November 25, 2012

"He doesn't like living in NYC and says he would love to move west, but people in New York seem to believe that it is the only place to get a job."

A mother asks an economist — Dan Ariely — for advice, and what she gets contains some helpful general concepts for all sorts of decisionmakers:
I suspect your son is suffering from two decision biases. One, the status quo bias, has to do with our tendency to take our current situation as our reference point and to see any change as negative (or at least difficult) and with a high potential for regret. The second, the unchangeability bias, is the idea that when we face large decisions that seem to be immutable (getting married, having kids, moving to a distant place), the permanence of these decisions makes them seem even larger and more frightening. With these two biases combined, it's only natural that your son is apprehensive about moving West....
The the status quo bias and the unchangeability bias... that slots right into my own thinking about a couple major life decisions.

(The link goes to the Wall Street Journal, and here's an alternate link to the same item on Ariely's blog. It's a hassle not to be able to get useful links from the WSJ going to articles that I'm able to see as a subscriber. It makes having a subscription partly a disadvantage. I can find things I want to show you, but I can't easily tell if you'll be able to see them. A NYT subscription doesn't work like that.)

61 comments:

Jenner said...

Interesting. I am trying to think of big decisions I've made that follow these biases. I may think of something, but right now I can think of nothing where either bias has had much influence.

Mitchell the Bat said...

With an economist like Dan Ariely giving away that kind of advice for free, people like Anthony Robbins are going to have to drop their rates.

Jenner said...

"Interesting. I am trying to think of big decisions I've made that follow these biases. I may think of something, but right now I can think of nothing where either bias has had much influence."

Although, allowing the bias to have some influence may have made for some better (i.e., long term) decisions.

Dante said...

I'm trying to be honest, and I can't think of any major changes I've made that made me worry about my life.

Maybe it's that the status quo kind of sucks for the most part. Or perhaps it just "is." Or maybe I'm too stupid to understand it.

Anyway, here is a poem I read in my twenties from Magister Ludi: the Bead Game, by Hermann Hesse:

As every blossom fades
and all youth sinks into old age,
so every life’s design, each flower of wisdom,
attains its prime and cannot last forever.
The heart must submit itself courageously
to life’s call without a hint of grief,
A magic dwells in each beginning,
protecting us, telling us how to live.

High purposed we shall traverse realm on realm,
cleaving to none as to a home,
the world of spirit wishes not to fetter us
but raise us higher, step by step.
Scarce in some safe accustomed sphere of life
have we establish a house, then we grow lax;
only he who is ready to journey forth
can throw old habits off.

Maybe death’s hour too will send us out new-born
towards undreamed-lands,
maybe life’s call to us will never find an end
Courage my heart, take leave and fare thee well.

MikeR said...

I'm not a WSJ subscriber, but I go to the link, get blocked, google the title of the article, click the same link, and get to read the article. They won't block google.

Dante said...

Oh, the big financial obligations I've made did cause a lot of anxiety, incidentally. Like, buying a house (which I've done twice now).

Joe Schmoe said...

In the article the mother states, and I paraphrase from memory: he has had many successes, just not financial ones.

I'm not sure what that means exactly. Is he not able to support himself through his art? Does he work in another field to support himself?

Let's say that's the case. As such, I'll posit another bias: coming to the conclusion that the wider world is not as accepting of our talents as we thought. People in their twenties are viewed, and view themselves, with unbridled potential. Now that the NYC artist is in his mid-thirties, maybe he's starting to realize not necessarily that his art isn't as good as he thought, but that he might have to do some unseemly things to push his art commercially. Rather than swap bon mots and glasses of wine at a gallery showing, he may have to do advertising work, or really work to sell his artwork through other means besides striking it rich with a wealthy patron.

Joe Schmoe said...

Just about everyone I've ever talked to about their careers feels limited by the status quo bias. With very few exceptions, they'd all like to be doing something else, but don't want to switch careers or start a business because they don't think they'll make as much money at first, they'll lose vacation time they've accrued, they need to stay in the pecking order to get a promotion, they won't have as good of a health care plan or retirement plan, and on and on and on.

SGT Ted said...

More big city provincialism.

O Ritmo Segundo said...

New York isn't the only place to get a job but the majority of the flyover is a vast cultural wasteland/desert and best avoided by people with any interest in a life that even hopes to encourage as much of (or more) creativity as it does conformity.

