Updates

Ask Ariely: On Cultivating Conversations, Gathering Groups, and Falsifying Facts

July 17, 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.

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Dear Dan,

I’ve been corresponding with someone online, and we’re going to meet “in real life” for coffee. What’s the optimal length of time for this first get together? Should I just wait and see how the conversation goes and take it from there?

—Justin 

Most conversations probably last too long, not just awkward dating ones: In a recent study, most people asked to recall their last conversation reported that they had wanted it to end sooner.

But if you arrange for a meeting with a potential romantic partner to be just 15 minutes, your date will read this as low interest. Conversely, if you block out five hours, you will suggest a different expectation. So what should you do?

Set the meeting for an hour, which is a good amount of time to form an initial impression. If things don’t seem to be going in the right direction, shift your goal. Start working on your conversational skills: See if you can get the person to open up a bit more, to change their mind about something or to tell you a joke. Not all meetings need to be romantic. If you have more time than you need, try to make a different use of it.

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Dear Dan,

My employees have been working remotely for more than a year and will be returning to the office in the fall. Is there anything I can do now to help us start to feel like more of a group again?

—Sabrina 

Organize an in-person dinner with your team before it returns to the office—and order family style. Meals naturally bring people together, and the manner in which they are served can affect cooperation among those at the table. In a 2019 study, students ate salsa and chips in pairs. Some duos were served from one bowl of chips and one bowl of salsa, while others were given separate bowls. Afterward, the students participated in a negotiation exercise. The pairs who had eaten from their own bowls went through thirteen rounds of negotiation, whereas those who had snacked from a shared bowl only went through nine. Working together is a mind set that can carry over from one task to another.

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Dear Dan,

The spread of false and misleading information, whether related to vaccines or politics, seems to be on the rise. Why do people share inaccurate information online?

—Calvin 

Researchers recently asked people what mattered most to them in the content they chose to share on social media. The majority said “accuracy,” and when given a selection of real and fake news headlines, the majority were able to tell fact from fiction. But when the researchers asked a separate group of respondents which of these headlines they would be willing to share online, the misinformation was the clear winner.

So why do people prefer to share misinformation, even when they value accuracy and are able to identify falsehoods? The researchers point to distraction and inattention. When they prompted Twitter users, even subtly, to think about accuracy before sharing content, the quality of the postings improved.
Now we just need to get social media platforms to do something that reminds us of our preference for accuracy before we share.

See the original article in the Wall Street Journal.

Ask Ariely: On Rigorous Renovation, Contagious Corruption, and Precarious Productivity

July 3, 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.

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Dear Dan,

My partner and I decided to do a DIY renovation of our kitchen cabinets. We spent many hours at the store discussing options and reviewing our sketches, then struggled to fit all the boxes into our van. The assembly was arduous, and we were on the brink of giving up on the project. Despite the rocky road, now that our new cabinets are finished, we love them. Why is that?

—Dylan 

The experience you are describing is something that colleagues and I studied in 2011 and dubbed the “IKEA effect.” The basic idea is that after we devote effort to something, we have more positive feelings toward it; we become attached.

This phenomenon is not restricted to the assembly of furniture. Having to add an egg or some milk to instant cake mix, for instance, makes you feel much more accomplished than getting a store-bought cake, despite the minimal involvement. Personal effort matters, even when it is small.

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Dear Dan,

We often hear in the news about politicians being indicted on bribery charges. Does this mean that politicians are dishonest people compared with other professions?

—Michael 

Yes and no. I don’t think that politics attracts dishonest people, but I do think that systems that become corrupt, political or otherwise, can turn their members dishonest. In a number of experiments, my research team at Duke found that decisions to be honest are largely influenced by what we see other people around us doing. Take highway driving: If drivers around you are speeding, you are more likely to join in. In the same way, a person who enters a corrupt political system may quickly adjust to the norms of that workplace.

This means that the more corruption there is, the more likely it is to spread. Even worse in the political sphere is how visible politicians are, which means that as the rest of us see them act in corrupt ways, it may affect our sense of what corruption is permissible in our own lives.

