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  • feedwordpress 11:30:47 on 2022-06-18 Permalink
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    Ask Ariely: On Limiting Loneliness and Fundraiser Formulations 


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    Here’s my Q&A column from the WSJ this week  and if you have any questions for me, you can tweet them to @danariely with the hashtag #askariely, post a comment on my Ask Ariely Facebook page, or email them to AskAriely@wsj.com.

    ___________________________________________________

    Dear Dan,

    I just won a free group session at an outdoor laser tag arena. The package is for 10 people, but I don’t have that many close friends. It got me thinking: Do other people have that many close friends? Is there an optimal number of friends to have? 

    —Kate 

    Friendships are important for our health and well-being. Their absence—loneliness—not only makes us sad but harms us physically, about as much as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Research suggests that having even one close friend can alleviate the negative effects of loneliness on health and well-being. But the ideal number of close friends is apparently somewhere between three and six. Beyond that inner circle, we also have casual friendships, and a wealth of these further increases our feelings of life satisfaction.

    If you are looking to fill your laser tag party, you could ask each of your close friends to invite another close friend of their own. Not only will the game be more fun with a larger group of people, but you might also learn something new about your friends from their friends. You also might expand your circle: Since you like your close friends a lot, there is a chance that you will like their friends, too.

    Of course, this being laser tag, you could try a more competitive approach. Invite 4 good friends and 5 people you don’t like so much, then pit the two groups against each other in laser tag. You probably won’t make new friends this way, but fighting together will draw your circle of close friends even closer.

    ___________________________________________________

    Dear Dan,

    I’m just starting to organize the 10th annual fundraising gala for the charity I work for. This is a special event where I hope to raise more money than ever before. How do you recommend I make this year’s gala extraordinary?

    —Monsoor

    It is impressive that your organization has held this gala every year for 10 years, and it might be tempting to emphasize the fact. But be careful to do so in a way that stresses what is special about this year’s event—not what is recurring.

    Research shows that people are more generous with their charitable giving when they believe they are doing something out of the ordinary—“just this once,” as you would tell yourself in making an exception from your diet or budget—as opposed to something routine. In one experiment involving online banner ads, more people clicked on an ad asking for support for a charity walk held “once a year” than for one held “every year.” Obviously, both formulations imply the same frequency, but “once a year” makes the event seem special, while “every year” stresses that it repeats.

    To signal that your event is extraordinary, you could use the language of the experiment and advertise the gala as happening only once a year. Alternatively, you could promote this year’s gala as a once-in-a-decade event celebrating a special anniversary.

    __________________________________________________

    See the original article in the Wall Street Journal here.

    The post Ask Ariely: On Limiting Loneliness and Fundraiser Formulations appeared first on Dan Ariely.

     
  • feedwordpress 19:00:44 on 2022-06-07 Permalink
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    Ask Ariely: On Misperceiving Managers and Tenacious Teens 


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    Here’s my Q&A column from the WSJ this week  and if you have any questions for me, you can tweet them to @danariely with the hashtag #askariely, post a comment on my Ask Ariely Facebook page, or email them to AskAriely@wsj.com.

    ___________________________________________________

    Dear Dan,

    I lead a team of designers, and I want to foster an environment where everyone feels comfortable speaking up when they have concerns or new product ideas. I thought about holding a weekly “coffee chat,” where I invite employees to share input on a topic of the week. Do you think that’s a good idea?

    —Hansen

    The key word is here is “everyone”: Getting your whole team to participate will be difficult. And most managers will tend to overvalue such participation, rewarding and promoting the employees who exhibit it over the ones who don’t.

    This finding comes from a study of employees and their managers at a large technology company. Managers were asked to rate the degree to which each employee spoke up to suggest new ideas or offer solutions. The researchers found that employees who were seen as proactive in this regard tended to be rewarded with promotions and salary increases. An employee’s level of day-to-day productivity, on the other hand, was not rewarded to the same degree.

