Ask Ariely: On Interrupting the Internet, Involving Ideologies, and Admiring Air Travel

Here’s my Q&A column from the WSJ this week  and if you have any questions for me, you can tweet them to @danariely with the hashtag #askariely, post a comment on my Ask Ariely Facebook page, or email them to AskAriely@wsj.com.

___________________________________________________

Dear Dan,

We try to set boundaries on phone and computer use by our teenagers, who are supposed to stop using their devices by 9 p.m. But my husband stays on his phone long after that, researching vacations or kitchen appliances—which, to my mind, is a clear double standard. Am I right?

—Tina 

I’m with you: Setting a bad personal example isn’t a great way to encourage good behavior in your teens. I would pressure your husband to be a better role model.

Or you could just turn off the Wi-Fi router after 9 p.m., which would guarantee that nobody could go online. It is hard to resist temptation when giving in is so easy—in this case, when the internet is just a click away. By creating roadblocks, even small ones like turning a router back on, we can create a natural pause for reflection that should encourage better decisions.

The only downside is that, with all the free time your husband will now have, he might want to spend it with you. Are you ready for this?

___________________________________________________

Dear Dan,

How can some people see global warming as a huge crisis facing humanity while others dismiss it as a big red herring? Why do Republicans and Democrats reach such different conclusions reading the same data? Can ideologies really lead to such strong biases in the way that we look at the world?

—Rachel 

Ideology can easily color our views, even on scientific data. In much the same way that Israelis and Palestinians can see the same clash and place the blame entirely differently, so too can political ideology taint almost everything we experience. And, of course, people with different ideologies don’t read the same information: We largely pick the information outlets that support our initial beliefs, making it even easier to become convinced that we are correct.

This sort of biased interpretation of data isn’t the end of it, though. As Troy Campbell and Aaron Kay showed in a 2014 paper in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, “an aversion to the solutions associated with the problem” can color our view of the problem itself.

When the researchers exposed participants to solutions to global warming based on more government regulation, those who supported free-market ideologies were much less likely to acknowledge the hazards of climate change. On the other hand, when the researchers proposed solutions based on less government regulation and more autonomy for private enterprise, these same participants were much more likely to see the dangers of global warming.

That suggests one way forward: Don’t just shove more data in peoples’ faces and ask them why they won’t face up to reality, but work on solutions that align with a wide variety of ideologies.

___________________________________________________

Dear Dan,

I fly a lot for work, and my annoyance with air travel is rising all the time. These days, I get upset the night before a flight just from knowing I have to head for the airport the next day. What can I do to reduce my distaste for flying?

—David 

Learn more about the physics of flying and the complexity of the operational side of managing a large airline. We are quick to take things for granted. We get wondrous new technologies such as Google and quickly stop being impressed; we get clean, running water in our homes and stop being amazed. By reminding yourself every time you get to an airport about the marvels of flight and the difficulty of running a big transportation company, you will focus on the full experience—and enjoy it much more.

See the original article in the Wall Street Journal here.