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Dear Dan,

I just got notified by my employer about the option to work at the office, instead of remotely. Given that my work quality was very low while working from home, I thought I would be excited. Instead, I’m considering continuing to work from home. Why am I feeling so tentative about going into the office?

—Edgar 

Performance can have an impact on self-image. When people have doubts about their performance, there’s a tendency to self-handicap. For example, the night before a big test, a student might stay up too late in order to have a handicap—lack of sleep—to later explain their poor performance.

It’s possible that during the past year you have attributed struggles with work to the challenges of working from home, instead of to your own capabilities. Returning to work in person may force you to face an uncomfortable reality. From this perspective, choosing to work from home could be a form of self-handicapping, to maintain the excuse. My advice: Go back to working in person. The social and emotional benefits will quickly outweigh the possible downsides.

See the original article in the Wall Street Journal.

Ask Ariely: On Bicycle Business, Anxiety Acceptance, and Interview Issues

June 22, 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.

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Dear Dan,

My employer has me use an app to track the miles I travel, in order to reimburse me for business transportation. This weekend, the app mistakenly picked up a 15-mile bike ride that I took for pleasure. My bike rides soothe my soul and make me healthier and, in turn, certainly make me a better employee. Should I petition my boss to expense the ride as “business” or just be grateful for the experience?

—Laura 

Leaving aside the ethics of charging your employer for a leisure bike ride, one factor that can take the joy out of a pleasurable activity is payment—especially a small payment. A number of experiments have demonstrated that paying people for activities they do for pleasure can transform those activities into unpleasant chores.

If you get a small financial reward for cycling (transportation reimbursements tend to run less than a dollar per mile) your motivation to cycle is actually likely to suffer. Instead, try to focus on how you can make activities you enjoy even more pleasurable.

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Dear Dan,

I’m supposed to go through a fairly routine surgery, but I have a lot of anxieties over it, and I’ve been delaying. Do you have any tips about how I can get over these anxieties?

—Shuki 

It’s likely that what you’re most dreading isn’t the surgery itself but the elevated anxiety you expect to feel just beforehand. There are strategies you can use to reduce anxiety, including meditation and mindfulness, but there are also effective medications. I recommend that you discuss possible medications with your doctor and ask for an anxiety-reducing prescription for the day of the surgery and an extra dose to experiment with at home.

With this pill in hand, imagine that your surgery is an hour away and notice how much anxiety you have. Then take the pill and keep thinking about the surgery. As the medication kicks in, you will notice your worries fading away. Realize that on the day of the surgery, this pill will have a similar effect, and your anxiety will be less than you suspect. Good luck.

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Dear Dan,

I’m looking for a new job. To make a good impression, before each interview I spend a lot of time learning about the role and the person I’ll be meeting. During the interviews I listen carefully, pay attention to body language and respond thoughtfully. The interviews seem to go well but aren’t resulting in second-round interviews or offers. Is there a way I can improve how I present myself?

—Ray 

People often try to make a good impression by catering to the interests and expectations of their audience, especially when the stakes are high. But a recent series of studies suggests that this approach can backfire.
The researchers looked at a large set of business pitches and found that startups which focused on pleasing potential investors were less successful in getting funded. To understand the causes, researchers randomly assigned people to cater to their audience as part of an interview. Both the interviewees and interviewers reported that this caused more anxiety; the interviewers also noted that the interviewees seemed inauthentic.

Given those findings, maybe take a different approach for a few interviews and see if that gets you to be more relaxed and more yourself—and produces better results.

See the original article in the Wall Street Journal here.

Ask Ariely: On Reframing Reactions, Limiting Litter, and Doubling Down

May 29, 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.

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Dear Dan,

Before giving any talk or presentation, I get incredibly stressed out. My heart starts pounding, I sweat, and I breathe much faster. Unfortunately giving talks and presentations on a regular basis is a big part of my job. What can I do?

—Kelsey 

Changing how we think about stress can, by itself, make us less stressed and healthier. How? Instead of interpreting those physical changes—sweat, pounding heart, heavy breathing—as signs that you’re not coping well with the pressure, try to see them as signs that your body is energized for the task. Interpret your pounding heart as preparing you for action and your breathing as ensuring that more oxygen is getting to your brain.

