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Press Release 09-050
Someone Else's Experience Can Make You Happy

Researchers say another person's experience can help you make better decisions

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Photo of smiling man and woman holding drinks.

Researchers say poor decisions often result from people's difficulty predicting what they will like and how much they will like it. These bad decisions, they say, frequently are based on a person's inability to accurately imagine reactions to a given experience. The solution: ask a total stranger about his or her experience. Researchers tested their hypothesis by asking women to predict how much they would enjoy a 'speed date' with a man. Some women only learned how much another woman, whom they had never met, enjoyed dating him, while other women read the man's personal profile and saw his photograph. The women who learned about a previous woman's experience did a much better job of predicting their own enjoyment of the speed date than those who studied the man's profile and photograph.

Credit: 2009 Jupiter Images Corporation


Daniel Gilbert discusses how people can more accurately predict reactions to future events.

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Harvard University psychology professor Daniel Gilbert discusses how people can more accurately predict their hedonic and affective reactions to a future event when they know how someone else reacted to the same event. Gilbert says knowing about another person's experience is more important than knowing about the event itself.

Credit: Jon Chase/Harvard News Office


Cover of March 20, 2009, Science magazine.

The researchers' findings were published in the March 20, 2009, issue of Science.

Credit: Copyright AAAS 2009

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