Hang onto your wallet – or lower your expectations

We have learned one more truth about ourselves: when we think an object is worth more, we enjoy it more. When told a bottle of wine is worth $90, researchers have found our brain tells us it’s more enjoyable than the same bottle of wine priced at $10. As if we don’t already have enough inflation to worry about – $3.10 gallons of gas, $4.00 gallons of milk, and Starbucks coffee costing more – we have to worry about the damage to the pocketbook we’re self-inflicting. Now, it may not mean we’re likely to actually go out and pay more for a bottle of wine – afterall, I’m as big a cheapskate as they come – but we’re more likely to feel better about the Night Train we’ve just bought on sale…marked down from $90 to a paltry lucky $13.

We are conditioned to believe that if something costs more, it must be better. To the point that in this California Institute of Technology and Stanford Business School study, we find that our brains actually change to accommodate this belief, by sending more blood and oxygen to the medial orbitofrontal cortex – the area of the brain associated with reward.

The study itself purports to provide evidence that marketing actions can influence the consumers’ not only expectations of quality, but our actual experience of enjoyment.

In a way, it makes sense and it is something from which marketers have made a living for as long as there have been marketers – if a person believes they’re getting a deal, they’re more likely to spring to buy a product. For instance, consumers as a whole do not understand the varying qualities of jewlery and when we see an advertisement for a sale – “with prices slashed” from/to – we think we’re getting a good deal. What we fail to notice is the caveat at the end/bottom of the advertisement: “original price may not have resulted in actual sales.” We’re told that the item is worth $X, and that the sale price is now some percentage reduced from that value, but we have no real way of knowing if it actually could sell at the “original” price.

This goes one step farther. This study asserts that marketing can actually change our physiological experience of a product, or in the argot of the profession, it can actually change the intrinsic quality of the product. Meaning that, at least with wine, if we’re told that it is an expensive bottle, we enjoy the wine – “enjoy” as operationally defined by brain activity in the pleasure center of the brain – to a greater extent.

That’s some heavy stuff. Watch out for more studies on this – the more we find out, the more likely we are to be paying more for the perception that we’re getting products of quality.

The study entitled “Marketing actions can modulate neural representations of experienced pleasantness” appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences of the United States of America January 14, 2008.






Afterward: I wrote this in March 2008, so I don’t know if any of the links still work, but I figure it was worth reposting. For instance, gas has come down some in the last 10 years…this caused me to remember what it was like leading up to the economic crash. I’ve found a few things from 2008 and am culling through them to see what’s relevant to post.

Being a Parent

Being a parent means being consistent
Because you’re teaching your children the world has rules

Being a parent means expressing anger
Without expressing rage

Being a parent means admitting mistakes when you make them
You will not always make the right call and the world is better with people who understand they can be wrong

Being a parent means doing the right thing,
Because it’s the right thing, not because it’s the easy thing

Being a parent means acting in someone else’s best interest
Instead of your own

Being a parent means always telling the truth
Even if it is an age appropriate truth

Being a parent means never violating your child’s trust
Your child’s world cannot be safe if he doesn’t trust you

Being a parent means being firm and fair
Even when you don’t want to be

Being a parent means participating in your child’s interests
You’re showing her you’re interested in her

Being a parent means talking
About things you’d almost certainly rather not talk about

Being a parent means saying, “I love you”
And not expecting to hear it back

Being a parent means creating a safe and loving home
Where your child could not feel more safe, or more loved

Afterward: I wrote this better than 10 years ago and have recently uncovered it.  Ten years have passed and when I read this I think, “wow, that’s heavy…” and then I worry I haven’t lived up to my own definition, despite my best intention to do so.  I hope I’ve done enough to allow my children the charity and good faith that I tried to do whats right for them.

Accountability in Sports

One of the criticisms professional sports players receive is that they’re paid millions to play “a child’s game.” This is to discuss one aspect of why professional athletes receive high compensation: Accountability.

I’ve spent considerable time discussing why I think professional sports at the highest level is just not playing a “childs’ game” – if you really think they’re playing a child’s game, I would direct your kind attention to some Little League baseball. Please do report out when you get back. Here’s but one defense of high salaries. Please note, however, that I do believe – as in any industry – there are those who under perform their salary, there are those who outperform their salary, and those organizations who have no idea how to compensate or evaluate.

Tell me the last time you heard anyone reference Roger Clemens’ little league or high school pitching statistics. That’s right, you haven’t.