This strategy is known as cognitive reappraisal. Studies have shown that viewing stress in this way makes people less anxious and more confident. As a bonus, it brings about a healthier cardiovascular profile. How we think about stress affects both our behavior and our health.

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Dear Dan,

Our neighborhood park has seen a surge in litter and trash. As chair of our neighborhood association, I was thinking of putting up signs, informing people about this issue and reminding them to please use the trash cans. Can you think of any other strategy that might help us combat the issue of excessive litter and trash?

—Marcus 

Informing park visitors about how many people litter may actually result in people littering even more. That is because highlighting any behavior, including negative behavior, can normalize it and achieve the opposite of your intention. This is exactly what research at Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona found: Theft of petrified wood was higher when signs mentioned past visitor’s theft, instead of just expressing disapproval.

With this in mind, instead of pointing to the scale of the undesirable behavior, choose a strongly worded message of disapproval, such as: “Litter in our park is disgusting.” You can make the sign more vivid, and trigger a more emotional response, by choosing a picture to go with the message—for instance, depicting a visitor littering, with a red “X” over his or her action.

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Dear Dan,

The managing partners at my firm spent a lot of time and money to recruit a well-credentialed senior associate. Since this senior associate joined the firm, his performance has been underwhelming. Everyone expected he would be fired. Instead, we just found out he was promoted to partner. Why would the firm keep and promote a bad hire?

—Eugene 

A human tendency called “escalation of commitment” could be at work here. If the partners fire the associate, that’s an admission of a mistake and calls their judgment into question. Promoting the underperforming associate instead affirms the initial decision, even though it isn’t good for the firm in the long run.

Doubling down on a bad decision in order to justify it is not unique to your firm. Consider a troubled couple who get married instead of breaking up just because they have been together for years. Or an NBA coach who gives more court time to players based on their draft number, rather than their performance. In short, this bias is rather common, and we would gain a lot by dealing with it more directly.

See the original article in the Wall Street Journal.

Ask Ariely: On Besting Biases, Anticipating Activities, and Exceeding Expectations

May 8, 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.

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Dear Dan,

My company strives for more gender equality, particularly in leadership positions. To help us achieve this goal we make sure when we examine the top candidates for the position that we anonymize the resumes and have them reviewed by both male and female members of our staff. Still, our recent round of hiring has not resulted in the desired diversity. What else can we do to improve our hiring process?

—Pat 

Just as tossing a coin won’t necessarily give you equal numbers of heads and tails in the short run, the same goes for fair hiring practices. Here, too, you should not expect proportional hiring as an immediate result; you can only look at trends once you have hired a substantial number of people.

Still, one element in your process suggests a path for improvement. You discussed how you assess top candidates, but what about biases that may come into play before this short list is made? Most gender biases in hiring are a result of companies’ informal recruitment rather than the formal procedure. Is it possible that your short list contains mainly men due to colleagues’ recommendations or other networks?

To address this possibility, double the size of your short list. That alone could help a broader pool of applicants get serious consideration.

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Dear Dan,

I was planning a surprise beach weekend for my boyfriend, but a friend accidentally said something and ruined the surprise. I’m disappointed, and my friend feels terrible. What can we do to prevent this mistake from casting a dark shadow on the trip?

—Leslie 

Consider your friend’s error a gift in disguise. Now that your boyfriend knows, he’ll be able to look forward to the trip. The anticipation is a bonus source of happiness! Studies have shown that when people think back on life experiences, the anticipation can be more positive than the experience itself.

Even more, you can heighten the anticipation by doing things like counting down the days to the trip or looking at the menu from a fancy seafood place where you just got a reservation. Surprises are great, but short-lived.

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Dear Dan,

For years, I’ve been organizing a charity event for an animal rescue organization. Every year people tell me I’ve outdone myself, and it’s starting to feel like an expectation that the next event will offer more than the last. Now I’m struggling to come up with new ideas, and I’m worried about disappointing the committee. What can I do?

—Alice 

There is an interesting study where participants were asked to modify a structure built with Legos. Most participants added more bricks, but a quicker and better strategy was to remove a few. With this in mind, consider whether you could improve the event by subtracting instead of adding. Try keeping it simple and stick to the most successful elements from previous years.

