Ask Ariely: On Economic Drinking Games, Regulating Relationships, and Wedding Ring Woes

September 14, 2013 BY danariely

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,

I’m turning 30 in December, and I want to have a “nontraditional” celebration. I’m thinking about re-creating some economics experiments at my party.

Here’s the plan: Lots of alcohol and yummy appetizers at a fancy place here in Dallas. Computers scattered across the room with small apps, each running a different experiment. After all, how many parties do you go to where you get to have fun, have too much to drink and learn something about economics? Any advice?


I really love your idea—and here is a suggestion for an experiment relating to dishonesty. Give each of your guests a quarter and ask them to predict whether it will land heads or tails, but they should keep that prediction to themselves. Also tell them that a correct forecast gets them a drink, while a wrong one gets them nothing.

Then ask each guest to toss the coin and tell you if their guess was right. If more than half of your guests “predicted correctly,” you’ll know that as a group they are less than honest. For each 1% of “correct predictions” above 50% you can tell that 2% more of the guests are dishonest. (If you get 70% you will know that 40% are dishonest.) Also, observe if the amount of dishonesty increases with more drinking. Mazel tov, and let me know how it turns out!


Dear Dan,

My daughter started dating a lazy, dumb guy. How can we tell her gently that he is wrong for her without preaching to her, causing her to ignore us or go against our advice?

—Concerned Mother

It seems that you are experiencing the same reaction most mothers around the world have toward their daughters’ boyfriends. Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that you are, in fact, correct, and that your daughter’s new boyfriend really is dumb, lazy and up to no good. Nevertheless, don’t tell your daughter your opinion and instead ask her questions. Naturally, people tend not to ask themselves certain questions. But if someone else asks them, these questions get planted in their minds, and it is hard to keep from thinking about them. So thoughtful questions can make people think differently about what they want and how they view the world around them.

For example, you can ask, “How do you and your boyfriend get along? Do you ever fight? What do you love about him? What do you like less about him?” I admit it’s a bit manipulative, but I hope it will get her to think about her relationship in more depth. And maybe she will reach the same conclusions you have.


Dear Dan,

My wife-to-be really wants to get a two-carat ring, but I’d rather get a smaller ring and spend the rest of the money for future expenses—house, wedding, etc.

Her view is that most of her friends have big rings, plus she’s been dreaming about this for a long time. What do you think about this irrational behavior? Any advice?


First, there is a difference between irrational and difficult to understand, and for sure it is irrational to call your future wife irrational in public. If you get her a ring, realize that comparison to her friends is part of the game you are buying into and try to get her a ring that will make her happy with this comparison.

At the same time, what if you could switch to a different jewelry category—maybe a wedding necklace or bracelet? In this case comparison will not be as clear, and you could probably get away with spending much less.

Finally, has it occurred to you that she may want this so much because you are so against it?

See the original article in the Wall Street Journal here.