The one nagging thing you still don’t understand about yourself

by on October 6, 2009 at 10:53 am in Philosophy | Permalink

This is one of the best "time wasters" I've come across in some time.  Here is the upshot:

The email edition of the British Psychological Society's Research
Digest has reached the milestone of its 150th issue…To mark the occasion, the Digest editor has invited some of the world's leading psychologists to look inwards and share, in 150 words, one nagging thing they still don't understand about themselves.

Here is Paul Rozin's answer:

I generally believe that we learn from experience. However, a recent study
I did with Karlene Hanko repeats a finding from Kahneman and Snell,
that people are very poor at predicting how their liking will change
for a new product (in our case, two new foods and two new body
products) after using it for a week. We predicted that the parents of
our college undergraduates would be better than their children at
predicting their hedonic trajectory, but 25 more years of self
experience did nothing for them. Nor for me. Every night, I bring home
a pile of work to do in the evening and early morning. I have been
doing this for over 50 years. I always think I will actually get
through all or most of it, and I almost never get even half done. But I
keep expecting to accomplish it all. What a fool I am.

Here is Norbert Schwarz on incidental feelings:

One nagging thing I don’t understand about myself is why I’m still
fooled by incidental feelings. Some 25 years ago Jerry Clore and I studied
how gloomy weather makes one’s whole life look bad — unless one
becomes aware of the weather and attributes one’s gloomy mood to the
gloomy sky, which eliminates the influence. You’d think I learned that
lesson and now know how to deal with gloomy skies. I don’t, they still
get me. The same is true for other subjective experiences, like the processing fluency resulting from print fonts
– I still fall prey to their influence. Why does insight into how such
influences work not help us notice them when they occur? What makes the
immediate experience so powerful that I fail to apply my own theorizing
until some blogger asks a question that brings it to mind?

For the pointer I thank Michelle Dawson.  By the way, I wonder if those are their real answers; I wouldn't tell you mine.

1 Jens Fiederer October 6, 2009 at 12:12 pm

We already know your answer.

You still don’t understand why you read Roissy (carefully not linking here 🙂 )

2 fmb October 6, 2009 at 12:24 pm

So what’s your fake answer?

3 jose October 6, 2009 at 1:19 pm

And the topics of research seem insignificant (at least of the ones quoted by Cowen). Then economists are criticized for their irrelevancy…

4 Candadai Tirumalai October 6, 2009 at 2:27 pm

England, where I lived for many years, has
famously (or notoriously) gloomy skies. And
yet its residents are variously affected by it.
Some shrug them off as inevitable. Others are
indeed disheartened by a gloomy day. Still
others dislike trading what Thomas Mann
called meteorological commonplaces or ascribing
how one feels to the weather. And I dare say
the same person reacts differently to a gloomy
day at different times.

5 David C October 6, 2009 at 7:54 pm

I not only don’t like Paul Rozin’s answer, I disagree with his study. Most new experiences occur early on in life. By the time, you get to college, you’ve got a good grasp of how you react to every day items like food and product. I doubt there are very many people who dramatically increase their knowledge of what foods taste like or what kind of product they like after turning 20. I’m guessing if you compared 50-year-old chefs with recent cooking school entrants, you’d get very different results if you managed to somehow find two foods that nobody in the group had tasted before.

6 Mike October 7, 2009 at 1:26 am

Living in a tropical climate, an overcast day lifts the spirits and energy levels. Sunny days are oppresive and stifling. Mad dogs and Englishmen and all that.

Ah, it’s a beautiful cloudy day outside right now and I’m stuck in the office writing comments in a blog . . .

7 anonymous October 7, 2009 at 1:43 am

Robert Olson,

Surely it’s just standard evolutionary psychology. For most of human history, we lived in a Mad Max hunter-gatherer environment of small tribal groups engaged in constant skirmish warfare. It made more sense for women to hook up with bad boys than with nice guys if they wanted to pass their genes to future generations.

The attraction of the violence-prone bad-boy rebels is that they are candidates to overthrow the established order and become alpha males in their own right. A violent person is also a useful ally or protector when it comes to defending against third parties and external threats (animal and human), despite frequently directing their violence inward towards their own spouse or group. A willingness or ability to steal by force comes in handy during droughts and other hard times when there aren’t enough resources to go around and some don’t survive.

8 mpowell October 7, 2009 at 1:45 pm

Wow Fiederer hit the first thing that came to my mind right off the top.

9 babar October 7, 2009 at 8:01 pm

i don’t understand why other peoples’ deaths are, sometimes, as much a shock as they are.
after all, death, even sudden death, is not a particularly surprising event.
what’s hanson got to say about this?

10 理想を貫く強 March 10, 2010 at 9:48 am

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