We have a tendency to think that the way to make things better is to do more. Often we overlook the value of removing something to increase the appreciation of the rest.

See the original article in the Wall Street Journal.

Ask Ariely: On Troubled Taxpayers, Parenting Placebos, and Stress Strategies

April 10, 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.

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Dear Dan,

I just started a job as an administrative assistant at a small tax accounting firm. I know people don’t love paying their taxes, but on the front line I’m witnessing a whole new level of animosity. Is there any way to make people less aggravated about it?

—James 

The American tax system doesn’t spark a lot of good will. Taxes are incredibly complicated, and we never really know if our money is paying for schools, roads, social services, the military or something else, which leads people to question what they are getting in return. Seeing the total annual amount all at once makes it seem very large, and it is unsettling to hand over big sums of money without fully understanding where it’s going.

What can we do to make things better? One approach is to give citizens some agency in how their tax dollars are allocated—for instance, to allow each citizen to allocate 5% of their taxes to whatever government function they think will use their money in the best way. Would such a system work? My research center surveyed taxpayers and found that giving them a choice about allocating some of their taxes increased their interest in tax compliance and reduced their interest in trying tax loopholes.

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Dear Dan,

Years ago, my wife and I would take our daughter on long road trips, during which she often complained she felt nauseous. We suspected that her nausea was an invention, so we started to give her “medicine” that was actually just some candies in an old prescription bottle, and the symptoms stopped. Our daughter is now an adult with children of her own, and we’ve thought about sharing this story with her, but we’re worried she might not take well to having been tricked. What do you suggest?

—Yorum 

You might think you beat your daughter at her own game by giving her fake medicine for her reported symptoms. But it’s possible that your daughter was actually feeling nauseous, and the fake medication helped her due to a placebo effect: The pretend medication created an expectation about feeling better that resulted in an actual improvement. There is evidence suggesting that a placebo can work even when one is aware of it.

As for telling your daughter now, there’s likely enough separation between her childhood self and her current self that sharing the story won’t damage her trust in you. In fact, she might appreciate the helpful parenting tip!

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Dear Dan,

For the past year, I have been working from home. To help with work-related stress, I have started doing meditation and gratitude journaling. What are other strategies that I can use?

—Jonathan 

Working from home has some clear advantages, such as no commuting, but it also comes with unique distractions, such as interruptions from a family member. Working from home also has increased our reliance on digital communication tools, which in turn can contribute to a perception of work overload from having to feel available at any time. We all need to disconnect and distract ourselves sometimes. Research has shown that taking definitive breaks from the digital environment, or surrounding yourself with pleasing objects like plants, can be very helpful to reduce the stress.

See the original article in the Wall Street Journal.

Ask Ariely: On College Conflicts, Horrible Haircuts, and Timely Tasks

March 27, 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.

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Dear Dan,

My brother and my fiancé are rooting for rival teams in the NCAA basketball tournament, and they’re such passionate fans that it’s become hard for them to get along. What can I do to reduce the conflict?

—Amanda 

To understand people with opposing views, researchers have found that it’s helpful to ask ourselves how our own views would be different if we had grown up in a different environment. In one study, researchers asked gun-control advocates to think about how they might feel about guns if they had grown up in a hunting family; advocates of gun ownership were asked to imagine they had grown up in a community that suffered from gun violence such as the Columbine school shooting. This simple thought experiment reduced the hostility participants showed toward the other side.

With that in mind, try asking your brother and fiancé to imagine how growing up in a different family or attending a different college, might make them cheer for a different team. That should help them understand one another better.

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Dear Dan,

In an effort to save money, I asked my housemate to cut my hair. It didn’t turn out well and now I don’t even want to go outside. Besides waiting for my hair to grow back, what can I do to feel less embarrassed?

