Culture » Book Talk

Science Advice Goddess: Yawn Juan — Do We Want What We Can't Have?

by

comment
cupid-1194119_960_720.jpg

Yawn Juan

My friend and I are debating why it is that men don't want you when you want them yet they're all gung-ho when you aren't interested. She believes that we just want what we can't have. Could it be that simple?

—Pondering

I

n looking for love, a number of people confuse "the chase" with something closer to criminal stalking. In their defense, these ideas don't come out of nowhere. For example, consider how creepy the Cupid dude with the little bow and arrow actually is. Basically, he's the chubby baby version of the maniac hunting people down with a crossbow.

The reality is, nobody pines for what's easy to get or, worse, what's chasing madly after them. It's about value. Being easy to get or seeming desperate suggests one has what anthropologists call "low mate value." Social psychologist Robert Cialdini explains this with "the scarcity principle," which describes how the less available something is the more valuable it seems and the more we want it. Being scarce doesn't necessarily equate to being more valuable; however, because of how psychologically painful we find regret — feeling that we screwed up and thus missed out — scarcity kicks us into a motivational state, making us all hot for whatever's in short supply.

This is the sales principle behind those chichi boutiques with just one item on a rack, as if they were a mini museum of the little black dress. There's a good chance they have 20 more in the back. But putting out 20 sends a different message — like one of those shops with a big yellow sign, "Everything in the store, $15, including the dog."

Still, the scarcity principle sometimes gets falsely accused of causing a burgeoning relationship to tank when other factors are actually to blame. Consider whether you're choosing wisely — going for someone who's ready to be in a relationship. Some people who think they're ready may not be. (Time — along with wanting to know instead of just wanting to believe — will tell.) Others will admit that they aren't ready. Believe them — or at least tread cautiously — and recognize the propensity many women have for Svengali-ette-alism: "I'll be the one to change him!" (Kleenex has succeeded as a brand in no small part thanks to these women.)

With someone who is a real possibility, you'll have your best shot by coming off appropriately interested instead of stalkerish so. If you tend to go from zero to texting a guy 36 times in a row while sitting in your car with binoculars trained on his house, figure out proactive ways to avoid that and other crazypants stuff you do. (Perhaps, for example, give your next-door neighbor custody of your phone and car keys upon coming home.) Sure, love is said to be "a journey," but it shouldn't be one that has something in common with being chased by feral hogs down a lonely country road.

amyalkon.jpg


The Things We Do Fur Love

My sweet boyfriend always leaves his nose hair and beard trimmings in the sink. He claims he forgets to wipe up afterward and asks, "Is it that big of a deal?" Am I being petty, or is this disrespectful when you share a space with somebody?

—Annoyed

S

urely, your boyfriend eventually notices dropped bits of beard hair — about when the sink starts panting and pawing in response to "Here, boy!"

heart-1503998_960_720.jpg

However, chances are he's leaving you a furry sink not out of disrespect but because he goes into a behavioral coma. This comes out of how our brain conserves energy by creating stored strings of behavior. The first time you ride a bike or eat with a spoon, you have to put conscious thought into each step. But with time and practice, the sequence becomes automatic and unconscious. Eventually, when you get a bowl of oatmeal, you just eat; you don't need to figure out how to load up the spoon and manage that "Bzzzz, here comes Mr. Airplane..." thing that transports the oatmeal to Mr. Tummy.

Research on habit change by psychologist Wendy Wood and her colleagues suggests that "disrupting" the usual physical sequence of a stored behavior can jolt a person out of autopilot, triggering their conscious mind to take over. You can disrupt your boyfriend's beard-snipping routine simply by changing where the scissors get stored. Maybe put them in a kitchen cabinet for a while — and of course, clue him in and explain why.

Yes, this could actually work to get him to remember your "Yoo-hoo...sinkiepoo!" However, what ultimately matters is how you treat each other. If your sink continues to have a five o'clock shadow, maybe decide to just laugh about your sweet daydreamy slob instead of going all toxic-ragey "I'll show him!" and throwing out the beard clippings yourself — by dragging the sink to the curb.

(c)2017, Amy Alkon, all rights reserved. Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave, #280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or e-mail AdviceAmy@aol.com (advicegoddess.com).


Add a comment