November 22, 2011
In honor of the upcoming shop-a-thon known as Black Friday, I am linking to last week’s article in Newsweek about how we need to shop. The science behind this impulse is the same that we deal with negotiation in terms of how clients view risk, loss, and gratification. In full disclosure, here’s a picture of my most recent inability to delay gratification.
As the authors write,
Indeed, the choice to spend rather than save reflects a very human—and, some would say, American—quirk: a preference for immediate gratification over future gains. In other words, we get far more joy from buying a new pair of shoes today, or a Caribbean vacation, or an iPhone 4S, than from imagining a comfortable life tomorrow. Throw in an instant-access culture—in which we can get answers on the Internet within seconds, have a coffeepot delivered to our door overnight, and watch movies on demand—and we’re not exactly training the next generation to delay gratification.
“Pleasure now is worth more to us than pleasure later,” says economist William Dickens of Northeastern University. “We much prefer current consumption to future consumption. It may even be wired into us.”
As brain scientists plumb the neurology of an afternoon at the mall, they are discovering measurable differences between the brains of people who save and those who spend with abandon, particularly in areas of the brain that predict consequences, process the sense of reward, spur motivation, and control memory.
The article goes on to explain far more of the science behind our spending habits and how, in the future, we might be able to disable this. In the meantime, I’ll just need to avoid certain shoe stores in NYC!
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