Making the most of it: Study reveals motivating factor for enjoying the present

January 12, 2009

It is common knowledge that when something becomes scarce, its value goes up. This concept does not just apply to material goods—time can be an extremely valuable commodity, especially when it is in short supply. According to a new study, thinking that we have a limited amount of time remaining to participate in an activity makes us appreciate the activity that much more and motivates us to make the most of it.

Psychologist Jaime L. Kurtz from Pomona College investigated how our behavior and attitude towards an activity change when there is a limited amount of time remaining to engage in it. A group of college seniors participated in this study, which occurred 6 weeks prior to graduation. Every day for two weeks, the students were to write about their college experiences, including the activities they participated in. The experiment was designed so that some of the students were to think about graduation as a far-off event and some students were told to think about graduation as occurring very soon.

The results, reported in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, reveal that the students' behavior was influenced by how the graduation deadline was framed (that is, whether graduation was occurring shortly or in the future). It turns out, the students who thought of graduation as occurring very soon reported participating in more college-related activities compared to the students who thought of graduation as a far-off event.

Kurtz surmises that when faced with the imminent end of college, students were more motivated to take advantage of the time they had left in school and participate in as many events as possible—the students realized it would be their last chance to engage in college-related activities. Kurtz notes that although it may seem counterintuitive, these findings support the idea that "thinking about an experience's future ending can enhance one's present experience of it". In addition, Kurtz suggests that "focusing on the fact the experiences like these are fleeting enhances enjoyment by creating a 'now or never' type of motivation".

Source: Association for Psychological Science

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TonyImagine2
not rated yet Jan 13, 2009
yes, normal experience also suggests that this result is generally true, at least in one sense of 'enjoying'.
It's doubtful whether this is a very profound sense of 'enjoying', though, and one should perhaps ask: does the approach suffer from the bias of the gung-ho westerner?
It's claimed here that "thinking about an experience's future ending can enhance one's present experience of it".

May I propose an alternative perspective?

-- "thinking about an experience's future ending" is no way of living in the present.

-- 'participating in as many events as possible' is hardly a way to tap into the contentment that is the hallmark and birthright of the non-egoic, non-achievement-oriented, non-titillational, level of human consciousness

-- A 'now or never' type of motivation" generates anxiety (lack of peace) as well as stimulation

-- Noticing that 'experiences are fleeting' is what contemplatives especially Buddhists train themselves to do in relate to everything. But the purpose there is not to consume as many experiences as possible while there is still time. It is, rather, to be able to look with equanimity at the starting, ending, scarcity, and abundance of these and all experiences. This, of course, will never excite the advertisers.

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