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The good ‘ole days, eh! There is some evidence to suggest that we always view the past though rose-tinted glasses – feeling that the past was somehow better than the present. However, research just out has shown that that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Research by Alberto Prati, Claudia Senik for the Association of Psychological Science has shown that current feelings impact our view of the past. To do this they have assessed data from different longitudinal studies into how happy people feel over time. These include a German study over 10 years of 11’000+ participants, a British study over 12 years of 20’000+ participants, a French study of over 18’000 participants, and about 4’000 results from the USA over a period of 35 years.

What did they find?

What they found is that there seem to be some mix up between current ratings and change in happiness over time. This in contrast to the past is better hypotheses. This showed that those who felt happy now rate their past happiness as lower than it actually was. It seems that feeling happy now suggests an improvement or a contrast to the past and so the past must have been less good.

In contrast the opposite happened with those with current lower happiness – they rated their past happiness as higher than it actually was.

This shows that our past memories are influenced by our current states. Prati and Senik plan to further research how memories impact current life decisions – that will be interesting to see. I also wonder how this influences political climate!

Andy Habermacher

Andy Habermacher

Andy is author of leading brains Review, Neuroleadership, and multiple other books. He has been intensively involved in writing and research into neuroleadership and is considered one of Europe’s leading experts. He is also a well-known public speaker, speaking on the brain and human behaviour.

Andy is also a masters athlete (middle distance running) and competes regularly at international competitions (and holds a few national records in his age category).

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Alberto Prati, Claudia Senik.
Feeling Good Is Feeling Better.
Psychological Science, 2022; 33 (11): 1828
DOI: 10.1177/09567976221096158

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