« Freakonomics Radio

279. Why Is My Life So Hard?

2017-03-16 | 🔗
Most of us feel we face more headwinds and obstacles than everyone else — which breeds resentment. We also undervalue the tailwinds that help us — which leaves us ungrateful and unhappy. How can we avoid this trap?
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Basically what we are trying to answer is why do people think that life is so hard for them, We wanted to try to get and on how or why it so easy for people to feel put upon to feel resent falls to feel that life is made things harder for them than it has for other people. That's Tom Gill, of which I am a professor of psychology. It Cornell University and I've study how people make judgments and decisions in every day and professional lives and shy David, I or in Hebrew, show that we die and Emma an assistant, professor of so called you at the new school for Social Research, Gill, which, in David I recently published a paper called the headwinds tail, wins a symmetry. In addition to being a clever piece of experimental research, it has the amazing capacity to make you feel both much better about your life,
much worse. In a nutshell, that is the paper. It explains why you think your parents, you're, tougher on you when you're siblings. So my elders, Mr. She had all the freedom because he was older. She got to go out and do things, but I got punished. It explain why rooting for years sports team can be so painful? There is a tendency to feel like the team. You favour has a harder time than ever. Teams explains why Democrats are convinced the deck is stacked against them and Why republicans are convinced of the same thing. They really are and most important it explain. Most of us aren't nearly as grateful as we oughta be. How did I get even to be alive? I've had it I get to be alive and a world that has the beauty that it does so on today, economics, radio, how we build resentments, how those resentments can
hurdle our well being and how we would all benefit from feeling some more gratitude. Ok I'll, try it today. I am grateful for that song. You know the sombre- goes like this from W and why see studios this is freakin comics radio, the pod cast at explores the hidden side of everything. Here's your house, Stephen Dogma. So what are you grateful for today? I am grateful for Tom Shy David. I and I'm not joking. I know I had the best graduate school adviser, mentor and friend in time, and the fact that we kids sit there for hours and just talk about our ideas and then go and see if those These are real, run experiments and
then you know even talk about a result. That was just an amazing experience for what it's worth the feelings mutual shies. Just terrific I am convinced, is gonna have a great career David. I thirty three years old got his phd in psychology just a couple years ago. If you were going to pick a mentor in the field, you can't do much better than Tom Golovin there, too kind many of the topic We have discussed on this programme over the years, especially those relating to behavioral economics, owe a debt to giving is research at of two red off just quick list of phenomena that you're known for studying in some cases pioneering- and maybe have you just give a very brief to script- of what the thing is and what it means so um number one the spotlight affect you have a spotlight effect refers. I feel a most of us can relate to hide the feeling that, when we're doing something that other
people are really attending to what we're doing that. Their social spotlight is on us and it turns out that other be. Pain, much less attention to us than we think, a hot hand, notion or maybe the hot hand, fallacy. Well. Everyone has ever played the game of basketball. Just Oh, she get this field where the game seems to slow down it becomes easier. I don't even have to aim that carefully. The balls just going to go in it's one of the most compelling feelings that you can have an attack, tat a you, statistically analyze people's shots, whether its professional games, college, basketball, I shooting in a jam. Although the feeling exists, when you make several shot an arrow, you will feel hot. That feeling, very surprisingly, doesn't predict
How are you going to do in the next shot through the next several shots? The distribution of hits and Missis in the game of basketball, looks just like the distribution heads entails when you're flipping a coin, although of course not every player shirts, exactly fifty percent. Very few of them do talk for just a minute about the work in happiness or hedonistic studies, yeah almost That is so many psychologists who study judgment decision making have an interest in well being or happiness as well, because after all, we we try to make sound judgments and decisions to advanced our physical and psychological. Well being so that the question just ask
self I'll get a job? Do we do of that? And how can we advance our well being more and in my particular case, that has involved study in such emotions? As regret decision is gone awry gratitude, neither on the part of decisions that have worked out well or just events that have happened to a person that you feel grateful for great briefly describe your research into bias blind spot here. The biased blind spot is refers to the fact that everybody knows that people are biased, but it's much easier to see the bias in other people than in ones and in one last one and this one it strikes me please into today's come station about headwinds entail wins self handicapping described that for me briefly, yet self handicapping is familiar idea
equally. If we go back to the world of sport, swear before a contest, people claim a certain obstacle in their favorite teams, path, that maybe we'll, but we ve got a key player out and that setting everyone up for an explanation if you should lose Students often do this to they might study as hard as they can and pretend that they haven't studied surf. They bomb the exam people, don't think they're challenged and if they should succeed, all the better to more glorious victory. If you overcome an obstacle, so people will put these the calls in their path to manage other peoples and their own attributions. Her explanation for why they succeeded or failed
Why people succeed and fail an important topic plainly, but a complicated one. Specially for academic psychologists, like deliberation David, I it's a huge, each question, a messy question, but the ton of variables hard to measure, but people's attributions were explanations for why they succeeded or failed that they could explore. We wanted to try to get a handle on how or why it so easy for people to feel put upon to feel resent falls to feel that life is made things harder for them, that it has for other people and, at the same time, tried Stan. Why might be hard for people to be as grateful as perhaps we should which gets us to their paper? The headwinds tell wins a summit.
