DAN ARIELY

Updates

Ask Ariely: On Concerning Crowds and Sensitive Stories

February 12, 2022 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 own a small comedy club, and we’ve struggled with ticket sales during the pandemic, even as restrictions have been eased. Last weekend, for the first time in a while, we sold out a show and had a long line out the door. I wanted to post a picture on social media, but I was worried that the image of a crowd might put off potential patrons. Is this a reasonable concern?

—Juan 

You are contrasting two social forces and asking which is stronger: the power of norms (everyone is going to your club!) or the fear of gathering in crowds.

A study conducted in China in 2020 sheds some light on your dilemma. The study found that 37% more people dined out when they were told that their neighbors were also doing so. The researchers noted that in an atmosphere of uncertainty, information about what other people were doing (a descriptive norm) weighed heavily. Without the uncertainty, however, the descriptive norm made little difference: The researchers told subjects that all their neighbors were doing something considered to be perfectly safe (visiting a park), to virtually no effect.

In your case, I suspect that the picture showing people lined up for your club would be appealing. You could also add reassuring information, like noting the improvements in local Covid conditions or the precautions your club is taking to protect patrons, such as mask requirements and proof of vaccination.

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Dear Dan,

I’m a journalist at a small newspaper serving a community that is largely non-white and low income. I proposed doing a story about the environment, but the editorial board is concerned that this topic won’t resonate with our readers. How should I proceed?

—Loo 

The perception that Americans of color and those with low incomes care less about the environment than white Americans may be common, but it is both patronizing and false.
In a 2018 study, researchers asked Americans how concerned they were—and how concerned they thought a variety of other people were—about environmental issues. Most respondents thought that young people, white people and women were the most worried about the environment. But in reality, Latino, Asian, Black and low-income Americans reported being the most concerned.

Why might these communities be particularly concerned about the environment? To begin with, they are disproportionately likely to live in neighborhoods with high levels of pollution, little green space and high concentrations of waste sites. Daily exposure to environmental risks may raise awareness and concern among Americans of color and those with low incomes.

So your editorial board is most likely wrong. To help such a story resonate with your readership—and to correct misperceptions around the issue—you might consider reporting your story in a way that reflects the ethnic and economic diversity of those who are concerned about the environment.

See the original article in the Wall Street Journal.

Ask Ariely: On Unraveling Uncertainty and Translating Transparency

January 29, 2022 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 play the lottery every week even though I know that the chances of winning are extremely small. Why do so many of us persist in doing this?

—Adam 

One reason that the lottery is so popular is that it provides uncertainty in a way that is appealing. We don’t normally like uncertainty: Not knowing if or when the pandemic is going to end, or whether to prepare for a winter storm, or what to do about climate change can foster a feeling of helplessness and decrease our motivation to act. But uncertainty about low-probability rewards can make us work harder.

In an experiment, participants were asked to drink six cups of water in two minutes. This is not easy to do. Half of the participants were told they would receive a certain reward ($2) if they achieved the goal, while the other half were told that if they succeeded, they’d receive either $1 or $2, to be determined by a coin toss after they’d finished. More participants in the second group managed to drink all six cups than in the first, suggesting that the uncertain reward was particularly motivating.
The same thing might be happening with the lottery. We get value from the uncertainty of winning, which piques our curiosity and stimulates our fantasies. We also get a psychological reward from seeing the uncertainty resolved, even though we are usually disappointed that the winning ticket wasn’t ours.
All the same, despite this minor benefit from the lottery, I’d recommend that you find other ways to improve your well-being.

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Dear Dan,

I own a small pet-sitting business and pay my employees a living wage—one that accounts for the real cost of food and shelter, which the minimum wage does not. Consequently, our prices are a little higher than those of our competitors, and I’m worried about finding and keeping clients. Do I need to rethink my business model?

—Leslie 

People are willing to pay higher prices when vendors are transparent about their operating costs. In your case, this means letting your clients know about your commitment to paying a living wage. I suspect that many will respond positively, and some of them will be willing to pay more for your services when they understand that they are supporting this business model. I recommend that you highlight your commitment in your marketing materials and social media, as well as on your invoices.

The benefit of cost transparency has been documented through studies. An online retailer conducted an inadvertent experiment when it posted an infographic on its website showing the cost of producing wallets. By accident, the retailer only showed the infographic for some wallet colors. The result was that sales of wallets with the infographic increased by 22% compared to those of wallets without.