I suppose there are other trade-offs, but not for the people who want to prove that by making it "here," they "can make it anywhere".

No one says that if you can make it in Omaha you can make it anywhere.

Richard Florida might have something to say about that phenomenon but I think he's a bit over-rated, too - as are all of these "lifestyle pundits". It's funny how much use they make of the semblance of economic arguments to prop up their new and ridiculous industry.

Aridog said...

I am either dense as tar, or this is a load of crap. Status Quo Bias and Unchangeability bias are different just how?

Paco Wové said...

"people in New York seem to believe that it is the only place to get a job"

A similar situation pertains in academia, in my experience. In grad. school, we couldn't imagine there would be any worthwhile life "outside". Making the break was difficult, but looking back it was the best decision for me and my family.

Right is right! said...

Ann why don't you make the break and move out of that god awful Madison. What a crappy liberal run city. Any one who choses to live there and pay their outrageous taxes is just being plain dumb.

O Ritmo Segundo said...

The mom's either got her kid's question wrong or he asked the wrong question. New York isn't the only place to get a job; but it's one of the few places in America where one can have both an interesting and fulfilling life!

Confusing the two is a perennially American shortcoming.

Paco Wové said...

"Mr. Sockpuppet, meet Mr. Troll. Mr. Troll, meet Mr. Sockpuppet."

ricpic said...

In plain english it's called timidity. How many millions can't make the break with the familiar because "OMG, how will I survive outside the womb?!"

O Ritmo Segundo said...

Sounds like you're experiencing some confusion of your own, Mr. Vivisected Paco.

That avatar is like a cross between a flasher/exhibitionist and something out of the mind of Wes Craven. Care to share how you decided upon it?

MarkW said...

"No one says that if you can make it in Omaha you can make it anywhere."

Not Warren Buffet?

ricpic said...

Montana Urban Schmendrick, or provincialism personified.

Paddy O said...

Do it.

O Ritmo Segundo said...

That's a good point, but a lot of people think of investing as something that anyone should be able to do, and from anywhere. For reasons of personal finance and not just as a career. Buffett's also more talented (and ethical) than most, certainly moreso than jerks like Romney. In any event, I'd suppose that even investors still flood places like Wall Street because it puts them on the pulse of the global economy, which is intertwined with its role as a cultural capitol for a reason.

Paddy O said...

I think this very much explains the difference between Westerners and Easterners, and Americans and Europeans.

It's a self-selecting difference, the people who stay and the people who just go.

edutcher said...

Old saying, sometimes you have to take a step down to make a step up.

Gotham is hardly the be-all, end-all it once might have been.

PS Uh oh, she's either going to retire or (gasp!) shut down the blog.

(you mean we lose our happy home?)

Bruce Hayden said...

New York isn't the only place to get a job but the majority of the flyover is a vast cultural wasteland/desert and best avoided by people with any interest in a life that even hopes to encourage as much of (or more) creativity as it does conformity.

Interestingly, I see the conformity of those living in big dense urban areas, while Ritmo sees it with the rest of the country.

You can keep your urban environment where everyone lives cheek to jowl, and I will keep mine, where in the summer I can see maybe two houses, the biggest daily problem seems to be the deer infestation, and the worry that if you throw out food too close to the house, you will attract bears. Most there don't seem to lock either their houses or their cars. And, Ritmo wants to live somewhere where you have to, and most likely can't have a gun in case those fail.

Winter, the biggest issue is whether the snow at the local ski areas is any good, and how warm and sunny it will be to go skiing. Biggest bummer is blue sky, a lot of new snow, and a project due to keep me from skiing it.

Each to his or her own.

I suppose there are other trade-offs, but not for the people who want to prove that by making it "here," they "can make it anywhere".

No one says that if you can make it in Omaha you can make it anywhere.


But, he apparently can't make it in NYC, and might be able to make it elsewhere - though I have serious doubts about that. My understanding of the art world is that most who try it as a career fail. End up doing something else to pay the bills. And, the artists I have know who became successful were the types of self-promoters who would probably have succeeded regardless of what area they decided to go into. The NYC art scene is, according to friends who have done well there over the decades, vicious (and, yes, I have gotten some business as an IP attorney as a result).

