The untold reasons why, we all do what we said we wouldn’t DO
“I generally avoid temptation unless I can’t resist it.”Anonymous
Many years back, Pr Thaler was hosting a dinner for some guests. While preparing for this, he decided to put a large bowl of easy to nibble items on the table (biscuits, groundnut, coconut-sweet and chin-chin). At the same time, thaler’s wife was preparing a sumptuous dish, which, she absolutely wanted her husband’s guests to savor. The guests were all economists and students of economics at the time, this might justify why they all appeared 15mins before time. Thaler then, placed the bowl on the table for the guests to nibble while awaiting the start of the dinner. But after some minutes Thaler realized that what he had done was in fact a bad idea, it became clear to him that the bowl’s content was going to be consumed in its entirety, thereby making the guests have a lack of sufficient appetite to savor the dish his wife had toiled to prepare. While every guest member was enjoying the bowl’s content and discussing about sports, Thaler grabbed the bowl (while stealing a few more items for himself) took the bowl to the kitchen and dumbed it, out of sight for everyone. When he returned, what do you expect was the reaction of those guests? A good guess might be that they all got angry, which they had the every right to. For as all economists and ordinary men in general believe, someone’s life is never made worse off by them having more options. Why? Because they can always turn the options down. To really understand this, let’s examine the options these guests had and how they changed in a short time frame. At 7:15 when the guests just arrived and Thaler placed the bowl before them, they had three options before them: eat a few items, eat all items, and not eat at all. But by 7:30, had the nuts remained on the table, the group would have finished the bowl, thereby reaching their least favorite option; No more appetite for what was to come. Not good for Thaler’s marriage.
When Thaler returned from the kitchen, the opposite of what we expected happened, he instead received a general applause from all the guests who thanked him for the move. Then almost immediately, the conversation changed from sports to what had just happened, and that conversation, years later led to the creation of a brand new category of economics called BEHAVIORAL ECONOMICS. Also, it’s worth noting that Thaler ended up earning a Noble Price in economics.
Isn’t it powerful, what can come out from men overcoming temptations? How paying attention to little things can make a huge difference? Nonetheless, there are lots of questions that abound like why do preferences change so quickly? , why are temptations even on trivial stuffs so powerful? Finally, what’s the best way to fight a temptation; Resisting or running?
Vice signaling vs Virtue Signaling
Jacques Fodjo showed up for the first time during an EEC youth group meeting back in 2016, expressing his wish to become part of them. At that time, the group was experiencing a decline in its membership and their attendance. Some members would appear and never come back, others would leave as if it were their last, and be seen a month later. In the course of one of these dormant meetings, as will recall the current secretary general Modeste; “a nice guy showed up”. That was Jacques, he was desperate about joining a church group, and the youth group was the perfect fit for a guy like him, as he claimed. Joining the group wasn’t so much of a hassle for, the EEC members made everything possible for him to feel comfort-able. In the next meeting, which took place just a week later, Jacques was called to reveal his real reasons for wanting to join the Youth group in particular and also, they wished to know how he became a Christian. Jacques started out with a confession, (this is modeste trying to express what Jacques said that day) “I’ve always had a problem, women. I’ve been in more than 17 relationships at this point, searching for a wife but couldn’t find one. In most of my relationships, I’ve always tried to be the best boyfriend my partner will ever have but by so doing it led me to doing terrible things with them, like sleeping with them and all my ex’s reported that I was the best at that too. I’ve always had a deeper flaw which is declining a woman’s desires. I often feel like they are so weak a gender that all they demand for should be given them and that entailed my body. But that ended when God called me… He ended his speech by imploring all members (mostly ladies) to forgive him and stated that he had come to the group precisely for that change.
3 years later, Jacques is the vice president of the said group and his impact among others are: He embezzled 600,000 frs from the groups coffers, he’s had a series of affaires with girls from the group; the most pronounced is Julie, she earned a scholarship, went to another country to study and came back with 2 million as token. But then because of Jacques snares, smokescreen and fibs on marriage, she gave it all to him. He met Julie’s parents for the knock-door, and after receiving the list, he never came back. To crown it all, He ended up marrying Julie’s friend, still a group member and the war between these girls, since then have never ended. You might think that is all, he still asks other group girls out like modeste whom I spoke to, she hates him (to say the least) she’s a jurist and wanted him to be taken to prison for the embezzlement but the president appealed on the group to act in a forgiving manner, but guess what? He is nowhere to be found for 6 months now and the fun part of it is that, all the girls he has had an affair with are the same girls asking that he be pardoned.