In a more deliberate study, researchers posted different signs near the chicken noodle soup at a university dining hall—one listing the soup ingredients, the other breaking down the costs of making the soup. Customers were 21.1% more likely to buy the soup next to the second sign.
Voluntary transparency about costs fills customers in about what they’re paying and also signals trustworthiness on the part of the vendor.

See the original article in the Wall Street Journal.

Ask Ariely: On Anticipating Allies and Perceiving Progress

January 15, 2022 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,

The majority of my colleagues at a computer engineering company are male, as am I. Gender equality is important to me, but I’m not in charge of the hiring decisions, so my power to change this situation is limited. Nevertheless, I want to do my share to make my workplace an inclusive and positive one for my female colleagues. Any advice?

—Charles 

You can start to set norms of gender equality in your organization by communicating how much you care about this issue and expressing your intention to support female colleagues. Studies show that doing so will make the women in your workplace feel not only more included but also less inclined to anticipate harassment and hostility.

Researchers in a series of studies asked women to imagine they had received job offers at a chemical company. The women then viewed slideshows of their future co-workers—in some cases, all men, and in others, a gender-balanced mix. Some women were asked to imagine that the company included an “ally”: a man who expressed support for gender equality and was willing to help promote it.

When the workplace was gender-balanced, the presence or absence of an ally made little difference to the job seekers. But when the company was male-dominated, the addition of the ally improved the women’s sense that their future co-workers would support them and decreased their anticipated degree of isolation. Interestingly, the findings held regardless of the race of the woman or the ally.

So if you want to make your workplace more inclusive, let your female colleagues know that you’re a ready and willing source of support.

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Dear Dan,

I’m mentoring a high-school student who is just starting to think about college. He attended an information session and came away overwhelmed by all the tasks he needs to complete. He’s feeling discouraged by the complexity and having a hard time getting started. What can I do to help motivate him?

—Hal 

The college admissions process can be overwhelming, and when we’re overwhelmed, it is hard to get going, because any step we might take feels trivial compared with what still lies ahead.

To counteract that drop-in-the-bucket feeling, it can help to change your perception of progress. A study demonstrated this idea through coffee purchases. Some customers were given 10-punch cards specifying that if they bought 10 cups of coffee, they would get one cup for free. Researchers found that as customers got closer to the free cup, they bought coffee more frequently. They also found that if they gave customers 12-punch cards, but with the first 2 punches premarked (effectively making them 10-punch cards), coffee-drinkers purchased their beverages faster. The sense that we are already moving forward helps motivate us to continue advancing toward our goals.

With this observation in mind, you should point out to your mentee all that he has accomplished already, including the time he has spent pursuing extracurricular activities, getting good grades and attending the information session. Suggest that these are steps he has completed in the college admissions process and that he just needs to take the next ones, one at a time.

See the original article in the Wall Street Journal.

Ask Ariely: On Conversational Connection and Greater Gratitude

January 2, 2022 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 mostly kept to my established circle of family and friends during the pandemic, but this New Year’s, my neighbors are hosting a get-together, and I’m very excited to attend. I’ll be meeting quite a few new people, and I’m nervous as to whether I can master the art of small talk after so many months without practice. Do you have any suggestions?

—Michelle 

Small talk is boring, and losing your facility with it may not be such a loss. What if you took advantage of this forced forgetting and tried to replace shallow pleasantries with something deeper? Most of us wish to have meaningful conversations in our daily lives but expect our exchanges with strangers to be awkward. They don’t have to be.

In an experiment, researchers paired up attendees at a small conference and gave each duo 10 minutes to discuss four questions. The questions were designed to bypass small talk and lead to greater connection—for example, “Can you describe a time you cried in front of another person?” After a few such questions and answers, the participants reported not feeling awkward at all—on the contrary, they came away feeling more connected to one another and happier than they had expected.
We underestimate how much potential conversation partners care about deep talk over superficialities, as well as how satisfying such exchanges can be. In fact, the deeper our conversations are on any given day, the happier we tend to be.

So when you go to the New Year’s Eve party, try not making small talk at all. Instead of inquiring about people’s days or their jobs, ask them what they are passionate about, or where they see themselves in a few years. Maybe even ask them about the last time they cried in front of another person.

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Dear Dan,

I know I should probably write thank you notes for the holiday gifts I received, but I’m bad at composing them. I end up wasting lots of note cards with rewrites that still end up sounding insincere. I’m starting to wonder if this endeavor is really worthwhile.

