What Are You Committed To?
If you ask most girls, you’ll find that most guys are afraid of commitment. If you ask most guys, you’ll find that we are a misunderstood bunch, and that commitment to us means something entirely different than it does to girls. We are committed to our careers, our friends, our dreams and our goals. Maybe when girls get together and complain about their guy’s failure to commit, perhaps they need to reexamine what they are expecting their guy to commit to.
They did a study a while back. When I say “they,” I’m referring to a group of social psychologists. They went up and down neighborhood streets, and asked if people would mind putting a small sign either in their front window, or on their lawn. The sign was a fairly generic sign, like “be careful of children,” or “please don’t litter in neighborhood,” or something along those lines. They did this to random households, not to every household. That is, one each street, they only choose a small percentage of houses to make the request.
They found that about 30-40 percent accepted the small sign. Keep in mind they asked houses at random. Then about three weeks later, they came through the same neighborhoods again. Now they asked to put up bigger, more controversial signs. Based on earlier data, 30 or 40 percent would agree to a small, generic sign. They suspected a smaller percentage would accept a bigger, more controversial sign, like “vote for Joe Blow,” or whatever.
What they found was interesting. In households that weren’t asked to put up the small signs, there were only a tiny percentage of people that agreed to put up big sign. Something around three percent. But on the houses that had already agreed to put a small sign, over 70 percent agreed to put up a bigger sign.
It appeared that once they got people to commit to a small amount, asking for a much larger amount was much easier than they suspected. This same phenomenon has been shown again and again in various different areas.
For example, studies show that during jury trials, often they will conduct a quick “straw vote” before beginning deliberations. Sometimes everybody says guilty or not guilty out loud, that is publicly committing to one position or another. Other times they anonymously write “G” or “NG” on a slip of paper.
On average, the trials where people publicly commit to one position or the other last over twice as long. It seems that once people make a public commitment, it is much harder to change their minds.
It is also a well-taught fact about setting goals, specifically quitting a bad habit like smoking, or losing weight, you’ll have much more success if you tell somebody, or make your position public.
Some psychologists feel this is one of many “shortcuts” the brain has evolved over time to save computing time. If we choose something, we tend to stick with it. Our brain doesn’t to reinvent the wheel with every decision.
What about you? What brand of shoe do you wear? Have you always worn that brand, or do you switch every time? What about cars? What make of car do you drive? Do you buy a different model every time?
How about when you go on vacations? Do you always stay in the same hotels, or do you change it up every now and then?
While it can be helpful, and time saving to make the same choices again and again, it can also cause problems. Have you ever gotten into an argument, and argued much longer than you should have, simply because you didnâ€™t want to budge from your position, rather than changing your mind based on new information?
The whole “in for a penny, in for a pound” mindset shows up in many different areas of life. It served us well when we were hunter/gatherers, foraging for food. It helped keep us safe and out of harms way. But is it so unreasonable to reevaluate your position every now and then? Is it wrong to change your mind halfway through a project or discussion in light of new information?
It can help to realize what is important, and why. If you are arguing with somebody simply for the sake of arguing, maybe it could help to step back and take an objective look at things. And maybe wonder why it’s so important to be right all the time. But if you are truly seeking information, it can help to try and see the other person’s point of view.
At any rate, it helps to be aware of our minds tendency to use shorthand thinking. Many times it does help us, and make life easier, but it often times it doesn’t
The trick is to know the difference.