Envisioning Attainment

Human beings are surprisingly poor at estimating how happy something would make us. It turns out that your long-term happiness is largely fixed and resilient to shocks. Winning the lottery or losing a limb does affect your happiness, but not nearly as much as you might expect.

A major problem in estimating a change in happiness is that we are envisioning the moment of the change itself, rather than the average change over time. A cookie makes you happy right now, but that effect goes away within the hour. Losing a limb makes you unhappy right now, but that effect also usually fades over time (more than an hour).

In-game, you are envisioning the moment you get a really great drop. That is a really great moment, winning a small lottery. But how much happiness does that bring you over time? Moving up to “best in slot” is often a tiny percentage improvement. You need quite a few of those best-in-slot drops for the effect to be noticeable, and what you envision there is the item grind.

Or maybe gameplay will become too easy after that, so your great moments create an average decrease over time. Remember, you’re surprisingly poor at estimating what makes you happy. Don’t worry, that effect also fades over time as the new best-in-slot gear is added, at which point you can start pursuing that.

: Zubon

8 thoughts on “Envisioning Attainment”

  1. This might explain why I enjoy most things in anticipation, often to the point of never actualizing them at all. In GW2, for example, I do my dailies zealously, almost every day on two accounts. I still have every Laurel I have ever received.

    I could spend the Laurels but every time I consider it I am very aware of the effect you’re describing. I could have an actual “thing” now, which would feel good for a while but that feeling would soon fade. Or I could keep the potential of having any one of many things and enjoy the pleasure of imagining owning each of them as often as I like, knowing I have the capacity to have them at will.

    Knowing you can have what you want whenever you should decide to have it provides a blanket of happiness that persists indefinitely. If that feeling is happiness. Whatever happiness is.

    1. I think you just argued that money is happiness, and having more money in the bank makes you a happier person. I also have this vision of Rumpelstiltskin from Once Upon a Time saying, “Magic is power!”

    2. Or that volatility in choices/options is a negative sum emotional transaction.

      Eg you have 100,000$. That’s a lot of money for most people. It gives comfort and happiness to know they are safe and can procure things easily. You buy a 50,000$ car. Your dream car. That bank account happiness, over time, is going to offset the increase in happiness from the car purchase.

      Safety nets are “permanent” happiness, until they are consumed. Transient items (gear, cars, etc.) are the opposite.

  2. Because of my low “A” score I guess I’m lucky that what you’re talking about doesn’t really apply to me (in terms of gameplay) :D

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