Ask Ariely: On Indulgent Illusions and Resumé Revisions

September 11, 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,

My husband and I just bought a house, and we are considering renovating it to make it our dream home. We discussed our plans with a contractor, who mentioned that some of the renovations weren’t good for resale. Given how long we plan to live there, should this really be a consideration for us?


Before even thinking about the preferences of a future buyer, consider the possibility that your own preferences and lifestyle could (and likely will) change over time. The features of your dream house today might end up becoming your worst nightmare in the future (just ask people with outdoor pools).

People underestimate how much they will change in the future. We tend to think that right now, at this present moment, we have become the person we will be for the rest of our lives. This phenomenon is referred to as the “end of history illusion” and was demonstrated in a survey asking more than 19,000 people ages 18 to 68 how much their personalities and preferences for things like music and travel had changed in the past decade, and how much change they predicted for the next decade. People of all ages said that they had changed a lot over the last ten years, but that they didn’t expect to change much moving forward.

This illusion can lead people to overpay for future indulgences based on current preferences. In one example, people were not willing to pay much to see a band that they liked a lot 10 years ago, but they were willing to pay a lot to see the band that they like right now in 10 years.

Perhaps you and your husband should consider making this house your dream home over time, as your dreams change: Start with a few small projects instead of a complete remodel, and leave ample room to adjust for your evolving preferences and tastes.


Dear Dan,

I have been a stay-at-home mom for the past two years. Now that schools have reopened, I would like to go back to work again. How do I best address this employment gap on my resume?


Whether consciously or not, prospective employers often look negatively on applicants with gaps in their employment histories. Scientists in the UK set out to explore whether changes to resume layout could reduce this bias. They sent out resumes and cover letters responding to more than 9,000 real job vacancies, both high- and low-skilled. The cover letters were all the same, but the resumes varied slightly. Some showed an unexplained 2.5-year gap since the last job. Others explained that the 2.5-year gap was for child-care purposes. A third set simply adopted a less traditional layout, replacing the dates of employment with the number of years of experience.

There was no difference in the number of call-backs for resumes that explained the gap versus those that did not. However, removing dates and presenting previous employment in terms of years of experience increased call-backs by 15%. Formatting your resume in a way that highlights your years of experience seems to be the way to go.

See the original article in the Wall Street Journal.