Wants Vs Likes

A few months ago I met with a group of friends to play an escape room at a local establishment. It was fun and exciting, but after the final door shut behind our team, we were all left wondering why it would be so difficult for us to just make one decision rather than five. Here’s where blockchain technology comes into play – maybe in its first major use case outside of finance?

The “like vs want vs need” is a question that has been asked for a long time. The answer to the question is not simple because it depends on the person’s perspective.


“There are only two tragedies in the world.” One does not obtain what he desires, while the other does.” Oscar Wilde (Oscar Wilde)

Have you ever wished for anything so desperately that when you eventually received it, you were left disappointed?

Perhaps you believed that changing employment would bring you happiness, but it did not.

Or maybe you believed you’d like living in a different state but afterwards regretted your decision.

Perhaps you invested a lot of money on a new activity that you thought you’d like, only to forsake it after a few outings.

Why do we have these mismatches between what we expect something to be like and what it really is?

This mismatch is often the consequence of conflating our desires with likes, a typical blunder that prevents us from making sound choices and obtaining true fulfillment.

The Distinction Between Desiring and Liking

While we typically use the terms “like” and “desire” interchangeably, they are not the same thing in cognitive psychology.

Wanting is just predicting that we would like something if we have it or have had the opportunity to experience it.

The nice sensation – the delight and contentment — we obtain from doing or possessing something is referred to as liking.

Wanting is based on speculation.

A person’s like is based on personal experience.

“I’d want to spend more time outside.” vs. “I like spending time outside.”

We assume that if we want something, we must enjoy it; otherwise, we wouldn’t want it in the first place.

Our likes and desires, however, are not always perfectly aligned: we often want something that we dislike. Miswanting is the term for this phenomenon.

What Are the Causes of Miswanting?

Why do we desire something we don’t want? Shouldn’t we know enough about ourselves to be able to foresee when we’ll enjoy the things we want?

In their study “Miswanting: Some Problems in the Forecasting of Future Affective States,” psychologists Daniel Gilbert and Timothy Wilson (who I’ve interviewed on the show) point out various ways in which our likes and desires might get jumbled and unconnected: 

Using Predictions That Aren’t Correct

Leonardo Dicaprio holding Daisy.

The Great Gatsby is really a tragedy about this kind of lust. Gatsby was so desperate to be with Daisy that he spent his whole life trying to become the sort of guy she desired. The encounter is absolutely disappointing when he finally gets her.

When we have a strong desire for something, we often picture something different from what we really feel. Our projections have proven to be incorrect.

For instance, when Kate and I got married, we planned to travel to Italy. We’re both major history and classics fans, so we thought Rome would be a great place to visit. We envisioned ourselves meandering aimlessly around a magnificent highlight reel of ancient monuments and artworks we’d seen on the internet. The actuality of the trip, on the other hand, entailed a lot of cramming, standing in lines, and stumbling through museums where we could barely see the exhibits over the heads of our fellow visitors; it seemed like we were at a theme park, but with ancient treasures instead of rides. I realized I had wanted to visit the famous sights, but I hated vacationing in regions where there were a lot of people.


We often conflate our desires and preferences with larger choices. Some people have a concept of what they want to do in their ideal work. It would make them happier and more satisfied than their present job, they believe. They manage to leave their mundane corporate job and start the career that aligns with their apparent passion with a little grit and determination.

Things seem to be going well at first. They believe they made the proper decision because of the inherent thrill that comes with change and novelty.

However, after a few weeks, individuals begin to notice annoyances that they were unaware of while they were in the throes of a genuine desire. They hadn’t anticipated the late hours, having to worry about accounting, or dealing with obnoxious, high-maintenance clientele. From the outside, they only observed the job’s entertaining and engaging aspects, ignoring the behind-the-scenes dead labor that makes up the majority of what they’ll be doing on a daily basis.

Soon after, these people begin to second-guess their choice since they aren’t as pleased as they expected to be. It turns out they don’t care for what they had hoped for.

Having the Wrong Self-Assessment Theory

But suppose you know all there is to know about the item or event you want. As a result, there will be no mismatch between what you expect and what you really receive. Is it always enough to keep you from desiring something you don’t want?

Unfortunately, the answer is no.

Even when we know precisely what we’re receiving, we occasionally form erroneous assumptions about how much we’ll like it.

This was established in a straightforward research focusing on snacks. Researchers invited participants to create a snack menu on three consecutive Mondays. These people knew precisely what type of food they’d be getting, yet they were nonetheless unhappy when they received it.

