Ask Ariely: On Forgotten Foods and Digital Disagreements

November 6, 2021 BY Dan Ariely

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,

With young children and two working parents, there is never a dull moment in our house. Unfortunately, our busy life and unpredictable schedules often make me forget what food is in the fridge, leaving me no choice but to throw away things that have expired or gone bad. Do you have any recommendations for how we can curb our food waste?


The bad news is that a busy lifestyle—and a lack of inspiration for dealing with seemingly random ingredients—can get in the way of our best intentions never to throw out perfectly good food. The good news is that picking just one day a week to create a meal using ingredients already in your kitchen can significantly reduce the amount of waste.

Researchers in Canada used ingenious idea they called a “Use-Up Day.’’ in one of their studies they undertook with a consumer goods company in 2020. Over the course of five weeks, all participating households received tips on food management and were asked to complete a weekly survey about the amount of food wasted. A randomly selected subgroup of households was asked to commit to one “Use-Up Day” each week on which they used leftover ingredients from their fridge and pantry to cook a meal. The participants who took part in the “Use-Up Day” not only reduced their food waste by a third, they also reported saving money.

So maybe instead of fighting food waste just a little bit every day, pick one day a week and, on that day, focus on using what you have.


Dear Dan,

I’ve gotten used to the amount of communication that occurs via text nowadays and even sometimes prefer it. However, when it comes to resolving relationship conflicts, having a face-to-face conversation still feels like the right approach to me. Would you agree with my intuition that people can better resolve their issues by putting down their devices and having an in-person chat?


Having a face-to-face conversation feels like it would be the best way to resolve conflict. Intuitions, however, can misguide us, which is one reason it’s important to test our assumptions about human behavior.

In 2020, researchers explored the question of whether face-to-face or text-based communication was more effective for resolving conflict in romantic relationships. Couples came into a lab and were given the opportunity to talk about issues they had reported arguing about. Some of the couples talked about their disagreements in person, while other couples were put in separate rooms where they were only able to text each other. Once the concerns felt partially resolved, researchers asked the participants if they felt understood by their partners, how well their issues were dealt with and how distressed or angry they felt during the discussion.

Overall, there were no differences in these measures between couples in the two groups! Both modes of communication were equally effective (or ineffective). So if your way of resolving arguments isn’t working for you, you might want to look into the possible reasons for that—maybe it’s your style of communication, for example, or your relative willingness to take responsibility. But don’t be too quick to blame the method of communication.

See the original article in the Wall Street Journal.