do what you want

A few weeks ago, I was having lunch with a friend. He is planning his wedding and they recently have been going to Bed Bath & Beyond to add items to their registry.
He told me about a few items that he saw while there: containers for a single slice of bread, and containers that have a built in ice pack in the lid.

That reminded me of an idea that I read about in The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb (recently featured here for his 10 Theses).

Taleb discusses how in a study, when people were asked which was more likely, they would more often choose the second of these two:

  1. He was happily married. He killed his wife.
  2. He was happily married. He killed his wife to get the insurance money.

What this is suggesting is that, we, as humans, naturally want to find a cause and a story for anything that happens. Even though the first sentence allows for a wider range of possible reasons for the man killing his wife, the second one may seem more likely because it has a cause.

So back to plastic containers…
Are we suckered into thinking we need a container for every possible purpose out there? Are companies marketing to this aspect of human nature and taking advantage of some innate need for purpose and explanation? Do we really need an ice pack built in or a single bread slice container?

OK Go – Do What You Want


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2 thoughts on “do what you want

  1. The study cited by Taleb is interesting, because if I were asked the same question, I would think about it logically and realize that the first explanation is far more probable, since it imposes fewer restrictions on the situation.

    But I think it’s a linguistic skill to fill in ellipsis during conversation, and that must be what’s coming out when people go for the first option. They say to themselves “no reason was stated, therefore what’s implied is that there was no good reason. And why would a man kill his wife for no good reason?”

    I think your comparison here was a really clever one, and I wonder if this phenomenon doesn’t extend a lot farther into the realm of human behavior.

  2. I think the point of the study was that, without being given time to think it out logically, we would naturally make certain assumptions about the statements based on some human intuition that is built in somehow. We have an inner feeling for what makes sense and what doesn’t that might govern some part of our thinking.

    I think it probably is a phenomenon that does extend further. It is just so difficult to understand and perceive these types of things because they may be beyond what we can comprehend past a certain point.

    But now that we are aware of the possibility of such phenomena, we can try to avoid making those assumptions and think through things so that we do come to logical conclusions and be aware of the processes.

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