The idea should be familiar to anyone who cycles are runs for exercise, sometimes you're running. Recycling into the wind and it's not pleasant, aware of it the whole time. It's retarding your progress and you can't wait until the course changes so that you get the wind that your back and when that happens, you're grateful for about a minute and very quickly. You no longer notice the wind here, your back, that's helping pursue along and what's true when it comes to running recycling, is true of life. Generally, you, argue that gratitude has been shown to be good for us. What's the evidence for a lot
people have done work on gratitude over the last twenty years, where they'll do things like? Have people keep a gratitude diary where every day or every week you write down what you have to be grateful for most people do it at the evening before we go to see, and you do that for a few days in a row in, and you just see that people are happier were more satisfied, refer lives or you have assignments to write a letter to a person every week expressing gratitude for something they ve done for you and giving it someone face to face, and not just emailing them, but actually sitting there having them, read it and then having precision about it said when people do that they sleep better, they go to the doktor less often they are also show less depressive symptoms, so they're all sorts of direct benefits to the grateful person just amazing how many positive correlate. There are two gratitude, but when you ask people what their grateful
or when you ask people. What are you grateful for the prototypical answer, my parents, my family, my friends, my loved ones. What we're missing is all these invisible are these invincibles are there so many? The fact that I had pretend it is for education. How did I get even to be alive? The fact where we can sit here and talk right? No one is monitoring what we're talking about. That is something not everyone have. That is something that we should feel grateful for a comedian, Louis decay. As a brilliant bit on this scale. Everything is amazing and no one cares. Child mortality is declined dramatically in the past two hundred years and he talks about example, after example of some new technology comes in here. All excited Then ten minutes later, it's not a luxury. It's a necessity,
I was on an airplane and there was internet high, speed internet on the airplane. That Louis thing that I know exists and I'm sitting on the plane. They open up your laptop. You can go on the internet its fast and I'm watching you two clips, it's an eminent airplane and that it breaks down and they apologize the internet working in the annex both like how quickly the world owes him something he knew existed only ten seconds ago. Second Just referred to this as the hedonic treadmill run really hard to get something? The thing that you get that your for feels good when you ve got it, but then you adapt to it and you have to run ever faster to get more and more. But here's a question: if gratitude,
positive emotion? It's just amazing how many positive correlate ver to gratitude, then you'd think we'd all be chasing after a hard all the time. So why aren't we give its and David, I suspect, has to do with what psychologists called the availability bias me. We tend to overweight the experiences that are readily available in our memories, which television David, I argue, are more likely to be headwinds than talons. We have to pay attention to the barriers and. Front of us, because we have to get over them or get through them in some way we have to overcome them. We don't have to pay attention to those things that are boosting us a lot. We can just be boosted a lot, that fundamental asymmetry and attention is the headwinds tell whence a cemetery, meaning that it's easier to summon emotions that are the opposite of gratitude. In fact, did the enemies of gratitude, then one of them is
habituation or adaptation that we think if some good fortune befell us, be happy we'd, be grateful, we'd be happy forever. We wouldn't sweat the small stuff anymore and that's true for awhile, but then we adapt to it and all of a sudden were sweating, the small stuff again but that's hardly the only enemy of gratitude, the big ones are agreed and envy. Ok, first greed inherent in greed is the idea that this is not enough. It's not a means then having is the the end when you experience greed and when you are just focusing on this, simulation, it's hard for you to take of what you already have and envy, which is wind. All your focused on is whatever people. Of especially when its malicious and not benign enemy. When you're really focusing on you, I don't want him to have that fading deserve this
unfair, when you experience dad it's hard to stop and feel grateful sets a theory, at least once Tom of which an David I identified it all do was find evidence that it's actually true, you know if this headwinds telling the symmetry. Is a real psychological phenomena. We should find it in very different contexts and domains coming up on economic valium pints of headwinds in family matters, sports and politics, and how feeling the headwinds might persuade you that your country, is in shape that it is and that you need a new leader who really shake things up, a willingness to do that, I think, is failing who appreciate all the things that make our lives real, the envy of the rest of the world
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is out now listen on stitches, apple podcast. Wherever you get your pack ass, the academic psychologists Tom which an shy David. I want to know whether people put more emphasis on the headwinds they face, the barriers and obstacles and difficulties, then their tail wind, slake, a free society in good health and so on. This meant trying to measure people's perception of headwinds, entail winds in a variety of domains, so we did studies to see how it affects siblings, views use of whether they had it harder. Their brother or sister easier. Whether Republicans and Democrats think that this straight
