The economics of happy memories

A Facebook conversation I observed went as follows, reassuring a frazzled father

you are helping create wonderful memories for your kids

I hope they remember because I am losing my mind doing this stuff

They will remember….always.

Based on my own small supply of episodic memories I’d guess they won’t, but will remember the fact they were loved. But why do people care so much about creating wonderful memories for themselves and their children. Why are happy memories considered to be such treasure? Maybe this is trying to cope with the “availability heuristic“.

According to Adam Khan

Reminisce about the good times and the special times. Strengthen those memories. Store them up. They are your true riches.

and he says studies show that recalling pleasant memories improves concentration and reduces anxiety.

Maybe that’s why we sometimes like to revisit and discuss our favorite fictional stories, too, or the biographies of interesting people. There’s probably not much difference between reminiscing about their lives and our own. For example, knowing that you handled a tough situation similar to this should give you a lot of confidence, but, failing that, maybe you can at least remember how your favorite hero/ine or ancestor handled it and gain some extra confidence.

This reminds me of a thought experiment that’s popped into my head more than once.

Suppose you have the option to have a wonderful weekend, in fact the most wonderful weekend of your life, and you’d pay 6 months salary to experience it. But the catch is that afterwards you will have no memory of it and no one will ever tell you anything about it, no photos, and so on. How many months salary would you pay for that?

Or what if you won’t even remember what that weekend was, just that you paid for it. How much would you pay?

If I had a better episodic memory would I strive harder for fine experiences, because they would then seem more valuable?

No lifeguard on duty

Aside: According to this

the hyperlearning hypothesis […] posits that people suffering from schizophrenia have brains that lose the ability to forget or ignore as much as they normally would. Without forgetting, they lose the ability to extract what’s meaningful out of the immensity of stimuli the brain encounters. They start making connections that aren’t real, or drowning in a sea of so many connections they lose the ability to stitch together any kind of coherent story.


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