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experiencing self vs. remembering self

Daniel Kahneman, the Nobel Prize-winning behavioral economist, formalizes this concept as the “experiencing self” versus the “remembering self”. The experiencing self knows only the present moment, while the remembering self represents the story that is told about that event.

We tend to prioritize the importance of the present moment (the experiencing self) over the recollection of it (the remembering self), which is something Kahneman himself agreed with for a long time as well. However, in a recent conversation, he stated that he has since changed that belief because it contradicts what people really want when it comes to life satisfaction:

“[I once believed that] if you want to make people happy, you should improve their experiences. And eventually, I gave up on that. That’s one of those occasions where I was forced to give up an idea that I had cherished. And I gave it up because this is clearly not what people want to do.

People actually want good memories; they want to be satisfied with their life. They’re not thinking of the future in terms of experiences, they’re thinking of the future in terms of anticipated memories. And you can’t have a theory of well-being that doesn’t correspond to what people want.”

Why Having a Wedding Makes Sense

For a long time, I've been prioritizing my experiencing self. Now, I want to prioritize my remembering self.

So, I plan to seek out more novelty, more social experiences, and more experiences that are more meaningful in hindsight.