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Anticipated Pleasure


Explanations > Thinking > Future thinking > Anticipated Pleasure

Description | Example | Discussion | So what?



Anticipated pleasure is pleasure felt in the present as we think about good things in the future.

The probability of the future event does not have to be very high before we feel good as even hopeful wishing leads us to imagine a wonderful future where we will feel wonderful.


A person is getting married next year. They spend much time imagining the wedding and how happy they will be.

A fashion sales person asks the customer to imagine how good they'll feel when they wear the clothes.


Anticipated pleasure is related to optimism, hope, desire and wishing, all using positive beliefs about the future. Pleasure is usually present-focused in time as we enjoy something now. This present-effect helps anchor positive assessments of the future, making us feel good about what is to come.

It seems paradoxical that it is so easy to feel happy by imagining a happy future, yet many of us are not particularly happy for most of the time. One reason for this that is we never stay ecstatic for long as we naturally return to our temperamental set point.

Another reason people find anticipated pleasure difficult is that hard life experiences can knock the child's joy out of us, leaving us cynical and pessimistic. After all, we argue, if you do not expect much, you will not be disappointed.

A risk of anticipated pleasure is that thinking about completing a task can make it feel as if we have already completed it. In this way, our motivation to contribute with the work may be drained.

So what?

Anticipated pleasure is used in persuasion when we paints rosy picture of the future and link this to specific actions of the target person. You can also build on this by helping the person develop their own compelling vision of the future, asking questions like, 'What would it be like if...?'.

To add more anticipated pleasure to your own life, make plans to see friends, book vacations well ahead, etc. You can then look forward for a long time to these positive events. Talking about these helps too. You can also enjoy life more by being more optimistic about things in general, where this optimism leads to more anticipated pleasure.

See also

Hope, Anticipated Regret, Optimism Bias


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