitoes, Pattie Maes on the “Sixth Sense” wearable tech, and “Lost” producer JJ Abrams on the allure of mystery. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design, and TEDTalks cover these topics as well as science, business, development and the arts. Closed captions and translated subtitles in a variety of languages are now available on TED.com, at Watch a highlight reel of the Top 10 TEDTalks at

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46 COMMENTS

  1. People feel unhappy because of two things unpleasant memory in the pass and worry about the future. This is the result from adding the story to our experience

  2. This really reminds me of the story behind the Veggietales film "It's a Meaningful Life" (a spin-off of "It's a Wonderful Life"). In it, the main character is living a pretty wealthy life. He is managing a strong family business and has a loving wife and kids. Yet, he wouldn't say he has a "happy" life because what lingers in his head is if he caught a football in an important game for his school's football team. It hurts him even more when he realizes the one who caught the ball is a star.
    There we have the contrast between living a "happy" life and looking at oneself as a "happy" person. And there's no correlation but rather a division of these two things (until the main character resolves this conflict).

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  4. This is why in Buddhism and other similar philosophies they say that the only thing that exists is the present, psycho cybernetics talks about "rewriting the past" because in actuality there is no such thing as the past anyway, there is just your memory of what you think was the past, so instead of holding on to traumatic events or embarrassing events (your interpretation at the time), you can simply change your memory of them.

    You might protest and exclaim how you could possibly forget such an important event in your life, the truth is that if its hurting you, you're better off letting it disappear into the fog of time.

  5. This talk goes with that other "Fast and Slow" book, because if you are who you think, then the rate of processing which memories, qualifies who you are, happy or other-wise.

  6. In the end We all live for others, all knowledge is for Human enjoyment. Greed has no enjoyment only the illusion of success. We are what we do, not what we say.

  7. And this explains why, in a relationship, no matter what you do for your SO, no matter the sacrifice, if the divorce hits the door, all those 'memories' will be worthless.

  8. The question about public policy based on these findings is based on the wrong premise. It is not the role of government to provide us with happiness, but to protect our rights of pursuit of happiness. BIG difference.

  9. an impressively articulate performance and presentation of a false and morally meaningless dichotomy. The state of Selfhood/Being – I am – is a unitary state which is mediated by multiple mental functions which include the various categories of the Memory systems. The sense of self is not dual. The 'I' , can, through an act of will, shift its point of observation. One, the biological organism I am, continuously samples one's internal milieu, evaluating one's endogenous state against the external one being conveyed by its neurosensory network. The process of evaluation involves predictions and expectations based on Instinctual as well as learned remembered events. The retrieval of memories is predicated on salience and context for that embodied self.

  10. an impressively articulate performance and presentation of a false and morally dangerous dichotomy. The state of Selfhood/Being – I am – is a unitary state which is mediated by multiple mental functions.

  11. The problem is, subjective well-being tends to dictate actual well-being. And subjective well-being is of course based almost entirely on the remembering self. Unless we vastly increase our individual self-awareness, the whole debate is moot.

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  13. I just finished reading his book "thinking fast and slow" and I have to admit that it's amazing! The theories it includes as well as the examples and mental exercises we get to do, makes the book an interesting activity, interacting with it is great. I admire a lot this man: merging psychology and economics. A must-read book.

  14. Back in the day when ted actually had intellectual speakers and not any LGBTQ and feminist activist got to speak.

  15. This man is brilliant! …."We don't choose between experiences, we choose between memories of experiences." …"We think about the future as anticipated memories."

  16. So is he saying that we should live then to create good memories for our remembering self (make sure it ends well and has lots of changes but doesn't necessarily need to be enjoyable throughout) or that we should strive to live in the experiencing self in which we fight recollection of experience all together?

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