Rational Roundup #5 – Part III/III: Recreation through Behavioral Vacation?

The Rational Roundup, as previously announced, provides our readers with regular updates on rational thinking and current discussions among cognitive scientists. This is the third part of the latest edition, addressing positive psychology and the behavioral enhancement of your professional productivity. In this short briefing, I will share further thoughts on how to improve your professional work based on scientific evidence.

I recently read an article explaining Daniel Kahneman’s thoughts on why two-week vacations are actually a waste. Since I found the logic behind this statement to be very brilliant, I want to take the chance to briefly summarize them for you, our readers.

Kahneman found that inside of every human mind lives an “experiencing self” and a “remembering self”. While the first lives totally in this very moment, the latter looks back on the life you lived so far. Surely, you can plan a two-week/three-week vacation to maximize the happiness of the experiencing self. On the other hand, you can maximize the happiness of the remembering self by planning multiple short-time vacations.

The trick lies in understanding how your brain compresses memories. According to Kahneman, the brain tends to remember what is new and to forget what stays alike. Thus, if you spread a number of short-time vacations over the year, your brain will have an easier time remembering them. But, if you take a long vacation, your brain will compress the memory, if the days are not significantly disrupting the brain’s expectations.

It is common knowledge that the brain activates the same neurons when remembering a situation as it does when living the situation. By reliving your memory, you can easily give back some of the vacation’s happiness – and thus foster your productivity (as I explained in Part I).

To sum it up: Shorter vacations  stronger and better memories a more happiness when remembering a same brain activity as living the moment a more productivity through happiness.


Post Scriptum: Why not to try to disrupt your brain heavily? Do something extremely new, like a parachute jump, down-hill mountain biking or going to a shooting range? I tried the last – and remember it up to this very day in detail.

Further Information:

1: Kahnemans TED Talk – The riddle of experience vs. memory

2: The Science of Well-being, Google Books