Normally, people do not enjoy being forced to do something. People also do not enjoy the guilt that comes with doing something that is bad for them. Surprisingly, these two wrongs seem to make a right: when people are compelled to engage in vices, they feel better than when they freely choose the vice for themselves. According to a new paper in the Journal of Consumer Research, persuading a friend to share a dessert removes the burden of choice from them, reducing their feelings of guilt and making them less conflicted about the decision.
Vices—junk food, movie marathons, celebrity gossip news, procrastination—have adverse consequences. Choosing them is ‘bad’ and results in guilt that we don’t get from virtuous activities such as exercise, working on a passion project, or reading high-quality media. “It has long been believed that yielding to vices…is bad,” write the researchers. “While not disagreeing with this picture, the current research presents the observation that a negative view of vices does not quite tell the full story.”
The researchers suggest that the guilt of choosing vices weighs us down, reducing our sense of ‘subjective vitality.’ Vitality, a term used to describe the feeling of being energized, has been linked to mental and physical wellbeing, improved task performance, tenacity, and self-control. It is not quite the same thing as happiness, which is a related but conceptually different experience.
I wrote about how we naturally turn to our friends when we have something big to tell them like you’re starting a company and they cheer you on, yet:
Only, there is also this unconscious part of them that says you’re not the one… who starts a new business, you’re not the sort to do anything they haven’t already seen you do.
Consequently, unless they are very unusual people – and you hang on to them if they are – you will forever find them holding you back. Their concerns for your wellbeing coupled to this locked perception of what you are and what you do means your friends will invariably hold you back.
If you can’t rely on your friends, who can you rely on? Sorry, did you really just say ‘family’? You might’ve said experts until you read this morning’s story. But there are other reasons to distrust experts. So, no friends, no family, no experts. You would think this piece would be a depressing read but I took some heart from writing it and I’ve had a lot of people tell me they found it encouraging.
Probably because it also includes the answer. You’ve got to look now, haven’t you? I hope you like it: that Self Distract piece meant much more to me than I realised before I wrote it. The act of writing it to you formed it better in my head, made me think more coherently. So ta for that.
I’ve often thought about this: experts say this or that can’t ever happen and then it does. Or they say it must but it doesn’t. I’ve just concluded that there is always another fact or another element that you don’t know or don’t see the significance of until it’s happened.
It has scared me a bit, actually. You know that Titanic wasn’t strictly speaking called unsinkable but few people seem to know why the term ever came up. It was to do with a new system of watertight bulkheads that meant if one was holed, it couldn’t flood the others. But these holds were open at the top. Nothing could flood enough to go over the top, of course.
So I spend some time, distressingly regularly, wondering what gaping hole I’m not seeing, what questions I’m not asking:
There will always be a wealth of experts arguing a number of sides to any given issue and most will be proved wrong. Yet we still seek them out because whenever there is uncertainty, we listen to anyone who professes to know more than we do. By looking for easy answers, we’re just asking for trouble.