Over a 5 year career between 1938 and 1942, Leonard Barnum played 52 games and started 21 of them for both the New York Giants and the Philadelphia Eagles as a punter, and quarterback. You can find his statistics in as much detail as was available in the day, which weren’t much, but then again they weren’t paid as much. You can look up the 1910 statistics on Nap Lajoie. In fact, you can look up just about any player who has played any professional sport ever and see what they’ve done when the lights come on. Nap died 50 years ago, yet we can find out what he did in any given season; as we get more sophisticated, we know what any player did on any given date in any given day.

There’s been a level of accountability in sports for as long as there have been professional sports – some more rudimentary than others, but the numbers are there. Today, we’ve got home/road splits, slugging, first pitch, second pitch, against lefties/righties, all sorts of minutia and all sorts of derivative statistics which will live on for as long as anyone cares about a given sport.

I’m not arguing that one has caused the other – in fact, I don’t much care which came first – I am however arguing there is a correlation: a statistical strength of relationship, but not a causal relationship.

As with any job that carries with it a high salary, there are expectations and is accountability. To pull down that six- or seven-figure salary, you’ve got to be able to demonstrate performance on specific metrics: shareholder value, income growth, expenses reduction, etc. We can argue whether or not sports metrics are meaningful, but we can’t argue that we could indeed – were we so inclined – to track just about every pitch Curt Schilling has ever thrown, how many innings thrown, how many pitches per inning, wins/losses, hit batsmen. How many of us have that level of accountability in our jobs? How many of us could account for every minute of every work day we’re on the job with definable metrics? How many of us would have a significant amount of time in the restroom or at the coffee machine?

For sure, pro athlete stats are tracked on their game performance and not necessarily what they do on the job, but off-field, but rest assured, they are fully accountable for what they do before, after and in preparation for the game. The meaning of the numbers – comparisons across different eras – is up for debate, but each athlete’s performance represented as quantified statistics is there for all time. I cannot think of any other profession where there is such a high degree of accountability.

Afterward: This is a post I had written in February/March 2008 and recently just uncovered.  I’ll post them as I cull through for the most interesting among them. Happy 10 year anniversary!

A Synopsis of 5 Children’s Books from a Slightly Different Perspective

Parents cannot receive enough helping guiding their children’s growth through reading. This article seeks to look at the meanings of five different children’s books through a slightly different – perhaps the adjective would be “twisted” – perspective.

We will now explore the Dr. Seuss work Green Eggs & Ham, the bedtime classics Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown and Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Vorst, and The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

Green Eggs & Ham by Dr. Seuss

An antagonistic marketing representative named Sam has the unenviable task of promoting a less than esthetically pleasing food product; Pushes envelope and bounds of legality by badgering his target into eventually trying his edible wares.

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown

An apparently recalcitrant child attempts to avoid going to sleep by diverting attention to every minute detail in his unkempt and unsanitary room – mice inhabit the place and leftover food remains in it’s tableware on the nightstand. Of note, a live fireplace in the child’s bedroom remains ablaze as the child is going to sleep, indicating negligent parental role models.

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Vorst
A journey into a narcissistic, underachieving child’s complaints around how badly a day has gone for him; failing to understand the complaints of those around him – for instance the teacher can’t understand how an invisible castle would meet the stated requirements of the school project causes the child stress. His life is that much more difficult than everyone elses’.

Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson

This story perfectly illustrates why children are not to be allowed unfettered access to crayons and other such playthings, particularly near bedtime. This is another story of lax parenting as Harold’s parents are no where to be seen as he goes on a journey while he should be sleeping. In fact, he is so tired, he hallucinates his journey to vast places created simply by his crayon; ultimately growing so tired he draws his own room and goes to sleep.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

A story of a gluttonous caterpillar apparently suffering from some form of the eating disorder pica. By the end of the week the caterpillar becomes so completely obese, there is little for him to do to cure his stomach ache but to literally build a cocoon. Carries the warning of overeating and obesity to children.


Afterward: I found some old blog entries I’d written some years ago, that I’m planning to cull through.  This one was written February 29, 2008, so it’s really only just about 3 years old.


INCERTO - Medium

"Lorum Ipsum"

Massachusetts Employment Law Blog

Legal news and updates for Massachusetts employers from Morse


Going beyond the marathon in Massachusetts

Reluctant Running and Exercise | CraptRunners

Crappy • Runners • Are • People • Too

Statistical Sage Blog

Dedicated to Teaching Statistics


"Lorum Ipsum"

A Frank Angle

Thoughts from the Inner Mind


Blurring the line between novelist and blogger since 2016