To understand what happened, let’s take a look at human nature. Every animal in this world (humans included) has a judgment mechanism from birth which makes it evaluate things through the lens of; Like or Dislike & approach or withdraw: at every moment, we like every other animal are constantly deciding to either eat or not eat, go or stop. As an example, let’s say you’re moving in the street and you perceive lots of people crowded over a spot, it’s an accident, what would you do? Like most people, you’ll approach the scene to see what really happened. As in most cases, once you start looking and keep looking, you might discover that the accident was extreme and that the blood is too much for you to manage and then you run. A shorter explanation is First you approached, then you disliked and then you ran.
An experiment was carried out known as “affective priming“, in which participants were called to sit and stare at a box in the front of a computer screen. Every few seconds, a word was flashed into this box. The participants had to do one of two things: the first was to tap the key with their left hand, if the word meant something good or likable (such as garden, hope, fun), the second was to tap the key with their right hand if the word meant something bad or dislikable (like death, tyranny, boredom). During the experiment, if the word that appeared was fear, it registered negative on their brain, making the participants feel a tiny flash of displeasure which also made him tap the right key (bad or dislikable); and then, half a second later, when the word boredom appeared, they were quicker to say that boredom was also bad and dislikable. Their negative evaluation of boredom had been facilitated, or “primed,” by their tiny flash of negativity toward fear. If however, the word following fear turned out to be garden, it would take longer to say that garden is good, because of the time it took for your brain to shift from bad to good.
This experiment says a lot about human psychology especially on issues like first impressions, love, desire and temptations, how easy or difficult is it for us to change our minds, but most especially the Time span in changing our minds.
Let’s have a second look at our example on the car accident. Let’s say you’re moving in the street and you perceive lots of people crowded over a spot, it’s an accident, what would you do? Like most people, you’ll approach the scene to see what really happened. As in most cases, once you start looking and keep looking, you discover that the accident was extreme and that the blood is too much but instead of running, you stay. Many people stay in such scenes for various reasons like they’re may be intrigued by what happened, they may want to get the comments of others, and they may even want to be the ones to announce this accident to world (social media) or may be running/leaving is not an easy decision to make at that time etc.
The problem of vice signaling
Coming back to Jacque, we will notice that his past and the elements he hinted in his confession didn’t have the intended consequences. What he may be didn’t know (or did know) was that the content of his confession was appealing to that group, constituted mainly of ladies. Most of them as would recall the Modeste were lacking passion in their lives, they wanted marriage. The best person for marriage then, was the person who will satisfy all their desires and guess what? All his ex’s had attested how good he was at that (that couldn’t go unnoticed). Hence, when he finally approached them and made advances, they saw a guy desperately trying to change and who wanted to settle down. At this point, they gave in. Finally, when they started noticing that he was a conman, they were deep into him, they were already under his thrall and the time for them to make that decision of changing the image they had of him from Good to Bad, is such a long one, that instead of doing so, they decided to cling to him and fight their opponent.
The thing about temptations as Pr thaler pointed out in his manifesto is that we humans have two states: Cold and Hot. The cold state is when we are free, unmoved by our environment, meanwhile, the hot state is when we are in a deep temptation. Your Cold state is considered the myopic planner, who says; I’m not going to drink alcohol anymore, chase ladies anymore, fall for womanizers, and stay without reading my Bible or books. But the Hot state is the short-term executioner. One thing we can all agree at this point is that both hardly respect each other. This war is what makes you drink an extra bottle when you vowed one bottle was your limit.
We overestimate what we can do while cold, and underestimate the damages we can create while hot.
When tempted what is your default tactic? Resistance? May be you should consider running. Unlike our anonymous friend who said; ” “I generally avoid temptation unless I can’t resist it.” I say; “Avoid temptation by all means, unless resisting is your last option”
Please remember to leave a comment on what this says to you and your favorite style in dealing with temptations
Leslie Micheal Ace