    We don’t really want to reward people more for one kind of contribution than for another that is at least as valuable. But managers tend to notice the proactive employees and thus to favor them. So if you want a free flow of ideas but don’t want to fall prey to this bias, you should ask the people working with you to have such meetings over coffee, but you yourself should be absent, and you should ask your employees to share with you the ideas from the group as a whole without noting who contributed which ideas.

    ___________________________________________________

    Dear Dan,

    My teenage daughter is looking at colleges and she’s stressing out about where she should apply. I’m happy to offer her guidance, but most of the time my input isn’t welcome. In fact, sometimes she does the exact opposite of what I advise. How should I proceed? 

    —Tina 

    I also have teenagers. The good news is that they grow out of this in 10-20 years.

    In the meantime, consider that your teenager may be exhibiting something that is known as “psychological reactance”: People tend to double down on asserting their freedom when they feel that it is being threatened. This behavior is a psychological counter-measure to a perceived restriction of agency and not a sign of disrespect. It explains why people sometimes do the exact opposite of what is suggested to them.

    You are most likely dealing with some reactance. The question is how you can reduce its power.

    A recent study suggests one approach. Students were assigned an activity that made them feel either certain or uncertain about their understanding of education. Afterward they were presented with a policy giving the school the responsibility to select their classes. Students who had been made to feel uncertain were much less threatened by the prospect of giving up their freedom than those who had been made to feel certain.

    With this in mind, I recommend that you start by shaking your daughter’s belief that she has all the answers. Once you get her to hold a more realistic view of her own knowledge, she can begin to accept your advice.

    See the original article in the Wall Street Journal here.

    The post Ask Ariely: On Misperceiving Managers and Tenacious Teens appeared first on Dan Ariely.

     
  • feedwordpress 11:30:15 on 2022-05-21 Permalink
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    Ask Ariely: On Seeking Scares and Creating Connections 


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    Here’s my Q&A column from the WSJ this week  and if you have any questions for me, you can tweet them to @danariely with the hashtag #askariely, post a comment on my Ask Ariely Facebook page, or email them to AskAriely@wsj.com.

    ___________________________________________________

    Dear Dan,

    My co-workers and I were discussing how we were going to spend our time off once a really stressful project wraps up. I was planning on going to a spa for a few days for some rest and relaxation, so I was surprised to learn that one of my colleagues was going on an adventurous rock climbing trip. Why would she want to engage in another stressful, albeit exciting, activity after so much work stress? Doesn’t she value relaxation?

    —Mina 

    Your intuition about which activities relax us—and which don’t—seems logical, but it might not be that accurate. Research has shown that voluntary stressful situations, such as rock-climbing, can actually reduce stress rather than increase it.

    In order to better understand stress, researchers teamed up with an extra scary haunted house that specialized in such frights as locking people in coffins, administering electric shocks and confronting people with malevolent clowns. People who had purchased tickets for this haunted house were asked to report how they felt just before they went into it and again once they came out.

    The results showed that on average, people felt better after experiencing the haunted house. Moreover, this improvement was particularly pronounced for the people who entered the experience the most stressed, tired or bored.

    So it is possible not only that your colleague has chosen the more relaxing option, but that an adventurous trip would be the best thing for you as well. Of course, you could just watch a horror movie between massages and see if that minor stress improves your well-being.

    ___________________________________________________

    Dear Dan,

    I’m the owner of a small advertising agency. We’ve been working from home for the past two years, and most of my employees strongly prefer to continue to do so. Since this model has worked well for us, is there any reason to require more time in-person?

    —Joe 

    Yes, you should require more time in-person. This advice is particularly important for companies that need their employees to be creative—which I suspect is the case for yours. Recent research has demonstrated that teams generate fewer creative ideas when they meet by videoconferencing as opposed to interacting in person.