The issue was that the individuals tended to believe that eating a variety of snacks would make them happy; their self-concept went something like this: “I’m not a boring routine man!” “The spice of life is variety!” Instead of selecting the same food for each of the three Mondays, they chose to choose something new each week. Even if a participant knew he liked pretzels, he only requested them on the first Monday, then a Snickers bar on the second Monday, and potato chips on the third Monday. He was upset when the candy bar and chips were placed in front of him; he hoped he was having pretzels again. Because they made a choice based on a false belief about themselves, participants continually miswanted.

There are certain things we’d want to believe about ourselves, and then there’s the truth.

I wanted to be the sort of person who exclusively watched independent films and ate at ethnic and hole-in-the-wall eateries in college. That’s exactly what I did. A handful of the films I watched were excellent, but the most were not. And, although I discovered some fantastic little restaurants, I also came to realize that I truly loved coming to Chili’s. I wasn’t as cool as I had imagined myself to be, but by embracing that, I was free to do more of the things I enjoyed.


It’s difficult to break free from treasured myths and admit that we don’t always like what we want to enjoy. And the ramifications may be considerably more serious than just skipping Chicken Crispers.

Emotional Contamination is a term used to describe the state of being emotionally contaminated.

A couple sitting on sunbath chairs.

Even if we know precisely what we’ll receive and what we enjoy, we’re nevertheless prone to miswanting.

This is due to the fact that our sentiments for one item might “contaminate” our desires for other things.

Let’s imagine you go on vacation to an exotic location and feel completely comfortable and content. “I adore this location!” you think to yourself. “I have to make a permanent relocation here!” It seems like the place is bringing you joy, but it might just be the fact that you are on vacation and not at work. On vacation, almost everyone is happy, regardless of where they are. However, the good sentiments you get from the vacation “contaminate” your feelings about the location you’re going, making you think you’d be happier if you lived there all year.

Emotional contamination is very common in partnerships. You may be dating someone and at first believe she’s fantastic, but your enjoyment stems from your enthusiasm about being in a relationship in general. It’s been a long time since you’ve had a lovely gal like you, and you mistake the rush of having a pretty gal like you for like her back. This also occurs with broken wedding engagements: the pair initially feels great about the entire process, but their happiness stems more from the notion of being engaged in general than from their fiancé in particular.

“Feelings don’t specify where they originated from,” Dr. Gilbert says, “so it’s all too simple for us to ascribe them to the incorrect source.”

Negative emotions might also cause emotional contamination. You could be depressed because you were passed over for a promotion, for example. Your buddy phones and asks if you’d want to attend to a basketball game later that evening. It’s something you usually like doing, but the negative feelings you’re experiencing at the time have colored your decision; you don’t think you’ll enjoy the game since you’re depressed after a difficult day at work. Going to a basketball game to distract yourself from your problems is probably precisely what you need to feel better.

How to Avoid Being Miswanted

So, how can we ensure that we pursue the activities that we really like rather than those that we only believe we enjoy?

While we may not be able to totally eradicate miswanting from our lives, we may take steps to decrease how often and to what degree it occurs, especially for desires that might have major consequences in our lives, such as a job change or a relocation.

1. Don’t be scared to express yourself, especially if it goes against cultural or family standards. In college, I concluded that teaching would be the ideal job choice for me. But such a career didn’t seem to provide the type of status and security that I thought was required of me, so I persuaded myself that I wanted to be a lawyer and that I’d like working in the legal field. I realized I had miswanted and royally shoulded on myself halfway through law school.


For almost a century, the narrative of the guy who burys his passion to follow a standard job has been a popular morality tale. And avoiding that trap is still something to be aware of. Accepting the reality that you’d choose a solid, typical 9-5 job over becoming a war reporter or start-up founder is also “countercultural” nowadays. Allow yourself to not just select courses that have a cool and “rebellious” story, but also paths that you enjoy—even if others think they’re dull and unhip.

2. Put it to the test. Let’s assume you’re looking for a new job. You despise your present job and find it unsatisfactory. You have a feeling you’d enjoy a new employment, but you’re not sure. Instead of abandoning your existing job and discovering that the new one isn’t what you expected, give it a try.