—Amit 

Keep going with your thank you notes! Expressing gratitude is incredibly worthwhile and easier than you think.

What you’re experiencing is a basic perspective-taking problem. Many people share your worry about finding the right words to express gratitude and about sounding sincere. People on the receiving end, however, value a thank you of any type and tend to pay more attention to the warmth of the note than the quality of the writing.

To study such “gratitude mis-calibrations,” researchers asked people to write thank you notes and then predict how they thought their expressions of gratitude would be received. Then they asked the actual recipients to report how the notes affected them. Senders predicted that recipients would experience an average happiness rating of three (on a scale of one to five), whereas the actual recipients rated their happiness at 4½.

Perhaps because we underestimate how happy our expressions of thanks make others, we let unnecessary concerns get in the way of conveying our gratitude. The best way to motivate ourselves to write thank you notes may be to experience receiving them—in which case, allow me to express my thanks to you for sending me this question.

See the original article in the Wall Street Journal here.

Ask Ariely: On Delicious Decisions and Powerful Promotions

December 18, 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,

This Christmas, the entire family will be together for the first time in two years. I’m in charge of Christmas dinner, and I feel under pressure for everything to be perfect. I’m overwhelmed and exhausted by all the decisions: wine or eggnog, turkey or roast beef, mashed potatoes or roasted potatoes? Even thinking about decorations and napkins makes my head spin. What should I do?

—Bertha 

Sounds like you are suffering from choice overload. More options would intuitively seem better than none, but too many can produce anxiety and decrease happiness. In the most extreme cases, facing an excess of choices can lead to not making a choice at all.

The downside of choice was first demonstrated in a field study conducted more than twenty years ago. Upon entering a grocery store, customers encountered a stand offering jams to sample and purchase. On some days there were six jam flavors on offer; on others, 24. More people were attracted to the stand when 24 flavors were on display, but only a tenth as many ended up buying jam as when there were just six. When faced with too many choices, people worry about regretting a decision that isn’t perfect—and not making any decision is the simplest way to avoid making the wrong one.

As for Christmas dinner, one way to lift your decision-making burden is to crowdsource it—for example, by asking your friends on social media to make some of the decisions for you.

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Dear Dan,

This past year I’ve worked alongside a wonderful group of colleagues. I am so thankful to have worked on this team. I’ve just been promoted and will now be managing this same group. I worry that doing so will change my relationship with its members. Do you have any advice?

—Erika 

In your new role, make sure to continue to express gratitude toward your colleagues. Their support will be even more crucial to your success, and words of appreciation can go a long way in motivating people.

Sadly, research has shown that when people get more power, they tend to express less gratitude, even though more power might come with more to be grateful for, such as a higher salary. One study looked at the acknowledgement sections of academic papers and found that authors with high-ranking titles expressed less thanks than their junior counterparts did. A study of Wikipedia editors found the same effect: senior editors made fewer thankful comments than junior ones.

These results suggest a link between power and expressing less thanks, but they don’t rule out the possibility that more powerful authors and editors expressed less thanks because they received less help. A controlled lab experiment was very helpful in identifying the causal mechanism: participants were offered help on an annoying task from someone they were told was either their boss or their employee for the task at hand. As in the previous studies, people were less thankful for help from a subordinate than from their manager, perhaps because they felt entitled to help from a lower status worker.

People with more power are less prone to give thanks. Try to fight this tendency as you take on your new role with your old team.

See the original article in the Wall Street Journal.

Ask Ariely: On Framing Fruit and Strategizing Streams

December 4, 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,

The only way I can get my kids to eat fruits and vegetables is to reward them for it, usually with screen time. My sister allows my nieces to eat as much fruit as they want, whenever they want. In fact, her family refers to fruit as “nature’s candy” (but trust me, her kids know the difference between a grape and a lollipop). So far, neither of these methods is working for my family particularly well, but does one sound more promising to you?

—Louisa 

Many parents use rewards to get children to do things they would otherwise resist, such as eating healthy foods. This approach might work in the short term, but over time it may cause children to resist fruits and vegetables even more, because they will view eating those foods only as means to a reward.

When it comes to framing fruit as candy, your sister is onto something. I might not go quite that far, but a related approach could be to limit fruit consumption in the same general way as candy consumption. A series of studies found that when children were told that they could have only a limited amount of a certain food, such as carrots, the kids not only preferred carrots to a more bountiful snack option but ate more carrots and enjoyed them more than kids who chose carrots over a snack in equal supply.