    As part of an ideation workshop, engineers at a company were randomly assigned into pairs and asked to generate new product ideas for one hour. Some pairs were assigned to do so in-person, others by videoconferencing. After generating ideas, each pair had to select one idea to submit as a future product innovation for the company. The pairs that worked together virtually not only generated fewer ideas, but the ideas were also rated as less creative.

    The researchers found that these effects were determined less by the positive effects of social connection and eye contact among the in-person pairs than by the negative effects of focusing on a screen among the videoconferencing pairs.

    If your team can’t manage more in-person interactions, you might at least consider arranging in-person days expressly for pursuing collaborative and idea-generating tasks.

    See the original article in the Wall Street Journal.

    The post Ask Ariely: On Seeking Scares and Creating Connections appeared first on Dan Ariely.

     
  • feedwordpress 11:30:19 on 2022-05-07 Permalink
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    Ask Ariely: On Including Identities and Managing Meetings 


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    Here’s my Q&A column from the WSJ this week  and if you have any questions for me, you can tweet them to @danariely with the hashtag #askariely, post a comment on my Ask Ariely Facebook page, or email them to AskAriely@wsj.com.

    ___________________________________________________

    Dear Dan,

    I’m advising a young refugee from Afghanistan who is resettling in the U.S. She has been offered admission to several colleges and is setting up meetings to inquire about financial aid. To what extent should she highlight her identity in requesting these meetings?

    —Stephanie 

    It is understandable to be reluctant to draw attention to an identity that might be subject to prejudice. In past studies, two groups of employers were shown the exact same resume—but for one group, the resume bore a name associated with a minority. The employers were less likely to respond to the minority candidate. So it is perhaps not surprising that in a recent survey, only 35% of women and members of racial minorities said they were likely to highlight these aspects of their identities when seeking career support.

    Recent research has found, however, that making deliberate, explicit mention of one’s identity can be beneficial. In one study, city council representatives were sent emails asking for advice on a career in politics. Some representatives got emails from senders who drew attention to their identities, whereas others got emails from the same senders, but without the identity call-out. Response rates to emails were higher when senders made explicit mention of their identities, and this effect was even stronger for women and members of racial and ethnic minorities.

    The researchers concluded that calling attention to your identity reminds people to be aware of their potential biases and to try to counteract them. Assuming that your mentee is seeking financial aid from institutions that view prejudice as negative, she would do well to mention her identity in asking for meetings about financial aid.

    ___________________________________________________

    Dear Dan,

    Switching between working from the office and working from home, combined with ever-changing Covid guidelines, has increased the number of meetings my employees have each week, and everyone is unhappy about it. What can I do to support my employees?

    —Benedict 

    Introduce at least one meeting-free day a week. Most meetings are unproductive, and team-building can happen by other means.

    Researchers surveyed employees at more than 70 companies across the globe that had instituted meeting-free days. Employees reported feeling more empowered, autonomous, satisfied and productive than they had before the policy. They also felt less stressed and less micromanaged.

    The authors concluded that three meeting-free days a week was optimal, reducing stress by 57% and improving productivity by 73% compared with having zero meeting-free days.

    For the strategy to work, however, you must make sure that you aren’t just piling up all the meetings you would have held every day on the non-meeting-free days. Having meeting-free days should instead cause everyone to think more carefully about the meetings they set and the number of people they invite to attend them. You might also consider which goals can be achieved using other means of communication.

    See the original article in the Wall Street Journal.

    The post Ask Ariely: On Including Identities and Managing Meetings appeared first on Dan Ariely.

     
  • feedwordpress 11:30:28 on 2022-04-23 Permalink
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    Ask Ariely: On Confident Crushes and Feedback Failures 


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    Here’s my Q&A column from the WSJ this week  and if you have any questions for me, you can tweet them to @danariely with the hashtag #askariely, post a comment on my Ask Ariely Facebook page, or email them to AskAriely@wsj.com.

