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.
My daughter took off a semester of college so that she could pursue her ambition to hike the 2,190 miles of the Appalachian Trail. Due to weather and injury, she wasn’t able to complete the final 280-mile leg of the trail, including the steep and storied Mt. Katahdin. I’m concerned that having come so close, she’ll feel disappointed and will struggle to re-engage with hiking as well as with her studies.
I would not worry too much about her motivation. It is true that repeated failure can wear people down and lead to learned helplessness and depression. But occasional failure can actually have a positive effect. In fact, coming really close to a goal—but falling just short—can increase overall motivation, even for unrelated tasks.
In one study, researchers had people play games where they won (found 8 out of 8 diamonds in a puzzle), clearly lost (found only one diamond) or nearly won (found 7 out of 8 diamonds). After the game, those who almost won outperformed the other two groups on unrelated tasks, such as card-sorting.
The idea of your daughter’s returning to school and hiking after her impressive yet unsuccessful endeavor might seem daunting to you, but it is possible that this experience will only improve her engagement with her studies and the outdoors.
I’m considering becoming either vegetarian or a vegan and haven’t yet decided which one. I’m sure it will be easier to eat as a vegetarian, as well as simpler to go out for dinner with friends. But I think a vegan diet is morally preferable, healthier and more sustainable for the planet. Any advice?
You are weighing a great many considerations, including convenience, morality, health and the environment. I have some idea how I’d rank these concerns, but I don’t know enough about you to tell you how to rank them for yourself. I can, however, add one more factor: the social element.
You mentioned the ease of going out with friends for dinner, with regard to how hard it might be to find appropriate foods in restaurants. But you should also consider how much fun you’ll be for others when you go out. Why? Research that we carried out at my lab at Duke showed that people perceive vegans, particularly in settings where they get to express their food preferences, as judgmental and morally superior. As a consequence they tend not to like them as much as non-vegans.
From that perspective I would recommend that you go with vegetarian. And if you do decide to go vegan, make sure that you tell the people around you that you’re doing it for health reasons, as this will diffuse the potential air of moral superiority and help with your social relationships.
See the original article in the Wall Street Journal here.