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People reply to their close friends, on average, within seven hours of getting the email, the data show. Professional contacts take a bit more time: We don’t hit send for nearly 11 hours. But the biggest difference came when the scientists looked at those people we barely know. On average, it took us 50 hours to reply. In other words, there’s a surprisingly easy way to figure out how you feel about someone—just count the hours before you hit the “reply” button.
While Rembrandt was an astonishingly talented artist, our response to his art is conditioned by all sorts of variables that have nothing to do with oil paint. Many of these variables are capable of distorting our perceptions, so that we imagine differences that don’t actually exist; the verdict of art history warps what we see. The power of a Rembrandt, in other words, is inseparable from the fact that it’s a Rembrandt. The man is a potent brand.
When you make something easier to do, people do more of it.
Instead, the psychologists propose that humans are actually Platonic dualists, following Plato’s belief that there are two distinct types of mind: a mind for thinking and reasoning and a mind for emotions and passions.
The experiment went like this: 159 students were given a battery of demanding cognitive tasks, such as repeating random numbers backwards and solving difficult logic puzzles. Half of the subjects chewed gum (sugar-free and sugar-added) while the other half were given nothing. Here’s where things get peculiar: those randomly assigned to the gum-chewing condition significantly outperformed those in the control condition on five out of six tests. (The one exception was verbal fluency, in which subjects were asked to name as many words as possible from a given category, such as “animals”.) The sugar content of the gum had no effect on test performance.
Practice too soon and you waste your time. Practice too late and you’ve forgotten the material and have to relearn it. The right time to practice is just at the moment you’re about to forget.
In one study, the demonstrated that subjects perceived those with a larger coffee as having more status than someone who chose medium or small, even when the price was the same. (The effect also applied to pizzas and smoothies.) In a second experiment, subjects were randomly assigned to “power” or “powerless” conditions, in which they were told to recall an experience “in which you had power over another individual” or “another individual had power over you.” It turned out that those in the powerless conditions were twice as likely to choose the biggest size of smoothie (with more than double the calories) as those in the powerful or control conditions. (Those primed with power preferred the smallest size).
The games that stand the test of time have just a few rules and practically unlimited possibilities, making them easy to learn and difficult to master. (Chess, for example, has 10120 potential moves, far more than the number of atoms in the universe.)
When we take a sip of wine, for instance, we don’t taste the wine first, and the cheapness second. We taste everything all at once, in a single gulp of thiswineisplonk, or thiswineisexpensive. As a result, if we think a wine is cheap, it will taste cheap. And if we think we are tasting a grand cru, then we will taste a grand cru. Our senses are vague in their instructions, and we parse their inputs based upon whatever other knowledge we can summon to the surface.
Here’s a simple arithmetic question: “A bat and ball cost $1.10. The bat costs $1 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?” The vast majority of people respond quickly and confidently, insisting the ball costs 10 cents. This answer is both incredibly obvious and utterly wrong. (The correct answer is five cents for the ball and $1.05 for the bat.) What’s most impressive is that education doesn’t really help; more than 50% of students at Harvard, Princeton and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology routinely give the incorrect answer.
For one thing, it suggests that only brands selling distinctiveness — Berger and Shiv cite Gucci and BMW as examples — benefit from sex appeal. Because we are aroused, we also experience an increased desire to be different. However, mainstream brands that don’t sell distinctiveness — think of Gap and Ford — may actually be hurt by sexy campaigns. (That attractive model in the Gap ad sends us straight to Urban Outfitters.) In other words, sex sells. But what it sells best is stuff that makes us feel special.
12. The Forgetting Pill Erases Painful Memories Forever found by user bendoernberg
Whenever the brain wants to retain something, it relies on just a handful of chemicals. Even more startling, an equally small family of compounds could turn out to be a universal eraser of history, a pill that we could take whenever we wanted to forget anything. And researchers have found one of these compounds. In the very near future, the act of remembering will become a choice.
When we’re exhausted by things we can’t understand, we take solace in things that are what they say they are. Our video games may be idiotic, but at least their idiocies are consistent.