Studies with young children are tricky, so there could be many reasons behind these behaviors, but it seems that the fear of missing out is one important driver that gets us all to partake of items that are in short supply.

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Dear Dan,

I’m very environmentally conscious and try to minimize my carbon footprint wherever possible. Working from home has been wonderful for many reasons. I’m especially happy to see fewer people driving. Do you have any other suggestions for how we can curb our environmental impact while confined to our homes?

—Kelsey 

When we think of addressing big problems, such as environmental impact, it’s natural to look for big solutions, such as driving less, at the expense of multiple, smaller solutions that can add up over time. We tend to overlook easy things we can do that seem small or whose effects are not immediately clear.

For example, think about the carbon footprint associated with something as small as Internet usage. The electricity that powers data centers accounts for about 1% of global energy demand—and that figure does not even include these facilities’ land and water use. Video transmission is the biggest problem. A group of researchers studied the impact of online streaming and video-conferencing. They found that if a person streamed at high quality for four hours a day, switching to standard definition would reduce that person’s monthly carbon footprint by the same degree as reducing driving by 93 miles a month.

Of course, video streaming is just one example. Lots of small actions, such as turning the thermostat down a bit, keeping electronics for longer and making sure our tire pressure is set correctly can also make a difference, and we should consider these when we think about the changes we can make.

See the original article in the Wall Street Journal.

Ask Ariely: On Important Impressions and Better Budgets

October 23, 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,

This past weekend I attended a wedding. I enjoyed getting to know the people at my table, but I can’t stop worrying about the impression I left on them, and whether I may have come across as boring. I would like to meet up with these people again, but I am hesitant to contact them after this terrible first encounter. What do you think I should do?

—Laura

On average, we tend to be more likeable than we think we are. Yet most people hold very low opinions of themselves, and especially of their conversational abilities. This mismatch between our perceptions of ourselves and others’ opinions of us is known as the “liking gap.”

The liking gap was first demonstrated in 2018. Researchers randomly paired people for 5-minute conversations, after which each was asked to rate how much they liked the other and how much they believed their partner liked them. Overall, participants made better impressions than they thought they had and underestimated how much their partners liked them.

The truth may be that we spend so much time and energy worrying about our own behavior and the impressions we’re giving out that we miss positive signals from others, such as smiles and laughter. It may be useful to remember that your conversation partners are also likely to be worrying about their own behavior and impressions, leaving them little capacity to really pay attention to you. Ask yourself if you remember and care about every little mistake your conversation partner made. Assume that your conversation partner is as generous as you are in judging other people and remembers as few of their small mistakes. Chances are that you are much more likeable than you think you are, so go ahead and contact the other guests from the wedding.

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Dear Dan,

Why do I always run out of money at the end of the month, even though I’ve created a budget and try very hard to stick to it?

—Brandon 

Budgets can be a helpful tool when it comes to forecasting spending on frequently occurring purchases like groceries and gas. Most people, however, fail to account for expenses that feel exceptional and don’t fit a particular recurring spending category, such as fixing the refrigerator or buying a birthday gift for a friend. Exceptional purchases are seen as one-offs: we don’t normally spend on any one of them, and so we don’t make them part of our monthly budgets.

However, while it’s unlikely we’ll need to fix our refrigerator next month, chances are we will have other exceptional expenses, such as new eyeglasses or a car inspection. These types of expenses add up, and before you know it, you’ve overspent.

By their nature, exceptional expenses don’t fit any budget category, and so it is hard to account for them. For example, it would make no sense to create a budget for repairing refrigerators, or even one for repairing appliances more generally. My suggestion is that you look back at the last year, try to estimate the magnitude of your monthly exceptional expenses and make a budget that takes this sum into account. Sure, your budget will be less clean and less satisfying, but it may be more realistic.

See the original article in the Wall Street Journal.

Ask Ariely: On Cultivating Commitment and Allocating Advice

September 25, 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 volunteer for a local conservation organization and I’m trying to round up people to help
with a weekend afternoon cleanup of a popular hiking trail. In the past it’s been hard to
enlist volunteers. What can I do to get more people to help out?