    ___________________________________________________

    Dear Dan,

    I work at a coffee shop, and every Monday morning a woman comes in to pick up an iced coffee. I have developed quite a crush on her, but I’m worried that she doesn’t share my feelings and might say no if I ask her out. What do you suggest I do?

    —Robert 

    Every decision we make has the potential to bring positive or negative consequences. Right now, imagining a negative outcome is keeping you from asking for a date, so you might think you could gain the courage to talk to this woman by focusing only on the positive, envisioning her saying yes instead of no.

    But a study that involved asking for a promotion points to a different conclusion. Participants were asked to think about what it would be like to ask for a promotion at their workplace. Then they were divided into three groups. One was told to write a list of reasons to make the request, another to list reasons not to make it and a third to list both pros and cons.

    All the participants were then asked how likely they were to actually muster the courage to ask for a promotion at their work. Interestingly, the ones who listed both pros and cons were the most willing to ask, while there was no difference in willingness between the groups that considered only pros or only cons. What this suggest for your situation is that you should make a list of all possible positive and negative consequences of asking for a date. By lessening your fear of rejection, this exercise will make you more likely to take action.

    ___________________________________________________

    Dear Dan,

    I’m a laboratory technician, and I’m responsible for training a new employee to operate some complicated equipment. He just isn’t getting it, and he keeps making the same mistakes instead of learning from them. What else can I do?

    —Ayla 

    The idea that we can learn from our mistakes is appealing, but it’s not always correct. Researchers have found that people often don’t learn from their mistakes, even when given an immediate opportunity to correct them.

    In one set of studies, participants responded to factual questions by selecting one of two possible answers. After each question, feedback was provided. Test-takers in the “success” group were told only when they answered a question correctly, while those in the “failure” group were told only when they answered incorrectly.

    Both groups had the same opportunity to learn from the feedback. But when they were retested, the “failure” group was less able to learn from their mistakes than the “success” group, which showed more progress. Why? Subsequent research suggested that failure threatens the ego and causes people to disengage. We find it easier to learn from other people’s failures than from our own.

    So the next time you’re working with your new employee, make a point of commenting on everything he’s doing the right way. Instead of drawing attention to his mistakes, talk broadly about mistakes that other people might make when they’re first learning how to use the equipment, including mistakes you might have made. In general, when the ego is put aside, things often improve.

    See the original article in the Wall Street Journal.

    The post Ask Ariely: On Confident Crushes and Feedback Failures appeared first on Dan Ariely.

     
  • feedwordpress 19:48:00 on 2022-04-21 Permalink
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    Differential Perspectives 


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    This update is to let you know about a new essay that’s now online in in-press form: “Differential Perspectives: Epistemic Disconnects Surrounding the US Census Bureau’s Use of Differential Privacy.” Click here to read the full essay.

    When the U.S. Census Bureau announced its intention to modernize its disclosure avoidance procedures for the 2020 Census, it sparked a controversy that is still underway. The move to differential privacy introduced technical and procedural uncertainties, leaving stakeholders unable to evaluate the quality of the data. More importantly, this transformation exposed the statistical illusions and limitations of census data, weakening stakeholders’ trust in the data and in the Census Bureau itself.

    Jayshree Sarathy and I have been trying to make sense of the epistemic currents of this controversy. In other words, how do divergent ways of sense-making shape people’s understanding of census data – and what does that tell us about how people deal with census data controversies.

    We wrote an essay for an upcoming special issue of Harvard Data Science Review that will focus on differential privacy and the 2020 Census. While the special issue is not yet out, we were given permission to post our in-press essay online. And so I thought I’d share it here for those of you who relish geeky writings about census, privacy, politics, and controversies. This paper draws heavily on Science and Technology Studies (STS) theories and is based on ethnographic fieldwork. In it, we analyze the current controversy over differential privacy as a battle over uncertainty, trust, and legitimacy of the Census. We argue that rebuilding trust will require more than technical repairs or improved communication; it will require reconstructing what we
    identify as a ‘statistical imaginary.’ Check out our full argument here.

