Why do we Google everything?

Today, like every other Sunday, when I sat down to write something for my blog I realized I had nothing in mind. Usually over the week I find something interesting that I want to write about, but this time I couldn’t think of anything. Immediately I thought of taking my phone and searching (or Google) something interesting that I could write about. That itself really amazed me; how we are so dependent on technology and the internet for all our answers and it just drives away our curiosity. Being a student, I usually tend to write down things that I don’t understand so that I can Google it when I get home. The whole process of going through a bunch of books (or even asking the teacher after class) sounds like too much work.

While it has become very easy and beneficial for us to get answer to anything we want and anywhere we want, it’s also killing the curiosity that we are all born with- to keep questioning anything and everything that happens around us. The British author, Ian Leslie, in his book Curious: The Desire to Know and Why Your Future Depends on It, cites a study that found that children between the ages of three and five ask about 40,000 questions and when they start schooling, the number reduces significantly. He theorizes that it could be because learning is hard work and it requires focus and discipline. (Lavine, 2014)

What annoys me the most is that there are all kinds of spoilers on the internet. While I stay away from the internet as much as possible while I’m reading a novel or waiting for a TV series to release, many of my friends just can’t resist the urge. And the worst thing- they end up spoiling it for me too!

But seriously, why can’t we be patient and give sometime for the curiosity to grow? Maybe it’s because we are lazy (so lazy that we don’t even want to think and get an answer from our memory) or maybe because we know that there are answers to everything online and all we have to do is get hold of an internet enabled device. What we don’t realize is that we are missing out on the whole process of getting from one question to another, while giving rise to another 10 unrelated questions. We have one question, we Google it, and it ends there.

Studies done by neuroscientist Jaak Panksepp and psychologist Kent Berridge have both concluded that our strongest impulse – even more so than experiencing pleasure itself – is the one that makes us search and explore. However wonderful this might sound, it’s not an easy thing to do. Imagine how the world would be if curiosity wasn’t there in the human species. We wouldn’t have known why things fall downwards and not the other way round, we wouldn’t know why we fall sick, we wouldn’t even have electricity, nor would we have any of the technology we use now (Good Lord!).

Not that we have become complete lazy beings, there are new inventions on a daily basis. With time, curiosity has taken different forms and continues to somehow exist. As Albert Einstein said, “The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.”

THE PARADOX OF CHOICE

We live in a world with innumerable choices. Look around, and you will see each and every place filled with choices for you to choose from. Each products has sub types which again have variations in them. A supermarket can be the best example to analyse this. A typical supermarket carries more than 30,000 items. That’s a lot to choose from. And more than 20,000 new products hit the shelves every year, almost all of them doomed to failure. (Schwartz, The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less)

The Paradox of Choice started with the famous jam experiment conducted in 2000 by Sheena S. Iyengar (Columbia University) and Mark R. Lepper (Stanford University). They both published a study entitled “When Choice is Demotivating: Can One Desire Too Much of a Good Thing” (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 79 (2000)). In their paper, they discussed the two experiments they conducted in grocery stores. They set up 2 different displays of jam for about five hours to see the ordinary consumers would react in terms of tasting and purchasing. In one display, they set out 24 different exotic flavours of jam while in another, they set out only 6 varieties.

They found out that in both cases, the consumers tasted or sampled about the same number of varieties of the jams- about 1.50 but the “…consumers [who] were initially exposed to limited choices proved considerably more likely to purchase the product than consumers who had initially encountered a much larger set of options.” (Id. at 997.)

According to them, a limited number of choices ended up increasing sales.

I know that this is a complete different perspective from that we have of increased choices. To all of us, increase in choices is a boon and leads to better judgements since we get more products to choose from. But is it really so?

Has it ever happened to you that every time you buy a product from, suppose, a mall, which has innumerable choices and variations among products, that you regret your decision after a while, or maybe the very second you buy it? Maybe if you had searched more, you would have found a better product? This happens to me every time I shop for a gift for a friend. The reason for this could be that an increase in choices around us increases our expectations about those choices. These expectations rise so much that they are not realistic anymore. People start having unrealistic expectations with the increase in choice. Therefore, increased in number of choice does not give us more control. In fact, it gives us an overwhelming feeling and we are unable to cope with it.

