Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Will seeing our older self change what we do?

Mid-life woman comes across a frog.
“Kiss me, kiss me and I’ll turn into a handsome prince” says the frog.
Mid-life woman looks at the frog.
“Go on”, he says, “aren’t you going to kiss me?”
“At my time of life”, mid-life woman says,“ I think I’m actually more interested in a talking frog.

Let’s face it, our needs change as we get older. I’d be the first to admit that a bacardi breezer only appeals because it has the word cardi in it. But as humans we’re pretty rubbish at predicting the needs of our future selves. Hence we’d rather spend now than save for the future. And ‘pension’ is not the coolest word in a at twenty-something’s vocabulary.

Psychologists are keen to know how we can close the psychological distance between the ‘present self’ and the ‘future self’. Because for some of us our future self is so remote it could be another person, a complete stranger in fact. And we neglect that person at our peril.

Hal Ersner-Hershfield from Northwestern University USA summed it up like this:
To those estranged from their future selves, saving is like a choice between spending money today or giving it to a stranger years from now.

In my lab we’re carrying out a neat experiment to see if we can bring people closer to their future selves. We’re making them look at images of themselves when older (using computer technology). Then we’re asking them about their motivations to save, quit smoking and live a healthier life. We’ll compare the results with people who simply look at images of their present selves.

I’ll let you know what we find.

This is me after ageing technology has been applied (not after a heavy weekend).
Not sure I'll really get wrinkles on my fringe though...

1 comment:

  1. Karen, this is absolutely fascinating and potentially a way to help people change 'bad' habits more quickly (or full stop) than by using other techniques. I know you'll spread word of your findings - I eagerly await news on this. Thank you for conducting smart, useful and really relevant research that has an impact on people's lives.


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