    For those who prefer the tl;dr video version, I sketched out some of these ideas at the Microsoft Research Summit in the fall.

    We are still continuing to work through these ideas so by all means, feel free to share feedback or critiques; we relish them.

     
  • feedwordpress 11:30:12 on 2022-04-09 Permalink
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    Ask Ariely: On Remixing Referrals and Editing Expectations 


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    Here’s my Q&A column from the WSJ this week  and if you have any questions for me, you can tweet them to @danariely with the hashtag #askariely, post a comment on my Ask Ariely Facebook page, or email them to AskAriely@wsj.com.

    ___________________________________________________

    Dear Dan,

    I work for a local newspaper. We’re trying to increase our subscriber base through a customer referral program. Subscribers are awarded a $30 cash bonus for each successful referral they make. Unfortunately, the campaign hasn’t been very successful. Do you have any suggestions?

    —Lee 

    It takes some effort to recommend a newspaper to someone. But to follow through and subscribe to a new newspaper takes effort, too. Could it be that the new customer—and not the existing subscriber—is the person who needs the incentive?

    To investigate this question, a group of researchers teamed up with a videogame subscription company. The company randomly sent each of its customers one of three email requests to refer new customers: The first didn’t include an incentive, the second awarded the current customer a free month for each successful referral, and the third awarded the free month to the new customer.

    Not surprisingly, the no-incentive condition was the least effective. Customers in the other two groups made the same number of referrals—but out of all those referrals, the most successful were those that offered the incentive to the new customer rather than the existing customer. The new customer is the one who needs to go to the effort to get signed up, and an incentive can help make jumping through those hoops more attractive.

    The referring party, meanwhile, may anticipate rewards other than financial ones—for example, a positive effect on their reputations from suggesting valuable products or services to others. In your newspaper’s case, the right mix might just be a warm glow for the people who are referring their friends and a financial gift to the new customers.

    ___________________________________________________

    Dear Dan,

    My fiancé is meeting my parents for the first time. Unfortunately, my parents aren’t really the warmest and most welcoming people. I’m hesitant to say too much to my fiancé because that might make him more nervous about an already stressful situation. What’s the best approach to this introduction?

    —Felix 

    Your hesitation is understandable, but research shows that being surprised by a stressful situation is worse than anticipating one. In a recent study, participants were asked to sit for a job interview that entailed giving a public speech to a group of disinterested scientists. Some participants were warned about the nature of the interview, and others weren’t. The researchers found that the forewarned participants had lower subjective feelings of stress and lower physiological stress as measured by cortisol levels and brain activity.

    Many of our experiences are shaped by the gap between expectations and reality. Surprise, excitement and disappointment are all products of this relationship. Presumably you can’t control your parents, so you should try to help manage your fiancé’s expectations for them instead.

    Start working on this a week before the meeting. Over multiple days, let your fiancé know what to expect before meeting your parents and continue to do this during your engagement and through your marriage. Alternatively, you could elope—and transfer the surprise and stress from your fiancé to your parents.

    See the original article in the Wall Street Journal.

    The post Ask Ariely: On Remixing Referrals and Editing Expectations appeared first on Dan Ariely.

     
  • feedwordpress 11:30:41 on 2022-03-26 Permalink
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    Ask Ariely: On Manipulating Motivation and Stopping Scrolling 


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    Here’s my Q&A column from the WSJ this week  and if you have any questions for me, you can tweet them to @danariely with the hashtag #askariely, post a comment on my Ask Ariely Facebook page, or email them to AskAriely@wsj.com.

    ___________________________________________________

    Dear Dan,

    I’ve been struggling to get to the gym and posted about my frustration on social media. I was inundated with support and people sharing anecdotes about what worked to keep them motivated. With so many different strategies offered up, how do I figure out which one works the best?