So what makes us happy?

It is observed that people are generally happier when they are close to family, involved in religious communities and with good friends than those who are not. Therefore, being connected to others is better for the subjective wellbeing than being rich. It is also observed that close relations actually put restrictions on us- it limits our choices to some extent. For example; being with your family would mean you have to confide to the family norms, which in turn mean certain restrictions over our activities. That means people are happier with restrictions than those who do not have any restrictions over them. (Schwartz, The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less)

So does that mean more choices are bad? Certainly not. Maybe we should consider the possibility that we might actually be better off with lesser choices in our hands. ‘Less choice’ and not ‘no choice’. In fact, consumers actually repel the idea of no choice and when just provided with a single option, they tend to not make any choice even if there is the only product that they wanted to buy in the first place. This is called as the ‘Single-Option Aversion’. According to a Daniel Mochon in the Journal of Consumer Research, Inc., single-option aversion is an increase in consumer’s desire to search when faced with a single option. According to him, this effect can lead to a product being chosen more often when competing alternatives are included in the choice set, which contradicts the Paradox of Choice completely. This shows how our lives are dependent on choices, and that we will face high frustration if not given a choice. That means frustration with no choice, and frustration with many choices. So what should a consumer do?

Barry Schwartz, the author of ‘The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less’ in his article “Choice and Its Vicissitudes: A Lesson in How Science Works” talks about the ‘sweet spot’. According to him, the trick is to find the middle ground- the “sweet spot”- that enables people to benefit from variety and not be paralyzed by it. He says that choice is good, but there can be too much of a good thing, and that should be avoided by the consumers.

Obviously this paradox, like all others, is not free of criticism. Derek Thompson, in his article More Is More: Why the Paradox of Choice Might Be a Myth in 2013 called the paradox of choice a ‘complete hogwash’. He stated that the famous jam experiment was conducted again and the researchers completely failed to replicate the experiment:

After designing 10 different experiments in which participants were asked to make a choice, and finding very little evidence that variety caused any problems, Scheibehenne and his colleagues tried to assemble all the studies, published and unpublished, of the [paradox of choice]. (Thompson, 2013)

He states that the average of all these studies suggests that offering lots of extra choices seems to make no important difference either way. That is occasionally, you might find the results that agree to the paradox. Overall, says Scheibehenne, “If you did one of these studies tomorrow, the most probable result would be no effect.”

The paradox of choice is thus a very controversial concept. The arguments both in favour and against this paradox make both researchers and consumer psychologists confused as to how, when and why this paradox occurs, even if it does. There are many questions and doubts regarding this paradox. Perhaps, more studies in this area might give us an answer to these questions and help us maximize our satisfaction, both qualitatively and quantitatively. Even with loopholes in this concept, it is hard to forgo such an important study that can be practically used in everyday life of a consumer, helping them make everyday choices and possibly make positive changes in this world of innumerable choices.

Stupid chain messages

Source: http://www.buzzfeed.com/candacelowry/soul-crushing-habits-that-need-to-be-banned-on-facebook#.hagpdQmd
Source: http://www.buzzfeed.com/candacelowry/soul-crushing-habits-that-need-to-be-banned-on-facebook#.hagpdQmd

I’m pretty sure everyone knows what chain messages are. For those who don’t (I doubt there will be anyone in this category) chain letters are annoyingly long messages about some random crap that ask you to forward the same to a number of people after reading them and claim that if you don’t, something weird will happen to you; mostly about the person being killed or something. These chain messages are all up on social networking sites and even in mail! Usually our mail filters it out as spam but sometimes the folders are filled with stupid messages that ask the person to forward the message to other people.

Thinking of spam, I remember that recently I got a mail for confirming my email id for a dating website. Believe me, I completely freaked out! I checked the link and there was actually a profile by my name! I asked a friend and after a little research here and there, he told me that it was a spam website and they send these mails to people.

