Our Fickle Minds


I read news items by opening them in background Firefox tabs from Google Reader. I go through the feeds that I’m reading at the moment, open all that are interesting, and then close my reader app.

What’s interesting about this is that if I leave for a bit before reading my open tabs, something strange happens — none of the tabs are as interesting as they were when I clicked them. There’s a very specific reason for this. Our desire for an object is directly affected by whether or not we own it. This is the reason that you’ll watch Braveheart on TV (in lower quality — with commercials) even though you own it on DVD. It’s also why the girl you have is never as attractive as the girl you don’t.

The movie on TV is going off soon, and you aren’t in control of it so you feel compelled to watch. Similarly, the stories that you opened tabs for would have gone unread (gasp) had you not clicked on them. But once you own the DVD or already have the actual stories open, the content isn’t as interesting. It’s a mind game.

There’s not much we can do about this affliction as it’s likely deeply rooted in evolutionary biology. But we can at least be aware of it.:

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