    —Joachim

    Social scientists also find it hard sometimes to sort through multiple findings on a topic to identify the key results. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have confronted this problem by conducting mega-studies, using thousands of participants and testing multiple different ideas for achieving a single result.

    One of their megastudies addressed your question: The researchers tested 53 different approaches to increasing exercise as measured by the frequency of gym visits among 61,000 people. The approaches ranged from reminders, rewards and pledges to keeping a journal, framing exercise as fun and sharing workouts on social media. About half of these tactics worked to increase gym visits. One of the best-performing approaches was to offer people 9 cents in reward points if they returned to the gym after missing a planned workout. These “micro-rewards” increased gym visits by 16%.

    Based on these findings, your best bet would be to combine a few of the successful strategies: Start by setting a reasonable workout schedule. Next, add reminders on your phone. Finally, plan small rewards for yourself for keeping to your schedule and also for going back to the gym if you miss a planned workout.

    ___________________________________________________

    Dear Dan,

    I have tried to spend less time on my phone and on social media, but every time I intend to check just one new message a friend sent me, I end up going down a social media rabbit hole, scrolling through one post after another. Why does this happen to me?

    —Kade 

    Social media platforms are designed to maximize the time we spend on them. One reason they do this so effectively is that once we start consuming a certain type of content, our appetite for it increases.

    In one study researchers asked participants to watch music videos. Half of the participants watched five different music videos, while the other half watched only one. The participants were then asked whether they would like to watch an additional music video or switch to a different task. You might have guessed that those who had already watched five videos would be tired of doing so and ready to move on to something else, but the researchers found the opposite: The participants who had already watched five videos were more likely to choose to watch more than the participants who had watched only one.

    This is a case where the old saying is certainly true: If we don’t make a decision, someone else will make it for us. So if you want to take control of the time you spend on social media, you’ll need to take an active role—for example by setting a timer for 15 minutes, or only starting to look at social media 15 minutes before a meeting, so that you know when you’ll have to stop.

    See the original article in the Wall Street Journal.

    The post Ask Ariely: On Manipulating Motivation and Stopping Scrolling appeared first on Dan Ariely.

     
  • feedwordpress 12:30:31 on 2022-03-12 Permalink
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    Ask Ariely: On Career Callings and Extraordinary Experiences 


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    Here’s my Q&A column from the WSJ this week — and if you have any questions for me, you can tweet them to @danariely with the hashtag #askariely, post a comment on my Ask Ariely Facebook page, or email them to AskAriely@wsj.com.

    ___________________________________________________

    Dear Dan,

    I’m really passionate about the well-being of animals. Unfortunately, the animal shelter I worked at recently closed, and I’m looking for new work that is equally fulfilling. But the search is taking a while, and my partner thinks I should just take a job that pays the bills. I’m really confused about what I’m looking for, not only in my job, but also in my relationship. What should I do?

    —Amos 

    The meaning of work differs greatly among people. Some attach deep purpose and meaning to their careers, which they see as a calling, while others view work merely as a means to earn a paycheck. Researchers refer to one’s place on this spectrum as a “calling orientation,” and since the time we spend at work is rather substantial, picking a career path that doesn’t match our orientation can have a substantial effect on our quality of life.

    How our partner’s calling orientation aligns with our own can influence our job satisfaction. A team of researchers followed job seekers and their partners and found that the more widely calling orientation differed between partners, the more uncertain the job-seeking partners felt, the less energy they had to find work and the less successful they were in actually finding full-time employment after six months. A mismatch in calling orientation hurt the employed partners, too, making them less content with their own jobs than were those who were more aligned.

    Talk to your partner and get clarity on your respective calling orientations. Discuss whether your differences in this area could affect your views of each other and your shared future. A mismatch in calling orientation doesn’t necessarily mean that you should break up, but recognizing the disparity may help you understand and respect the ways in which you are different.