I sure was relieved, but that kinda prompted me to check out its history, which then brought me to chain messages.

At first, these messages were sent in the form of letters passed through hand or sent in mail (like Send-a-Dime letter) and the person was asked to make copies and forward them to other people. They would include examples of people who obeyed and were rewarded and those who didn’t suffered. (Wikipedia)

It evolved later into the current forms we have now. There was this one time I came across one chain message on my mom’s phone about a girl dying in a horrible way and that if I didn’t forward the message to 10 friends, she would come to my room on a Monday night and kill me. I was about 10 years old and not to mention, I got pretty freaked out. Yeah, I slept beside mom that day.

It’s funny how some pages on Facebook put out some famous person’s face (or a poor kid) and ask people to like it or one of their loved one will die. And not surprisingly, the get over a million likes! Why people actually believe in all that is completely out of my reach. I guess over the years we have all come to create some sort of a connection between coincidence and luck. Especially when we are going on a date we tend to wear our ‘lucky’ dress just because the last time we wore it, the date went well (*wink*), or seeing somebody’s face right after you wake up so your day goes well just because it happened so before. These are nothing but superstitious beliefs and I’m sure we all tend to believe in them in some way or the other.

There is an article by B.F Skinner about the relationship between learning (operant conditioning) and our belief in superstitions. He takes the example of the pigeon and how it learns to act in a certain way so it can be rewarded through food because of an earlier established connection between ritual and favourable consequences. (Webb)

Here’s the link:

http://www.all-about-psychology.com/superstition-in-the-pigeon.html

And yeah, next time you come across a chain message, please, for the love of God, DO NOT FORWARD THEM or…. do I really need to mention the rest?

A part of me that I left behind….

You know, as we grow up, a lot of things change. I remember when I was about 6 years old, I was playing ‘hide and seek’ with my friends and it was right after it had rained and the weather was just adorable. One of my friend’s sister was sitting out and studying, and I was wondering how anyone could not feel like running around in this weather. I told myself that I would never stop playing this game even if I turned 50. It all flew back into my memory when yesterday, right after it had drizzled, I saw a few girls playing hide and seek, while I was sitting in my balcony and completing my assignment (well, it was the last day and I had to submit it in college). And I thought to myself how I let go of that innocence and joy without even realising it. How my priorities changed from finding the best place to hide and managing to not be the first to be seen, to finding the best place to hide and sleep (or text) in class and managing to not be the first to be seen.

From loving to draw in MS Paint to never opening it again, from being embarrassed on not doing homework to getting used to it. From silly small fights and talking to each other again the next minute to silly small fights and never talking again (yes, I did that too), from asking your friends to not talk to this one person you dislike to asking your friends to stalk them on Facebook, from watching cartoons to.. uhh.. nope. I’m not going to say ‘not’ watching cartoons, because I can never give that up. Hopefully.

It’s weird, how we all grow up and start to find all those things silly. Instead, we find joy in social networking, watching movies, sitcoms (oh, I love it!) and other stuff. I’m only 18, and I guess it’s too soon for me to contemplate about the lost days; I mean I hardly know anything about the world! But what I know is, that those days will never come back, no matter how bad you want them to. I remember I was really excited about turning 18, somehow I believed that the world would look differently in just one day. I could vote (though the elections aren’t on until next 4 years), drive, and have sex. And when I tuned 18, WAIT WHAT?! Nothing happened! The same old life, except I was older. Why I was so excited about it, I will never know.

Everytging changes with time. Truely said, chabge is the only constant thing in this dynamic world. Your interests, your priorities, it all changes. You know, when you are doing something you love, you get that feeling that’s pretty hard to describe. Maybe we have to, at times, even let go of that feeling.

I’m sure each and every person on this planet has given up something to get something else. Better or not, I don’t know. And I bet we start regretting it soon. I guess we do it thinking that it’s all a part of growing up and being mature. But what really is being mature?

This question mark will always remain in my mind; can you actually ‘unlove’ something that you loved so much? Can you, in any way, compensate for that lost part of yours? I’m searching for an answer too…