Ask Ariely: On Limiting Loneliness and Fundraiser Formulations
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.
I just won a free group session at an outdoor laser tag arena. The package is for 10 people, but I don’t have that many close friends. It got me thinking: Do other people have that many close friends? Is there an optimal number of friends to have?
Friendships are important for our health and well-being. Their absence—loneliness—not only makes us sad but harms us physically, about as much as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Research suggests that having even one close friend can alleviate the negative effects of loneliness on health and well-being. But the ideal number of close friends is apparently somewhere between three and six. Beyond that inner circle, we also have casual friendships, and a wealth of these further increases our feelings of life satisfaction.
If you are looking to fill your laser tag party, you could ask each of your close friends to invite another close friend of their own. Not only will the game be more fun with a larger group of people, but you might also learn something new about your friends from their friends. You also might expand your circle: Since you like your close friends a lot, there is a chance that you will like their friends, too.
Of course, this being laser tag, you could try a more competitive approach. Invite 4 good friends and 5 people you don’t like so much, then pit the two groups against each other in laser tag. You probably won’t make new friends this way, but fighting together will draw your circle of close friends even closer.
I’m just starting to organize the 10th annual fundraising gala for the charity I work for. This is a special event where I hope to raise more money than ever before. How do you recommend I make this year’s gala extraordinary?
It is impressive that your organization has held this gala every year for 10 years, and it might be tempting to emphasize the fact. But be careful to do so in a way that stresses what is special about this year’s event—not what is recurring.
Research shows that people are more generous with their charitable giving when they believe they are doing something out of the ordinary—“just this once,” as you would tell yourself in making an exception from your diet or budget—as opposed to something routine. In one experiment involving online banner ads, more people clicked on an ad asking for support for a charity walk held “once a year” than for one held “every year.” Obviously, both formulations imply the same frequency, but “once a year” makes the event seem special, while “every year” stresses that it repeats.
To signal that your event is extraordinary, you could use the language of the experiment and advertise the gala as happening only once a year. Alternatively, you could promote this year’s gala as a once-in-a-decade event celebrating a special anniversary.
See the original article in the Wall Street Journal here.