Emotional Mispredictions

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Good decisions rely on good predictions. When choosing what television show to watch, what flavor of yogurt to eat, or what house to buy, people try to think about which alternative will best help them reach their goal of being happy or healthy or safe or whatever. And yet, people frequently mispredict how alternatives will make them feel. They spend piles of money on a big new house, expecting it to make them happy, and find out that they miss their cozy, old neighborhood.48

Such mispredictions are common in health settings.49 For example, patients with inflammatory bowel disease expect that having a colostomy would make them miserable, and yet patients emotionally adapt to colostomies relatively quickly.50 People predict that they would be miserable if they had kidney failure, and yet most dialysis patients are happy.51 Such mispredictions could influence patients' healthcare decisions. If a prostate cancer patient overestimates how much he will be bothered by impotence or incontinence, he may forgo potentially beneficially treatments.

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