Tag Archives: Unconscious

Are Too Many Choices a Hindrance?

One reason for achieving goals is that people are motivated by self-gratification that may occur consciously or unconsciously (Aarts, 2007).  Addressing needs, or accomplishing a task etc. are examples of goal achievement that occur on a regular basis.  Some tasks however require more thought process and perhaps may involve more choices. While more choices are what society may strive for, it is arguably a positive outcome.

Take television or cable channels, for instance, the former may allow a person in the U.S. access to see 12 channels while the latter may result in 70 or more.  A person can be content with watching one show at any given time or bits and pieces of many. Whereas channel surfing may be a popular past time it’s hardly time well spent and people may even be less happy in the end. In the context of dating there may be the ‘perfect [person] list’ where there is an elusive perfect individual somewhere out there.  The individual may be so overwhelmed with choices of an ideal that, again, the outcome is less than positive.

Iyengar, Wells, and Schwartz (2006) argue that too many choices can make someone feel worse rather than better. The researchers found that people who were fixed on options (i.e. TV channels or attributes on the perfect person list, for instance) and used external sources (i.e. TV guide and fashion) as information tended to be less happy.  An explanation for the result is that, in pursuing the goal, the individual is in search for the ideal and while a person may have indeed performed better in some way in the end the ideal cannot been reached (Iyengar et al., 2006).

Depiction of water choices

Read more: NPR- basic TV offers cable alternative

Read more: Ladies and ‘perfect man’ list

Iyengar, S.S., Wells, R.E., & Schwartz, B. (2006).  Doing better but feeling worse: Looking for the “best” job undermines satisfaction.

Aarts, H. (2007). On the emergence of human goal pursuit: The nonconscious regulation and motivation of goals.

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Conscious or Unconscious Aromas?

People go to great lengths to conceal bad odors or enhance pleasant ones. For example, a store shelf will reveal a myriad of deodorants while upscale name brand perfumes may be “designed to capture the essence of a garden on the Nile”. In fact, celebrities are capitalizing by adding their names to the bottle of perfume. An NPR news report cites rapper 50 Cent, as selling the “smell of success” in a bottle.  Even more, markets not normally associated with perfume are beginning to introduce their own products. The implication of these developments is the importance of others noticing the “smell of success” or the scent of “a garden on the Nile” when near you.

However, if the purpose of wearing perfume is to look favorably in other people’s eyes then according to research by Li, Moallem, Paller, and Gottfried (2007) people are taking the wrong approach. It appears that the best way to influence someone’s social preference is to wear perfume that is perceived outside of consciousness. The researchers found that pleasant odors presented unconsciously produced more favorable ratings of faces. Contrary to general perception, favorable ratings were not found when presenting pleasant scents consciously. It remains unclear, however, if the findings will hold in social interactions.  If so, how close would people have to stand next to each other for the effect to occur?

Read more: Money in a bottle

Hear more: Russian perfume

Li, W., Moallem, I., Paller, K.A., & Gottfried, J.A. (2007) Subliminal smells can guide social preferences.

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