    ___________________________________________________

    Dear Dan,

    On a flight for a recent business trip, a new member of my team was offered a free upgrade. He turned it down. Why in the world would someone pass that up?

    —Gus 

    Sitting in an upgraded cabin with more legroom and free drinks certainly sounds like the more enjoyable travel experience. But your co-worker might have decided that staying with the team was of greater importance, especially since he’s a new member. And maybe he was correct.

    In 2014, researchers published a paper called “The Unforeseen Costs of Extraordinary Experience,” in which they showed that while certain experiences may themselves be amazing, they can also have a downside when they are not shared by everyone in a social group. The researchers found that when people who had amazing experiences recounted them to their social groups, they often suffered negative social consequences and sometimes ended up feeling worse than those who didn’t have the extraordinary experiences at all.

    You certainly don’t have to turn down opportunities to have extraordinary experiences. But while traveling with a group of new colleagues, maybe your team-member had reason to be mindful of the trade-off between the lure of an upgrade and the possible social cost.

    See the original article in the Wall Street Journal.

    The post Ask Ariely: On Career Callings and Extraordinary Experiences appeared first on Dan Ariely.

     
  • feedwordpress 12:51:00 on 2022-02-27 Permalink
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    Ask Ariely: On Enchanting Eateries and Sweet Strategies 


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    Here’s my Q&A column from the WSJ this week  and if you have any questions for me, you can tweet them to @danariely with the hashtag #askariely, post a comment on my Ask Ariely Facebook page, or email them to AskAriely@wsj.com.

    ___________________________________________________

    Dear Dan,

    I travel a lot for work, and I’m keen on finding great places to eat in the cities I visit. Normally I use an app and narrow down my options based on ratings. But while I’ve found a lot of good meals this way, I haven’t found so many great ones. How would you suggest finding the best eateries on the road?

    —Loran 

    Restaurant ratings are a good place to start, as they can point out places to avoid. But they are not as helpful when it comes to narrowing down the best choices, because when people give good reviews, they don’t like to say anything negative, which makes it hard to differentiate the very good restaurants from the really great ones. Researchers found that about 80% of online restaurant reviews were four or five stars.

    This positivity bias makes the star ratings useless for your purpose. But the researchers did find a better predictor of quality in the emotionality of the comments. For example, you might look for reviews that use demonstrative words, such as “enchanting,” instead of the more anodyne “excellent” to describe the experience.

    Still, the best option is probably to ask someone who knows the city, such as a concierge. The wisdom of one well-informed local can often beat the wisdom of the crowd.

    ___________________________________________________

    Dear Dan,

    I’m trying really hard to cut back on sweets, but I always slip up. My friends tell me I shouldn’t be too hard on myself, but I’m worried that if I’m too forgiving of my bad choices, I’ll keep making them. Which approach will better help me get on track? Should I be hard on myself or not?

    —Leah 

    Thinking about how best to recover from setbacks is an important part of goal planning. If we are very forgiving of our failures, we might never feel the need to try harder. On the other hand, if we are very harsh on ourselves, we may give up on our goal completely. This is a Goldilocks situation, in which we must find the moderate level of both criticism and forgiveness that is just right.

    A recent study bears out this observation. People in a weight loss program reported how they felt about themselves after a lapse. The researchers found that those who felt great about themselves after backsliding struggled to get back on track. So, too, did those who felt very negatively about themselves. The people likeliest to re-engage with their goals turned out to be those who were moderately self-critical.

    So maybe your friends are correct, and you shouldn’t be so hard on yourself. At the same time, however, you should not be too easy on yourself. Mix it up a bit. After a slip-up, maybe start in a non-forgiving mode and take a moment to consider what led to the lapse and how it could be prevented. Then, once you have soaked in these feelings for a bit, forgive yourself.

    See the original article in the Wall Street Journal.

    The post Ask Ariely: On Enchanting Eateries and Sweet Strategies appeared first on Dan Ariely.

     
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