—Alexa 

You might think your haircut is bad enough to stop traffic, but the reality is that we pay a lot more attention to ourselves than other people pay to us. This is referred to as the spotlight effect: We tend to think there’s a spotlight shining on us that attracts attention and makes our flaws obvious. Thomas Golivich and colleagues demonstrated the spotlight effect in a 2000 study where they asked college students to go to a party wearing embarrassing Barry Manilow T-shirts. The students wearing the shirts were convinced that everyone was laughing at them, but afterward, when the partygoers were surveyed, it turned out that almost no one noticed the shirts at all. So don’t worry about your haircut getting stares, and after a few days you’ll forget about it yourself.

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Dear Dan,

To get motivated for some large projects that I have at work, I tried breaking them down into more manageable subtasks with their own deadlines. Unfortunately, I ended up missing almost all of my self-imposed due dates. Should I give up on deadlines as a way to motivate myself?

—Nicolas 

Self-imposed deadlines are harder to stick to than deadlines set by others, for two reasons. First, we tend to underestimate the amount of time it takes to complete the task at hand, so we usually set a deadline that’s too optimistic. Second, we tend to prioritize deadlines set by others over self-imposed ones to avoid letting other people down. For your next project, then, try to think more realistically about how long each subtask will take and allow extra time for unforeseen challenges along the way. And tell a colleague about your self-imposed deadlines to create more of a sense of accountability.

See the original article in the Wall Street Journal.

Ask Ariely: On Social Substitutes, Apt Apologies, and Troubling Tests

March 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.

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Dear Dan,

I’m worried that I’ve gotten into the habit of watching too much TV during this time of social isolation. I know it’s not good for me to spend hours in front of the screen, so why do I feel so drawn to these shows?

—Shirleene 

Don’t judge yourself too harshly. Seeking ways to feel connected to others is natural, and now that physical distancing guidelines make in-person connections increasingly difficult, many people are finding a replacement in watching television or engaging with online communities. Research has found that this isn’t a bad strategy. Nontraditional social connections, even to fictional characters on TV, has been found to increase well-being during quarantine. Just don’t forget that TV is a substitute until you can go back to seeing people in real life.

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Dear Dan,

I run an Etsy business. A few weeks ago I made some mistakes and sent several long-term customers the wrong items. What should I do to keep their business and earn back their trust?

—Adrien 

Running a small business is challenging, and mistakes will happen from time to time. Fortunately, a well-executed apology and stellar follow-up service can help. In a 2019 study on the “economics of apologies,” researchers looked at a large set of vendors and over a million of their customers and came away with four main insights about effective apologies. First, make sure to recognize the impact of your mistake on your customer: “I know it was disappointing not to not have the right gift in time for the holiday.” Second, explain what you are doing to make sure it won’t happen again. Third, the apology must come at some cost to you. Customers who had a bad experience were more likely to continue their patronage when they were sent a coupon for future purchases. Finally, make sure to improve. An apology can actually be worse than no apology at all if the mistake is repeated.

By the way, the same principles are relevant when making a personal apology to friends or family.

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Dear Dan,

My son is taking an Advanced Placement physics class in high school. He attends classes, spends hours studying and says he knows the material very well, yet his test scores are not very good. How is that possible?

—Damien 

One possible explanation for the discrepancy could be “the illusion of explanatory depth,” which says that people often mistake familiarity with understanding. This principle was elegantly demonstrated in studies where participants were asked to rate their understanding of everyday objects like toilets and bicycles. Most people expressed a high degree of certainty that they understood how these things worked, but when asked to draw and explain them, they couldn’t. (If you think it sounds easy, try to draw a bicycle without leaving out any parts.)

With this distinction in mind, you can see if your son’s confidence is justified by asking him to explain the course material to you. This might help him identify which parts he only thought he understood.

See the original article in the Wall Street Journal.

Ask Ariely: On Mirror Moments, Social Shares, and Product Projections

February 20, 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.

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Dear Dan,

I have a job interview coming up. For the past week I’ve been very stressed about it, and to help myself cope I’ve been giving myself little pep talks in front of the mirror. What else can I do to deal with the stress?

—Julia 

Telling ourselves “I’ve got this” or “I’m so ready for this” is a very common strategy for preparing for a challenge, and it makes intuitive sense. But self-talk can actually be more effective if you use the third-person: “Julia’s got this” instead of “I’ve got this.” Using the third person creates an emotional separation between ourselves and the stressful event, making it feel more like enthusiastic support from a friend. Research shows that this approach can help people manage stress more effectively. So from me to you: “Julia, you got this.”

