Forgetting for Fun & Profit

Via Jesse Walker, comes this BBC article on the possibility of using beta blockers to blot out bad memories. This makes Jesse think of the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I am put in mind of Thomas Schelling's amazing essay “The Mind as a Consuming Organ.” A selection:

An unavoidable question is whether I could be happier if I could only believe things more favorable, more complimentary, more in line with my hopes and wishes, than what I believe to be true. That might be done by coming to believe things that are contrary to what I know, such as that my reputation or my health or my children's health is better than it is, my financial prospects or my childrens' better than they are, and that I have performed ably and bravely on those occasions when I did not. Or it might be accomplished by improving the mix of my beliefs by dropping out–forgetting–some of the things that cause me guilt grief, remorse, and anxiety. [emphasis added]

If the answer is, “Yes, you would be happier,” then what is the correct response? So much the worse for truth? So much the worse for happiness? A subtle and cautious blend?

Author: Will Wilkinson

Vice President for Research at the Niskanen Center