Q1: Market vs. Social Norms
Think about the ways in which Ariely’s discussion of social norms and market norms applies to your day-to-day life. Describe an example of a relationship that you share with someone that is governed by social norms, and describe one that is governed by market norms. How do the two compare? That is, how do you behave in each relationship, and how does the other person behave toward you? Try to describe how each relationship makes you feel, in terms of your connection to the other person. How would each relationship change if you were to switch from one set of norms to the other, trying to apply social norms to the market-norms relationship and market norms to the social-norms relationship?
Q2: Your Dr. Jekyll vs. Mr. Hyde
Without getting too cynical or sinister, think about Ariely’s conclusion that we all have within us both a ‘Dr. Jekyll’ and a ‘Mr. Hyde’. In your experience with the various types of passion (whether through your own passionate states or those of the people you know), would you agree that we are generally susceptible to wild swings from being mild-mannered and sober-minded to being uninhibited and even morally irresponsible? (Try not to be self-incriminating, or too graphic, if you feel the need to share any account of your ‘wild side’.) Can you imagine that you might not even know what your thoughts and inclinations might be when you are in a passionate state, or do you think that you know yourself – both sides of yourself – better than that? Would you characterize either state as ‘the real you’? If so, which? And why? Or do Ariely’s findings make you wonder whether any of us is, at bottom, either a ‘Dr. Jekyll’ or a ‘Mr. Hyde’, or whether we are inseparably both?
Q3: Procrastination and You
How might Ariely’s insights into procrastination help you to achieve your long-term goals? Think of two long-term goals that you haven’t yet
met but might have met by now had you done something differently. What are these goals, and why are they important to you? What has so far gotten in the way of achieving them? What might you do to break this cycle of procrastination? That is, what kinds of incentives might you give yourself to make real progress toward your goals and finally achieve them?
Q4: Day-to-Day Probability [40 points]
Wheelan’s discussions of probability and its abuses seem to reflect something that Ariely ought to agree with: as much sense as probability makes, and as much as it impacts our lives each day, we don’t seem to think in terms of probability as much as we ought to in order to be rational, and when we do we’re not all that good at it. Take, for example, the Monty Hall problem: why didn’t everybody on Let’s Make a Deal switch doors? And when five coin flips in a row give us tails, why do we suddenly forget that the probability of heads on the next flip is still 0.5? For the next couple of days, try to identify the situations in your life in which you (or someone around you) would do well to consider the probability of some event or another (other than the classic cases of card games, dice-rolling, coin-flips, and the oh-so-common choice between three doors). Keep a log of these situations, and once you have done so think about how your consideration of probability might have affected your decision-making in two or three of these situations. Would you have acted differently? Would it have made much of a difference in outcome? Do you think that you could condition yourself to better appreciate probability on the spot – at least in this situation, now that you’ve thought about it – or do you think that there’s just something about our brains that causes us to sometimes overlook probability at the risk of being irrational? If the latter, what could this be?