I haven’t read Ariely’s latest book yet, The Upside of Rationality, but the Boing Boing folks seem to have summed up the best part. Ariely was on All Things Considered earlier this month.
Here’s where our intuitive response is really wrong: we have a tendency to indulge our pleasures without respite, and to take frequent breaks from those things that make us miserable. This is exactly backwards. If you want to maximize your pleasure — a great dessert, the delight of furnishing your first real apartment after graduation, a wonderful new relationship — you should trickle it into your life, with frequent breaks for your adaptive response to diminish. If you want to minimize your pain — an unpleasant chore, an awful trip — you should continue straight through without a break, because every time you stop, your adaptive response resets and you experience the discomfort anew.
I’m going to experiment with this for the next week and see what happens. Update coming soon.
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