If the job you seek is in an entirely different sector, this might be difficult or impossible. But take a look at the company where you’re now employed. There may be a chance for you to do what you desire there. If you’re an attorney in a company that focuses on litigation but wants to branch out into consulting or contracting, ask your boss if you can take on a case that will enable you to practice in that area. Tell them you’re simply trying it out to see whether it’s right for you.

Getting your hands dirty with the kind of work you believe you want to perform allows you to 1) get a sense of what it’s like to do the job, and 2) determine if you’re the type of person who appreciates it. There’s no harm in finding out you don’t like it. Simply return to your previous position.

Another method to give a new area of employment a go is to create a side hustle around it.

You have a huge edge if you’re still in school. Internships provide you hands-on experience in the fields you’re interested in. When young people ask me whether they should go to law school, I always advise them to get some job experience in a legal firm first. There’s no better way to sharpen your tastes than to try them out for yourself.

3. Keep a diary. A notebook may help you figure out what you really enjoy rather than what you believe you like. Over time, our recollections get hazier and rosier. If you ever have a desire to go back to New York City, go over your diary entries from the last time you were there to see how you felt. It’s possible that you didn’t have as much fun as you recall. 

4. Talk to your friends and relatives. Friends and family may be a huge assistance when it comes to avoiding miswanting. To begin, you might use them as a reference to acquire a clear picture of what you desire.


For instance, you could desire to leave your work and establish your own company. Take a family member or a friend who runs a company out to lunch and ask them to tell you everything they dislike about running a business before you do that. This simple activity might assist you in obtaining a comprehensive image of the item you want. You could discover that the disadvantages outweigh the advantages and that running a company isn’t for you.

Friends and relatives may also assist you in avoiding miswanting by reminding you of your true desires. They have a different, and sometimes more objective, perspective on your personality and tendencies as outsiders to your internal life.

Let’s imagine you’ve just completed reading a Wendell Berry book and feel compelled to relocate to the countryside. You’re certain that you’re the kind of person who would like, if not adore, living on a farm. This is something you should tell your wife. She reminds you of how much you grumbled when you were just staying with her grandparents for a week in the country. After all, maybe you’re not made out for yeoman farming after all.

5. Accept that you could like something you didn’t expect to like. We not only loathe what we thought we wanted at times, but we also appreciate what we didn’t understand we wanted. You believe sushi is disgusting until you try it; you vow off marriage for decades until you fall madly in love with a particular woman; you reluctantly return to your birthplace only to find true happiness there. Maintain an open mind and don’t be scared to try new things; you never know when you’ll like something you didn’t expect to like!

Let us wrap off our topic with some thoughts from our friend Jack London, who highlighted the core and relevance of genuine like in the context of how he and his wife wanted to sail around the globe although their friends felt it was a crazy idea:

“Our friends are baffled as to why we are embarking on this journey. They shiver, groan, and raise their hands in protest. No amount of explanation will persuade them that we’re following the path of least resistance; that it’s easier for us to go down to the sea in a small ship than it is for them to stay on dry land, just as it’s easier for them to stay on dry land than it is for us to go down to the sea in the small ship.

This mental condition is caused by an overabundance of ego. They are unable to escape from themselves. They can’t get out of themselves long enough to see that their path of least resistance isn’t always the path of least resistance for everyone else. They create a yardstick for measuring the wants, likes, and dislikes of all things out of their own bundle of desires, likes, and dislikes. This is inequitable. That’s what I tell them. But they can’t seem to get their minds off their own sad egos long enough to listen to me. They believe I’m insane. In exchange, I am understanding. It’s a feeling I’m acquainted with. We are all prone to believe that the mental processes of the individual who disagrees with us are flawed.


I like is the ultimate term. It is entwined around the core of life and lies behind philosophy. After a month of philosophical pondering, telling the person what he must do, the individual responds, “I Like,” and goes on to do something different…

That’s why I’m constructing the [ship]. I’m a finished product. That’s all I have to say.”

Have you ever desired anything and then realized you didn’t like it after you got it? What did you take away from the encounter? 



Watch This Video-

The “i don t want you but i need you meaning” is a phrase that means two things. One, it means I don’t really want to be with you, but I need your help. Two, It means I am not ready to have sex yet.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is difference between wants and likes?

A: If you like something, it means that the object of your liking resonates with some element in your personality. Wanting something is when theres a feeling of wanting to have or desire for this particular thing and not just admire it from afar.

What is the difference between likes and loves?

A: Loves are more sincere and pure than likes. Unlike likes, loves can include emotional attachments that go beyond a simple feeling of appreciation or happiness.

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