I was born at the beginning of the special generation. We’re all so unique and gifted that we get participation ribbons and cake just for existing! Yay for us!
And we really are unique: in my family we have two sets of identical twins, but even they don’t look exactly the same and their personalities are worlds apart.
In other ways, though, we’re more alike than we’re comfortable admitting. There’s a reason iPhones, This Is Us, and pumpkin spice lattes cause mass hysteria: marketers conduct focus groups to learn what the majority of society finds appealing.
We might not enjoy feeling like part of the herd, but these similarities allow us to help each other make better choices.
Would You Rather…
NPR’s The Hidden Brain Podcast You vs. Future You is chock-full of social psychology gold regarding how we all behave in predictable yet logically erroneous ways. Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert states,
“The problem is something we call the illusion of diversity. We think we are utterly unique, that other people’s experiences might tell us a little bit about ours, but not very much, because, after all, we’re so different [from] everybody. Well, nonsense. You’re not different [from] everybody. We’re basically all the same. “
For example, before you choose a movie, would you rather see the trailer or read the reviews? Most of us would choose to see the trailer and decide for ourselves because of course we know our own preferences better than everyone else.
But how many times have you been disappointed by an awful movie that had an amazing trailer? Then you read the reviews and kick yourself because you won’t ever get those two hours of your life back and all these lovely people tried to warn you.
And how many times have you read a great book and found that other readers also gave it five stars on Goodreads?
It’s the same for podcasts, blogs, and other forms of media. Chances are, if you liked it, others did too and vice versa.
References On Match.com?
Our preferences are also likely to be similar in other areas, which is why we pay so much attention to our friends’ recommendations and referrals.
Matchmakers used to fill a key role in society giving the most important of recommendations, but now we think we can do it ourselves. However, while you might prefer to see a Match.com profile with pictures and a short autobiographical essay, you’d likely find more value in reviews left by previous dates or girlfriends.
It works for restaurants on Yelp, so why not for romance too?
We’re not as different as we’d like to think, so we should stop trying to reinvent the wheel! Someone has already made our mistakes and suffered from our bad decisions so we don’t have to.
It Doesn’t Stop There
The next time you find cheap flights to London in January and think they’re a great idea, remember that off-season is off for a reason. It’s cold, rainy, and dreary. Shoulder season might be great, but some places are so awful during off-seasons that entire towns shut down and there’s nothing to see or do. You are unlikely to be so unique that you’ll enjoy something everyone else knows enough to avoid, so read up on TripAdvisor before purchasing those tickets.
And when you find two amazing apartments for rent on Airbnb but can’t decide? Read the reviews. One might have a super-cool host with easy check-in and great neighborhood recommendations while the other might be a pain to get in touch with and have creepy-crawlies in the tub. I know which one I’d choose.
The same goes for eBay sellers (check reviews to see who’s reliable) and Amazon.com products (read reviews to see which ones are easy to assemble and built to last). You can even find reviews of college professors!
You Really Are Unique
Okay, okay. Each of us is a unique individual. Some of us are vertically challenged (cough), some wear sweaters in 80-degree weather (cough), and some of us hate the taste of coffee so much that we can’t even choke down a pumpkin spice latte (cough, cough, cough).
So yes, some reviewers are biased or even completely off their rockers. Take it all with a grain of salt.
However, Gilbert reminds us,
“First, if you share the biases of the reviewers, they will correctly predict how you will feel, even if it’s unfair…
The second point I’d make is this – I’m not saying that surrogation is a perfect way to make decisions. You know, Winston Churchill once said, Democracy is the worst form of government, except for the others. Well, surrogation is a terrible way to make predictions about your own future happiness, except for the other way to make predictions.”
What do you think? Do you trust the reviews or prefer to make your own decisions based on pictures and statistics? Let me know your decision-making process in the comments below.
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