July 8, 2013
Happiness: Hedonic Adaptation
A few years ago I had to replace my old junker car and I somehow let my husband talk me into getting a car with leather seats and power windows. In order to justify this luxury to myself I swore I would be grateful for it every time I drove it. Within the year I’d apparently forgotten my promise and was noticing how hot the leather got in the summer and how cold it was in the winter. Darn hedonic adaptation! That’s our ability to get used to a change in circumstances and return to our set point of happiness. Studies suggest that except for a few specific events, a change in circumstances tends to affect our happiness only temporarily. The good news is it works in the other direction, too. I thought I’d never be happy again if my back pain didn’t go away. Yet here I am six years later with the same pain and back to my typical level of happiness. Thank goodness for hedonic adaptation!