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Dear Dan,

There is hardly any informal social interaction at my company now that we’re all working from home. Is there a way to introduce virtual coffee chats for employees to hang out together, without making it seem like just another work obligation?

—Fiona 

By now we all know that when it comes to socializing, online meetings are no substitute for face-to-face interactions. And if employees start looking at these new chats as a chore instead of a spontaneous water-cooler conversation, the odds of them turning into a positive social interaction are even lower. So instead of adding a new item to people’s agendas, why don’t you try dedicating the first 5 minutes of your regular weekly meeting to a social activity. Since people might freeze if they have to come up with something “social” on their own, give participants specific instructions: recommend a book or TV show, share a recipe or favorite quarantine pastime. Not only will this lubricate the social wheels, it will also allow team members to learn more about each other.

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Dear Dan,

I’m planning to buy a home projector so my family can watch movies outside when it gets warmer. I found a great deal on the model I want, but it doesn’t allow for returns. Is the loss of flexibility worth the discount?

—Colin 

When we make decisions, the idea of keeping our options open is so appealing that we’re often willing to pay more just to have some flexibility to change our minds. But once a purchase is made, the flexibility that drew us to the product might actually undermine our enjoyment of it.

In your case, if you have the option of returning the projector, every time you use it you’ll be tempted to think about whether you’re getting your money’s worth from it, or if you should send it back for a refund. This continuous rumination can destroy part of your joy in the purchase. With this in mind, I suspect that getting the nonreturnable projector would serve your needs best. And when you use it, try to think about the great decision you made.

See the original article in the Wall Street Journal.

Ask Ariely: On Standing Strategies, Future Feedback, and Sensible Savings

February 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.

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Dear Dan,

I know it’s not good for my health to sit at my desk all day without breaks, so I tried putting reminders in my calendar to stand up and move around. But I usually end up just ignoring them. Is there a better way to make myself get out of my chair during the day?

—Michael 

Reminders are useful when you have actual memory problems, but they’re not so helpful when it comes to changing behavior. I wish this wasn’t so: Just imagine how easy it would be to quit smoking or stick to a diet if all you had to do was remind yourself of your earlier resolutions!

In reality, creating small obstacles that force you to take action is a better way to change your routine than good intentions and reminders. So try changing your work environment in ways that force you to leave your desk. For example, you could set up a separate area for video calls—a spot with good lighting and no chair, so you have to stand up. If there are files you have to consult regularly, store them in another room.

You could also make a habit of using the bathroom that is furthest away from your desk. Ideally you can pick one on another floor of your home or office, so you have to climb stairs to get there several times during the day.

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Dear Dan,

I was promoted recently, and soon I will have a meeting with my manager to discuss my first few weeks in the new role. What’s the best way to get useful feedback and make the most of the conversation?

—Tessa 

It might seem like the natural approach is to ask your manager to evaluate your performance so far. But research shows that in general, looking at the past isn’t the best way to figure out what we should be doing differently in the future. Instead of asking for feedback, which is backward-looking and usually vague, try asking your manager for advice. That will encourage them to look ahead and give you concrete suggestions and actionable ideas.

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Dear Dan,

Many people I know have lost their jobs during the pandemic, which made me realize I needed to set up an emergency savings fund. But my job is secure so far, so it hasn’t felt very urgent to put money in the account. What can I do to make sure I contribute to my emergency savings every month?

—Petra 

Research shows that we are much more likely to save money for a specific personal goal than simply because it’s the right thing to do. Rather than thinking of your savings as a general rainy-day fund, then, try calculating how much money you would need for particular expenses if you lost your income. How much would you need to pay your mortgage or rent for three months, or to buy food for your family?

Once you start thinking of saving as a way to protect your loved ones and meet particular needs, you’ll be more likely to make regular contributions. You can also ease the burden of decision-making by setting up an automatic monthly transfer from your checking account to a designated savings account and promising not to touch it unless an emergency strikes.

See the original article in the Wall Street Journal.