Archive for January, 2011

If we know that label A has the same meaning as label B, we might expect the same behaviors to result from seeing either label.  However, I do not think that that is always the case.

For example, in public spaces it is common to see a bin labeled ‘recycle’ next to a bin labeled ‘garbage’ (or ‘trash’).  We know that items in the garbage bin will end up in a landfill.  So, it shouldn’t matter if the bin is labeled ‘trash,’ ‘garbage’ or ‘landfill.’   However, when I came across a bin labeled ‘landfill’ today, I felt guiltier putting trash in there.  Even though we know that garbage=landfill, labeling it landfill might make us more likely to picture a landfill and feel guilty (and possibly lead to a change in behavior).

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I think people like to be outraged, which is part of the reason subjective rankings are popular.  I’ve noticed that people seem to get a bit of a rush when they think they are about to be outraged by something.


  • a movie that we hated wins best picture at the Academy Awards
  • a singer that we think has no talent appears on a music critic’s top 5 list
  • our favorite TV show is listed as one of the worst of the season by a television critic

I think part of the reason we click on links to subjective rankings and/or watch award shows is the anticipation of being outraged.

Why do we like to be outraged?  I think we like the opportunity to show off.

For example, there might not be many opportunities to tell our friends what we liked about a movie (and they might not be interested in listening).  However, if a movie we hated wins ‘best picture,’ it’s the perfect opportunity to explain why we hated it and why the movie we liked is better. Being outraged about it shows our passion. It’s an opportunity to really show off our values, fine taste or intelligence.

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