From Harvard Magazine:
Your parents recommend taking a Caribbean cruise and tell you about a discount deal. You’ve never taken a cruise and aren’t so sure you’d enjoy it, so you dig up some information on the Web and even watch a couple of videos. You recollect the times you’ve been on ships, and your past visits to Caribbean islands—rum drinks, aqua waters. But will you really enjoy an eight-day cruise? Turns out there is a better way to answer this question: ask anyone who has just gotten off a cruise boat—a total stranger is fine. That way, you’ll be 30 to 60 percent more likely to accurately predict your own experience than by basing your decision on painstaking research and inner speculations.
That’s the upshot of new work by professor of psychology Daniel Gilbert, author of the bestselling 2007 psychology book Stumbling on Happiness and host of the recent PBS television series This Emotional Life. In a recent issue of Science, Gilbert and his coauthors—psychology graduate student Matthew Killingsworth, Rebecca Eyre, Ph.D. ’05, and Timothy Wilson, Aston professor of psychology at the University of Virginia—reported findings on “surrogation”: consulting the experience of another person, a surrogate, in deciding whether something will make you happy. They discovered that the direct experience of another person trumps the conjecturing of our own minds.