The End of History Illusion

I am happy to see that Dan Ariely still has his biweekly column in the Wall Street Journal, so I guess no fallout yet from the issues I had written about before.

Even better from my perspective, this week’s column introduced a new psychologic term I had never heard before – the End of History Illusion.

Here is the email Dan received:

My husband and I just bought a house, and we are considering renovating it to make it our dream home. We discussed our plans with a contractor, who mentioned that some of the renovations weren’t good for resale. Given how long we plan to live there, should this really be a consideration for us? –Jeannie

And here is Dan’s response:

Before even thinking about the preferences of a future buyer, consider the possibility that your own preferences and lifestyle could (and likely will) change over time. The features of your dream house today might end up becoming your worst nightmare in the future (just ask people with outdoor pools).

People underestimate how much they will change in the future. We tend to think that right now, at this present moment, we have become the person we will be for the rest of our lives. This phenomenon is referred to as the “end of history illusion” and was demonstrated in a survey asking more than 19,000 people ages 18 to 68 how much their personalities and preferences for things like music and travel had changed in the past decade, and how much change they predicted for the next decade. People of all ages said that they had changed a lot over the last ten years, but that they didn’t expect to change much moving forward.

This illusion can lead people to overpay for future indulgences based on current preferences. In one example, people were not willing to pay much to see a band that they liked a lot 10 years ago, but they were willing to pay a lot to see the band that they like right now in 10 years.

Perhaps you and your husband should consider making this house your dream home over time, as your dreams change: Start with a few small projects instead of a complete remodel, and leave ample room to adjust for your evolving preferences and tastes.

It’s an interesting concept, but I have trouble applying it to myself.

Unlike the people in the study who say they have changed a lot in the past 10 years, I don’t think I have.

On the other hand, with retirement on the horizon, I am guessing that will lead to some significant changes over the next 10 years. I guess I do not think I have become the person I will be for the rest of my life.

I just hope that I don’t have some sort of illusion of the future (a term I just made up, and copyrighted on the spot), thinking I will change a lot in the future, but I don’t.

I don’t want to be talking about accounting and checking my WP stats every three minutes.for the next 10 years (and no one else does either).

So please, bring on the illusion of the past…

*image from Ideas Ranking

50 thoughts on “The End of History Illusion

  1. I’m going to disagree with the contractor without even knowing what the renovations are. There’s nothing wrong with being wise about spending money with an eye on the future, but the cost of certain items goes up and down following the old law of supply and demand. If it makes a person happy and they can afford it, I say do what you want.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree; enjoy it while you can. And if your tastes change, then it’s time to renovate again.

      this does not apply to my wardrobe; I’m very happy wearing the same style of clothes I wore 50 years ago… 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That made me think of my parents’ closet filled with old clothes. They used to say, “You never know when something might come back into style.”

        Liked by 1 person

  2. When it comes to Dan’s bi-weekly column, I can only assume he is syndicated, which means he gets paid for his submissions whether the publisher publishes them or not. Any repercussions from his recent issues would be more likely reflected in waning book sales. As for the gist of his response, I am not sure I can agree. Trying to predict the wants, needs, or desires we may have in ten years is tricky at best and suggests that once the remodeling is complete it suddenly becomes permanent. Make your home what you want right now. If your needs or wants change in the future, you can always remodel again. As for future buyers, they have every opportunity to make the changes they want, just as this couple is doing now. Now, I have this new “illusion of the future” thing to worry about. To think that in ten years I will be the same person as I am now makes me sad. Another great post, Jim!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. how can I get a syndication deal like that? 🙂

      I agree do what you can to enjoy your house now.

      I hope you are still writing poetry 10 years from now, and I am sure you will still be riding your bike 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Regards retirememt and renovations the primary focus should be on avoiding stairs. It certainly is something I consider as your head thinks you’re still 18 and your body tells you the truth of the matter.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I’m with those who say to ignore the future and do what makes you happy with your house now. Who can possibly know what the future holds, and how that may impact on our view of what makes the perfect home? Anyway, if they change so much over time they can always find somewhere more suitable for them in the future and move there instead.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. we met with a cemetery plot salesperson right after we got married; given our immaturity, we ended up laughing during much of her presentation. Needless to say we did not buy anything, and I am sure the woman was happy to leave…

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I think you made a wise decision in your young age. Personally, I think burial is a ripoff, and a waste of real estate. Cremation has always seemed to me like the best and most economical move.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Interesting post. I do think people change. I know I have, or at least my tastes have. We were in our house for 17 years before it was fully finished to suit us. Much, except the big things like a kitchen redo, stairs and a major wall removal, done by ourselves over the years. As someone who studied design and fashion I am always aware of how trends come and go so everything had to be something that we like but that I wouldn’t quickly get tired of. And as a person who hates doing housework, everything also had to be easy to clean. It has been 6 years and we have no plans or desire to do anything else, which is a nice feeling.

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  6. Aw, come on Jim, accounting is such fun and it changes just about every day so you never get bored! I don’t think I’ve changed that much over the years. My obsessions have changed but my obsessive nature hasn’t. I suppose it is also what you view as being a change.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I might have to start reading Dan’s column. He seems to deal with some pretty interesting topics and I like (at least this one) his answers. I would pay a lot of money to go see a band I liked 10 years ago because they are all broken up now and many of them are dead.

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  8. As I started to read the interaction with the couple about their dream house, my thoughts went to a hilarious Cary Grant film, “Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House.” Building a dream house resembles building a dream retirement. It can be fleeting and impossible to capture in a genie’s bottle.


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