The endowment effect is old news: the amount that we value an object increases once we take ownership of it. The ‘extended version’ shows that the impact of the endowment effect increases with time: our valuation of an object increases more and more as the amount of time that we own it also increases. This is known as the length-of-ownership effect.
A recent study published in the journal Judgement and Decision Making1 has taken an even deeper look at this effect: studying how touching an object increases both our attachment to that object and how much we value it… even if we don’t own it (also in pdf). Here are the key findings of this ‘pre-ownership exposure study’:
- Touching an object will increase our attachment to it and valuation of it, whether we own it or not.
- The longer we touch or handle an un-owned object, the greater we will value it and feel attached to it.
- Simply thinking about an un-owned object increases our valuation of it and how much we feel attached to it.
Related findings, cited in this article:
- If an object is being sold at auction, the amount that we value the object will increase as the length of the auction increases.
- Owning a coupon for an object increases our emotional attachment to that object.
- Making an item the “focus of a comparison” increases its attractiveness and the probability that it would later be selected. We will also feel more attached to the item and will value it higher.
via @stevesilberman and Lifehacker (suggesting that this duration-of-exposure effect’ is an explanation for why we have cluttered homes.)
1 What, you’re not reading Judgement and Decision Making? You should; it’s bimonthly and open access.
After ten years of playing the same Civilization II campaign (my favourite game ever), Reddit user Lycerius has ended up creating a dystopian semi-self-sustaining world, where the three remaining “super-nations” are in a constant state of espionage and nuclear war.
The details of Lycerius’ “hellish nightmare” world are absolutely fascinating: the military stalemate; the 1700-year war; and the global warming epidemic that led to melting ice caps, famine, and the end of cities. This is the political situation:
The only governments left are two theocracies and myself, a communist state. I wanted to stay a democracy, but the Senate would always over-rule me when I wanted to declare war before the Vikings did. This would delay my attack and render my turn and often my plans useless. And of course the Vikings would then break the cease fire like clockwork the very next turn. […] I was forced to do away with democracy roughly a thousand years ago because it was endangering my empire. But of course the people hate me now and every few years since then, there are massive guerrilla […] uprisings in the heart of my empire that I have to deal with which saps resources from the war effort.
This reminds me of Magnasanti: the totalitarian city created in Sim City 3000 that sustains the maximum population (six million) for 50,000 years. The interview with it’s ‘maker’, architecture student Vincent Ocasla, is worth a read.
Keep these people away from town planning departments, please.
Magnasanti via Kottke
I’m currently watching Carl Sagan’s excellent Cosmos: A Personal Voyage. I feel compelled to post the following quote from episode four, Heaven and Hell, as it stood out for its elegant argument for the strength of scientific ideas and for not rejecting uncomfortable (if incorrect) ideas:
There are many hypotheses in science which are wrong. That’s all right. It’s the aperture to finding out what’s right. Science is a self-correcting process. To be accepted, new ideas must survive the most rigorous standards of evidence and scrutiny.
The worst aspect of the Velikovsky affair is not that many of his ideas were wrong or silly or in gross contradiction to the facts. Rather, the worst aspect is that some scientists attempted to suppress Velikovsky’s ideas.
The suppression of uncomfortable ideas may be common in religion or in politics, but it is not the path to knowledge. And there is no place for it in the endeavour of science.
We do not know beforehand where fundamental insights will arise from about our mysterious and lovely solar system. And the history of our study of the solar system shows clearly that accepted and conventional ideas are often wrong and that fundamental insights can arise from the most unexpected sources.
And if you think this only applies to wacky astronomical ideas or insights about our solar system… well, then you’re deluding yourself.
I can’t wait for the updated Cosmos presented by Neil deGrasse Tyson; it’ll be the best thing on TV since sliced bread.
Why do unresolved issues linger in our mind, making us ponder them for days on end? Why are cliffhangers so successful in getting viewers to tune in to the next episode? How can we overcome procrastination? These questions can be answered by learning about the psychological concept/theory known as the Zeigarnik effect.
‘Discovered’ by Soviet psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik back in the 1920s, the Zeigarnik effect states that we remember incomplete or interrupted tasks better than completed tasks.
And so, to those questions. It’s easy to see how the Zeigarnik effect could be responsible for the success of suspense as a dramatic device, but for overcoming procrastination? Use the effect to your advantage and start at the simplest, smallest part of your task. After that, the unfinished nature of the larger task will push you toward action.
Beware, though: the effect has been shown to diminish if we don’t expect to do well on the interrupted task (or are otherwise completely not motivated).
Pick up any tabloid newspaper today and take note of how many article headlines are phrased as a question. I understand that these headlines are an attempt to pique our interest (or the result of lazy copy editors/writers), but are they a good idea? What is the end result of using a question as a headline or article title?
Now we know, thanks to Betteridge’s Law of Headlines:
Any headline which ends in a question mark can be answered by the word ‘no’.
Named for Ian Betteridge, this simple maxim was first explicitly found in journalist Andrew Marr’s 2004 book, My Trade. This is why the law tends to be “universally true”:
Because of a simple principle of headline writing: if a story has enough sources to have a high chance of accuracy, a headline will be assertive (e.g. “Microsoft to release OS update on Friday”). If sources are weak, or only a single source is found, headline writers will hedge their bets by posing the headline as a question (e.g. “Will Microsoft release an OS update on Friday?”).