Conventional wisdom says that it can be difficult to enjoy the good times when they are happening. Kurtz (2008), however, found that perceived temporal scarcity can assist the enjoyment of the good times. He look at, specifically, whether the impending conclusion of a positive experience can lead to increased enjoyment of it.
Four times over a two-week period, university students were instructed to write about their university experience, with graduation framed as either happening soon or happening in the distant future. Thinking about graduation as being near led to a sizeable increased in the students’ university-related behaviours and their self-reported well-being over the course of the period. This finding, therefore, supports the counterintuitive idea that thinking about an experience ending can enhance one’s present enjoyment of it.
This rang true for me towards the last term of the final year of high school. We came in everyday with rose-tinted glasses, a fervour and enthusiasm probably absent since the first year of high school. I remember it being nostalgic, particularly with the teachers, some of whom I knew well and had across multiple years. There was a renewed sense of camaraderie amongst the cohort, especially as everyone considered and pursued very different futures.
A practical application of this research is to perhaps narrow down our sense of time. Why does it have to take graduation for use to be in this state? If our focus is firmly on the activity at hand, we can benefit from the effects of temporal scarcity everyday. For example, every social gathering you go to, you know it will end in a few hours, that should be reason enough to make the most of it right?
That is question I had for this piece of research: how does time-scale affect this relationship between temporal scarcity and the increased present enjoyment of good times.
Kurtz (2008). Looking to the future to appreciate the present: The benefits of perceived temporal scarcity. Psychological Science, 19(10), 1238-1241.