in staying known as the electoral college favours their side are hurts their side. Whether sports fans think that the schedule is fair and then my favorite example comes from my own field of academia in psychology. If you talk to graduate students, indifferent sub disciplines its sub discipline will think the other ones have it easier than they do developmental psychologists will I say: may I wish I was a social psychology person. I wouldn't much easier to run college students than it is to run a baby? But then you talk to the so psychologist, the developmental us have it so easy they may have a sample size is like sick. The aid we now have to run a hundred in each condition and every area grew by mounds its own difficult fate? Ok, we'll start with the siblings study. The one thing that we kept coming back to is this idea that siblings always feel like
the other one had it easier for this study David I and give it recruited, people who had only one sibling, no twins aloud, and we asked them to back to when they were younger, both living at the same house? Think about how over parents treated them verses were brother or sister, who got more praise, who got more encouraged to do things who had more freedom to go out and party and in contrast who got punished more, who got lectured more and what we found? Was it siblings spot the everyone had it easier and that they had it harder, in other words, headwinds for everybody. Another study looked at how self identified Democrats in republic. And think their party makes out in terms of raising campaign money and getting Congress to cooperate and when
the electoral College, as with the siblings people on either side of the political while fell, the other side had all the advantages. Would the same effect hold true among sports fans. So what we did is we ve been unread it on the NFL Sub section of red, it's right after the two thousand fourteen schedule was published when we just wanted to see how people are reacting. Specifically, they want to see how fans perceived there, Teams upcoming schedule do I tend to think that my team had it easier or harder. The headwinds tail when's asymmetry predicts that what would jump out there age of the schedule. When you look at her all the hard game pure team has to play, and what we found was the most of the commons war about how difficult it is for me finally giving an David. I looked at some of their academic brethren to see if they too, primarily feel the headwinds they looked at accounting
factors make and, like many disciplines, be divided into experimental and non experimental accountant. What's an experimental accountant, what they do is studied the human aspect and the human behaviour of accounting. So things like getting things like when do people lie, and when can we detect lying stuff like that David. I surveyed roughly a hundred experimental and not experimental accountants, and we asked each of them. How we easy is it for experimental and non experimental accountants to get their papers published, to get grants to get tenure and so on and each of them. That it was easier for the other group, then it was for them to have these good things happen, but to this study we added a twist after having them get themselves in touch with their headwinds more than their tail wins
We then asked them about a variety of what you might call questionable research this is: is it ok to take money from a questionable source if the research itself is ok? Is it ok to publish the same paper twice in two very different journals. Can you put your name on a paper as co author? If you really didn't do anything when we wanted to see, is, does seeing your field and yourself, as this advance, Does that give you more moral flexibility? Does that Oh well, you in your own mind too, may be cut some cornered, and what you find is that, if people of just thought about who has it harder or easier or other people in their discipline. They are more accepting of these questionable research practices. So when you feel like now, the deck is stacked against me. It appears that people
wanna make up for that and their willing the kind of bend the rules to do that, and obviously that has a lot of implications for for real life. It encourages feeling resentful, an unappreciative and that's a psychological state. Where were not at our best, I'm curious how the idea of headwinds entailing please into the conversation these days about privilege of verses discrimination or lack of opportunity. So there's a lot of come station, about weight, and or male privilege. Perhaps that's an example of tail, winds and are properly appreciated. And on the other side, some claims of discrimination or lack of opportunity, perhaps being an example of of headwinds being exaggerated. I'm curious what your thoughts on that yeah think the
What we ve shown in the lab is directly applicable to some of the discussions going on in the country right now. There's this term that that there's a war on white males these days, white, christian men and channel through their headwinds tale a cemetery? You could see why that group would think that, that is to say the influence they ve had has decreased and, of course, that's the focus of their attention. That decrease at the same time, if you look at it from the outside, what you see is an enormous advantage that has existed for hundreds of years being reduced just a little bit and from outside prospect If it doesn't look like at all, like a war, looks like I just a little
