Daniel Gilbert is the Harvard College Professor of Psychology at Harvard University. His research with Tim Wilson on "affective forecasting" investigates how and how well people can make predictions about the emotional impact of future events.
Dan has won numerous awards for his teaching and research—from the Guggenheim Fellowship to the American Psychological Association's Distinguished Scientific Award for an Early Career Contribution to Psychology. However, he says that his greatest accomplishment is that he appears just before Dizzy Gillespie on the list of Most Famous High School Dropouts.
Dan's research has been covered by The New York Times Magazine, Forbes, Money, CNN, U.S. News & World Report, The New Yorker, Scientific American, Oprah Magazine, Psychology Today, and many others.
Question: What is your question?
Dan Gilbert: People ask me what I’ve learned from studying how people think about the future. And one of the things I learned is that the best way to know whether you’ll want to do something in the future is to ask yourself whether you want to do it today. But the same is true for paying costs. Right now we are a society that is experiencing many benefits and pushing the costs for those benefits off into the future. We should ask ourselves every time we experience a benefit if we would be willing to pay the cost if we had to pay it today. And I think the answer – in human terms, and in environmental terms – is often “no”. We feel free to do things today because we don’t have to think about their consequences until tomorrow. The question we should always be asking ourselves is, “Would I do this if I had to pay for it now?”
Recorded on: 6/12/2007