—Zarak 

You might consider asking people for a “maybe favor.” A maybe favor is a request for a commitment that might not actually have to be carried out. In your particular case, you could call for volunteers while making clear the possibility that the clean-up will be cancelled in the event of rain.

Recent research suggests that adding a “maybe” to a request for a favor increases people’s willingness to help. When subjects were asked if they would be willing to donate their earnings from participating in the study, 53% agreed. A different group was asked the same question but told that 5% of those who agreed would have their donations randomly cancelled. Under this condition, 66% chose to donate, which increased the total value of the donations even after eliminating the 5%.

One possible explanation for the increased willingness to donate is that people value the “warm glow” we get from agreeing to help. If we think that there is some probability that we will not be asked to do the favor, the warm glow remains, while the cost of doing the good deed is potentially mitigated.

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Dear Dan,

There are many talented, junior members on my team at work, and I genuinely like to see them succeed. So I give them advice here and there, but it seems that my suggestions are largely ignored. What can I do differently?

—Stefanie 

People commonly ignore unsolicited advice—not because of its content, but because of the motivations they perceive on the part of the giver.

Researchers asked full-time employees to recall instances in which they received solicited and unsolicited advice, and then to speculate as to why they got it. Why they received solicited advice was self-explanatory—because they asked for it—but unsolicited advice gave rise to darker speculation. Employees ascribed unsolicited advice-givers not-so-great motives, such as the impulse to show-off their own knowledge or the hidden desire to hurt the recipient’s performance. In general, unsolicited advice was perceived as more self-serving and less useful than advice the recipients asked for.

You can help your colleagues by inviting them to be the ones to come to you and ask for your advice. For example, tell them that you were in their position a few years ago and will be happy to counsel them if they are interested. Another approach might be to emphasize your intentions, in order to make sure they know that you have their best interest in mind. For example, preface your advice to a colleague by talking about a time when you faced a similar situation and someone else helped you, explaining that now you are paying forward the favor.

See the original article in the Wall Street Journal.

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.

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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?

—Jeannie 

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.

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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?

—Heather 

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.

Ask Ariely: On Electronic Etiquette and Performance Practice

August 28, 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,

After so many months of isolation, I am bewildered to observe that many people experience the compulsive need to check their phones at cafes or restaurants, completely ignoring their friends and family. Why do people engage in such rude behavior?

—Alan 

The phenomenon you are describing—using one’s smartphone during face-to-face interactions—has been termed phone snubbing or “phubbing.” Most people perceive it to be rude, and it can have serious repercussions for the level of satisfaction in a friendship. But it often has more to do with the phubber’s personality than with lack of interest in the conversation.

In a 2021 study of young adults, the authors found that depressed and socially anxious people are more likely to phub their friends. This is likely explained by the fact that people with social anxiety find online communication less uncomfortable than in-person conversations. On the other hand, phubbing is less common among people who score high on “agreeableness,” which psychologists defined as striving to avoid conflict. Agreeable people make an effort to be polite and friendly in order to maintain social harmony.

If you find it hard to resist looking at your phone even while in company, what can you do? An easy solution is to turn off your text and email notifications, so you won’t be tempted to look at each incoming message. Even better, put your phone on airplane mode. If you want a polite way to suggest that a meal should be phone-free, deliberately place your phone with the screen down in the middle of the table, signaling to the other people in your group to do the same.

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Dear Dan,

My teenage daughter spends a lot of time watching dance videos on Tik-Tok. Last weekend we were at a fair, and she saw a group of teenagers doing a dance she had watched hundreds of times on her phone. She excitedly ran over to join them and told me to take a video, but right away she stumbled, stopped dancing and insisted I delete the video from my phone. How did she go from being so excited about dancing to feeling so frustrated?

—Joelle 

After watching the same dance routine so many times, your daughter had a lot of confidence in her ability to replicate it. It’s the same feeling of “I could totally do that” that people often have after watching cooking or home improvement shows on TV. But it’s a mistake to think that watching someone else doing something is the same as actually learning a skill.

In a 2018 study, participants were asked to watch a video of a person playing darts and then to rate their confidence in their own ability to play the game. People who watched the video 20 times felt more confident about their darts skill compared with those who watched it only once. But when the participants actually played darts, there was no relationship between how many times someone watched the video and their performance. Similar results were found in studies looking at juggling, moonwalking and performing magic tricks.

The lesson for your daughter is clear: If she wants to learn a dance, there’s no substitute for practicing.

See the original article in the Wall Street Journal.