little bit of rebalancing and we even need to rebalance some are what about on the flip side? What about, if I feel, aggrieved defined, feel I am facing way more headwinds. Then the other people around me whether in the labour market, sir De Meer or whatever? Do you see that misperception being sick, Nick barrier to progress for me again individually or society. I do because it feeds resentment, which does it make us our best cells that prevents us from again most rationally and act in most productively community is going to think that the other one has at ease
here than they do when, in fact, they don't that's the misperception and if they think that the other group has it easier, that's tempting. First of all, it's gonna make them less likely. They want to do good things for people and the other community and it might even incurred. Them to do some questionable things too in their minds, even though the late is already even it's that misperception that were particularly interests Let me ask you a related question what do you know where? What does the field know about the characteristics of people who don't overweight headwinds? Ah, that's great I share, that something the child and I are working on right now and it's that we're never aware of our tail winds and they just don't care are. We are less aware of them than our headwinds, and so we vast people. We explain
they had wins, tail wins a cemetery. We asked them. What are some of them had when you suffered from and tail when Jude benefited from, and we get some noticeable differences? That is, the headwinds are quite a mix of animal things other people who are getting in my way and inanimate things, bureaucracies procedures, structural things. But when you look at the tail when People are aware of they tend to cite way disproportionately the intervention of other people when other people do things for us. It is charming result in a way, that that registers and were grateful. If you tell people how lucky they are, then alike like day guard against it. There lay way. What are you you're a she's, my achievements, but if you ask people, how has luck played a role in your life, people can get in touch with
their tail Windsor how lucky they are, so it really suggests and ask dont tell policy when it comes to you their luck. The killer type of tail and are all the other tail wind. Sue time. Let me ask you let's say I've heard you discussing this I find you an incredibly, we know even handed and credible assessor of these phenomena and then Believe you, I believe, your research. What can I do to oppression, then. The reality of my tail wins enter overweight, not get resentful and therefore counterproductive? As result of my headwinds right, scientists are
fond of saying, and I do believe it that you know knowledge such you free just knowing about this will be helpful. So I want to put that out first and foremost, but the more specific version of the knowledge tends to be most helpful. You ve had a guess on before that have talked about the confirmation by us about powerful sources of distortion. In our judgment, when were testing, trying to evaluate something? We look for evidence that its true, because, after all, if it were true, there should be evidence for it. So we look more varies very sensible thing to do, but we also have to look for evidence against and so the jet
recommendation. There is our. I don't fall prey to. The confirmation by us tried to consider the opposite is the way that psychologists put it. That's the evidence for this. What's the evidence against it and that's good advice, but it's a little general who would be nice to make it more concrete and so psychologists have developed some more concrete recommendations. What is to really like this, one is to do what called a pre Mord up. That is to say, if you believe that a certain policy is the right one, you ten do over Recruit evidence in favour of that belief. You try the policy rather than telling people consider the opposite? You say: ok, I imagine that you tried the policy and after a year at crashed and burned and you'd be doing a post mortem figure out. What went wrong
That is an advance. Do that right now. Imagine it worked out badly and then explained it to yourself. That is a more specific recommendation that I think people can really sink their teeth into or have a Devils advocate to argue against you that specific, that's doable, and so it's more helpful, and so with respect to the headwinds tail wins a cemetery I think of it in part, as a slightly more specific version of what the gratitude researchers have been asking people to do, which is right down or think about all that you have to be grateful for that's good advice, but it can be hard to do are least hard to do.
Consistently if you start to read out a gas in doing that ash yourself, a slightly different question, which is what are my tail when not, but I have to grow grateful for about one of the ways in which I am booster, along the invisible things that make my life easier. Let me focus on those indifferent things might come up, as it is written me, the road rise up to meet you made. The wind always be accurate back which I guess we should add. And may you appreciate the wind when it's at your back and when it's not deal with it, a little less resentfully thanks to tie. Geller of Cornell and Shy David, I of the new school for social research for teaching us, but the headwinds A a symmetry today pregnant with radio is produced by w and my c studios and W productions. This episode is produced by Christopher Worth our stay. Also includes Shelly Louis merit. Jacob Reg results key Stephanie.
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Transcript generated on 2020-04-03.