Sofis: Less is more in happiness
- May. 1, 2012
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“It’s often said that our country is materialistic and is always looking for more whether it’s technology or clothing or food. Is there an objective way of determining if this is valid?”
This past weekend I sat down to watch the second half of Matrix Revolutions to get my dose of Keanu Reeves. I have Direct TV and a DVR that I use to record movies and shows but unfortunately this movie in particular was on live and I had no choice but to sit through the commercials. At first I was impatient and annoyed at the commercials, but eventually I started to enjoy the commercials as a part of the movie experience. It built anticipation and whenever I saw Keanu doing Ju-Jitsu, it was all the sweeter.
There is almost nothing we enjoy that isn’t temporary, fleeting, or not always available. A good example is the commercials that made it exciting for me when the movie came back on. In Behavioral Analysis, this is referred to as deprivation. Deprivation is one of the main principles of reinforcement and the level of deprivation influences how hard we will work to get the reinforcer. A simple example is if you haven’t eaten all day and it is 3 p.m., you are probably more likely to put forth more effort to get food than if you were stuffed and didn’t want anything to eat. Similarly, because I was deprived of watching Keanu give cheesy one-liners during commercials, I was reinforced more when the movie came back on.
Psychology can also support the notion that less is more. Shawn Anchor is the CEO of a company called Good Think Inc. and he teaches about an upcoming trend called Positive Psychology. In his TED talk, Anchor discusses how, as individuals, we constantly heighten our goals when achieved and we focus on the next hurdle instead of staying in the present. He says that this approach bleeds through management styles, parenting styles, and our general culture in America. His research seems to support our countries notion that we want more, more, and more.
Entrepreneur Graham Hill, the founder of treehugger.com and lifeedited.com also gave a TED talk about how we waste space, money, and hurt the environment with our attachment to material goods. According to Hill we have three times more space for our stuff than we did fifty years ago but have significantly less room as illustrated by the rise in the 22 billion dollar storage industry. Why is this a problem? He cites credit card debt, environmental impact, and a whole lot of stress that goes with owning so much. Lifeedited.org is his website where he gives advice, help, and links to create an apartment where one multi-purpose room can become 24 different rooms. Over time it saves money, stress, space, and helps the environment.
So how do we know that less is more isn’t just grandma telling us to save our pennies? I’d argue that we know because people from different social science fields, entrepreneurs, and other individuals are creating independent, yet valid arguments for why less is more. Various proponents focus on quantifiable evidence, experimental evidence, observational evidence, etc. At some point though we just have to look around at all the extraneous stuff we have and ask as Graham Hill does, “Is that really going to make me happier? Truly?”
Sofis is a senior in applied behavioral science from Pittsburgh, Penn.