For Marcel Proust, the taste of a madeleine conjured remembrance of the distant past. In todays multi-tasking, hyper-speed world, it can be a trick to remember what we did yesterday.
But a new method of reconstructing the previous days activities not only helps people remember how they spent their time, it also captures how they really felt about their activities. The technique, described in the Dec. 3 issue of Science, provides insight into what people actually enjoy and what kinds of factors affect how happy we are with our lives. Some of the findings confirm what we already know while others are counter-intuitive. The researchers assessed how people felt during 28 types of activities and found that intimate relations were the most enjoyable, while commuting was the least enjoyable.
More surprisingly, taking care of their children was also among the less enjoyable activities, although people generally report that their children are the greatest source of joy in their lives. "When people are asked how much they enjoy spending time with their kids they think of all the nice things---reading them a story, going to the zoo," said University of Michigan psychologist Norbert Schwarz, a co-author of the Science article. "But they dont take the other times into account, the times when they are trying to do something else and find the kids distracting. When we sample all the times that parents spend with their children, the picture is less positive than parents expect. On the other hand, we also find that people enjoy spending time with their relatives much more than they usually assume."
Diane Swanbrow | EurekAlert!
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