Have You Ever Tried to Sell a Diamond? – Magazine – The Atlantic

Good article. One of the best ever, they say.

[An opinion poll on diamond purchases] noted, for example, “A woman can easily feel that diamonds are ‘vulgar’ and still be highly enthusiastic about receiving diamond jewelry.” The element of surprise, even if it is feigned, plays the same role of accommodating dissonance in accepting a diamond gift as it does in prime sexual seductions: it permits the woman to pretend that she has not actively participated in the decision. She thus retains both her innocence—and the diamond.

Have You Ever Tried to Sell a Diamond? – Magazine – The Atlantic

Forer effect – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

And now I know the name for this. (via)

The Forer effect (also called the Barnum Effect after P.T. Barnum’s observation that “we’ve got something for everyone”) is the observation that individuals will give high accuracy ratings to descriptions of their personality that supposedly are tailored specifically for them, but are in fact vague and general enough to apply to a wide range of people. This effect can provide a partial explanation for the widespread acceptance of some beliefs and practices, such as astrology, fortune telling, and some types of personality tests.

Forer effect – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Why Elite Shoppers Eschew Logos

It’s signaling, folks. Really interesting stuff. Geoffrey Miller talks about this in Spent: Sex, Evolution, and Consumer Behavior, which I recommend highly. In my review I summarized Miller on the three basic ways we signal through our purchases: conspicuous waste (in this context, perhaps fine fabrics, oversized garments, layering, duplicated accessories), conspicuous precision (luxury watches, perfect cut & fit, subtle hand-stitched details), or conspicuous reputation (recognizable logos, patterns, etc.). Few books have affected my everyday thinking so much. (via putthison)

Why Elite Shoppers Eschew Logos

The Tyranny of Things by Edward Sandford Martin – The Oxford Book of American Essays

[$10,000] wouldn’t go so far now, and yet most of the reasonable necessaries of life cost less to-day than they did two generations ago. The difference is that we need so very many comforts that were not invented in our grandfather’s time.

And also:

It is man’s peculiarity that nature has filled him with impulses to do things, and left it to his discretion when to stop. She never tells him when he has finished. And perhaps we ought not to be surprised that in so many cases it happens that he doesn’t know, but just goes ahead as long as the materials last.

The Tyranny of Things by Edward Sandford Martin – The Oxford Book of American Essays

The Happiness Hypothesis (review: 5/5)

The Happiness Hypothesis
Awesome book. I thank Justin for the recommendation. What you have in The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom is a perfect balance between nerdy science/philosophy and distilled layman’s explanations. Jonathan Haidt is so efficient with this book. It’s an impressive balance of general theory and immediately useful information. Below lie a bunch of quotes or scraps I found particularly worthwhile. You can find a lot more in Derek Sivers’ notes for the book, which I recommend very much for a solid overview. Read this book, y’all.

Scandal is great entertainment because it allows people to feel contempt, a moral emotion that gives feelings of moral superiority while asking nothing in return. With contempt you don’t need to right the wrong (as with anger) or flee the scene (as with fear or disgust). And best of all, contempt is made to share. Stories about the moral failings of others are among the most common kinds of gossip.

Set for yourself any goal you want. Most of the pleasure will be had along the way, with every step that takes you closer. The final moment of success is often no more thrilling than the relief of taking off a heavy backpack at the end of a long hike. If you went on the hike only to feel that pleasure, you are a fool.***

“Things won are done; joy’s soul lies in the doing.” -Shakespeare

The human mind is extraordinarily sensitive to changes in conditions, but not so sensitive to absolute levels.

Conditions include facts about your life that you can’t change (race, sex, age, disability) as well as things that you can (wealth, marital status, where you live). Conditions are constant over time, at least during a period in your life, and so they are the sorts of things that you are likely to adapt to. Voluntary activities, on the other hand, are the things that you choose to do, such as meditation, exercise, learning a new skill, or taking a vacation. Because such activities must be chosen, and because most of them take effort and attention, they can’t just disappear from your awareness the way conditions can. Voluntary activities, therefore, offer much greater promise for increasing happiness while avoiding adaptation effects.

“Happiness formula”: H = S + C + V (set point, conditions, voluntary activities)

External conditions with significant impact on your happiness, that you can never fully adapt to: Noise. Commuting. Lack of control. Shame. Interpersonal conflict.

Variety is the spice of life because it is the natural enemy of adaptation.

The extensive regulation of sex in many cultures, the attempt to link love to God and then to cut away the sex, is part of an elaborate defense against the gnawing fear of mortality.

Our life is the creation of our minds, and we do much of that creating with metaphor. We see new things in terms of things we already understand: Life is a journey, an argument is a war, the mind is a rider on an elephant. With the wrong metaphor we are deluded; with no metaphor we are blind.

Religious experiences are real and common, whether or not God exists, and these experiences often make people feel whole and at peace.

Life is much like a movie we walk into well after its opening scene, and we will have to step out long before most of the story lines reach their conclusions.


***This reminds me of one of Chris Willett’s rules for long-distance hiking. #1: If you’re not enjoying yourself, you’re doing something wrong. [I construe broadly the term “enjoying” here]. To round out the list, Rule #2: Never leave good trail for bad. Rule #3: Only a great fool leaves a dry place.

The best vacation ever – The Boston Globe

Lots of good ideas here. Positive psychology seems cooler and cooler every day.

How long we take off probably counts for less than we think, and in the aggregate, taking more short trips leaves us happier than taking a few long ones. We’re often happier planning a trip than actually taking it. And interrupting a vacation — far from being a nuisance — can make us enjoy it more. How a trip ends matters more than how it begins, who you’re with matters as much as where you go, and if you want to remember a vacation vividly, do something during it that you’ve never done before. And though it may feel unnecessary, it’s important to force yourself to actually take the time off in the first place — people, it turns out, are as prone to procrastinate when it comes to pleasurable things like vacations as unpleasant ones like paperwork and visits to the dentist.

The best vacation ever – The Boston Globe

How do you talk yourself into something? | Psychology Today

It seems that when we talk to ourselves or others forcefully about the future, we create an expectation that we now feel that we have to live up to. If we fail to live up to our expectations, then we will feel guilty. So, the forceful “I will” statement motivates use out of guilt. When we ask ourselves a question about the future, “Will I,” then the activity itself becomes the focus. As we commit to this future activity, it becomes intrinsically interesting, and so we are more likely to want to do it.

How do you talk yourself into something? | Psychology Today

Why Do Harvard Kids Head to Wall Street? « The Baseline Scenario

Very interesting article. One good bit:

The typical Harvard undergraduate is someone who: (a) is very good at school; (b) has been very successful by conventional standards for his entire life; © has little or no experience of the “real world” outside of school or school-like settings; (d) feels either the ambition or the duty to have a positive impact on the world (not well defined); and (e) is driven more by fear of not being a success than by a concrete desire to do anything in particular. (Yes, I know this is a stereotype; that’s why I said “typical.”) Their (our) decisions are motivated by two main decision rules: (1) close down as few options as possible; and (2) only do things that increase the possibility of future overachievement.

And another one:

You internalize the rationalizations for the work you are doing. It’s easier to think that underwriting new debt offerings really is saving the world than to think that you are underwriting new debt offerings, because of the money, instead of saving the world. And this goes for many walks of life. It’s easier for college professors to think that, by training the next generation of young minds (or, even more improbably, writing papers on esoteric subjects), they are changing the world than to think that they are teaching and researching instead of changing the world.

Why Do Harvard Kids Head to Wall Street? « The Baseline Scenario