I think though that the idea is that it is easier to get some success in such an environment because there is so much more opportunity, despite there being maybe even more competition. Or, maybe not - because of the lifestyle thing - a lot of people really don't like the idea of spending their lives in such dreary environments, and esp. if they are going to raise a family.

O Ritmo Segundo said...

ed, doesn't FOX still keep their headquarters there?

Erika said...

Althouse: I know you want to move to Seattle, as you've mentioned it before. Just do it. You'll like it, and it won't be all that different from Wisconsin, and if you don't care for it after all, you can always move back. You won't have kids or a job or a spouse's demanding career to answer to. Footloose and fancy free. Better yet, get a nice RV or rent cabins and move around the country. Your ancestors left Europe because they had a tolerance for the unknown and a taste for adventure: do them proud. Just pack up and go. My husband and I have done it numerous times, with kids in tow to boot, and it's incredibly exhilarating.

Jason said...

Ah, Ritmo...

Come by once again to prove what an insufferable ass he is.

Good lord, Rittie... You think NYC is one of the only places where you can have both an interesting and fulfilling life?

What a sheltered, ignorant, arrogant, pathetic little adolescent shit you are.

ricpic said...

Seattle?! The bloody sun goes away from September to May.

Jason said...

Ah, Ritmo...

Come by once again to prove what an insufferable ass he is.

Good lord, Rittie... You think NYC is one of the only places where you can have both an interesting and fulfilling life?

What a sheltered, ignorant, arrogant, pathetic little adolescent shit you are.

virgil xenophon said...

There is a sub-set of this decision-making dynamic/theory in which the logic moves the other way. There was a once prominent but now disgraced (for faking credentials) sociologist
who, iirc, wrote for Forbes and Newsweek, who advanced the theory (which has never exactly been since studied to the point of confirmation afaik) that the more confident one is concerning one's own abilities (i.e., due to some combination of IQ, education, and/or achievement) the more rash and foolhardy one becomes. As such, he posited/offered the example of just such an individual as is the subject under discussion here being more willing than not--rash even-in a desire to make major life-style changes (e.g., to "move West" in the case under discussion) totally bereft of any support system (family, professional/academic colleagues, friendly banking relationships, etc., ) and thus often set themselves up for failure unless all goes perfectly to plan, whereas more "average" individuals (however defined) because of the very fact of their lack of overweening confidence in their own abilities, wisely more carefully assess the difficulties involved and thus actually make more logical and better decisions. Anyone here agree? "Believe it or Not" YMMV..

O Ritmo Segundo said...

I don't mind wide open spaces, just think they're better off being appreciated by hikers, etc., and not despoiled by ugly sprawl. Bloomberg (and his counterparts) are actually doing a lot to "greenify" their cities, it's a great way to make their energy use even more efficient (cities can already take advantage of network effects for less per capita energy use), prettier, and sustainable while diversifying their attraction to residents and tourists alike.

Suburbs in contrast are losing their ability to advertise the sort of attraction they did in that bygone era that Republicans confuse for today: the 1950s. I assume that the bad economy is jumbling everything up. But once the Tea Party is muzzled and better growth returns, the trends toward city life and better growth there will resume.

Bruce Hayden said...

Montana Urban Schmendrick, or provincialism personified.

Hey - Montana is great. That is where I seem to be spending six months a year these days, expecting to move back to the house there mid spring. I am pushing for April, but two of her grandkids have birthdays in May down in AZ, so may wait a bit. March is comparable, if not warmer, than November, and we only left there a week ago.

But, I wouldn't call it urban - we are 80 or so miles away from the nearest WalMart (which is a good way of telling how rural someone really is). Still, I could be happy in more urban Missoula or Bozeman (esp. with Big Sky near there, now one of the most awesome ski areas in the country). Both, of course, have thriving art communities...

O Ritmo Segundo said...

By all means, shitless Jason. Describe the wonderful life you live and all the amenities you have there... wherever "there" is...

Oh, and don't forget to be a big boy and post once, not twice. People who claim to hate arrogance and being insufferable can confine separate thoughts to separate posts. I know you suppose your ideas to be stupendous ones, but you don't need to clone them.

Erika said...

Ritmo, you can't be stupid enough not to know that occasionally Blogger hiccups. Must you be an ass about every.little.thing? Grow up.

wyo sis said...

There was a time when we moved around a lot. We had 4 children at the time and we just picked them up and moved them as well. It's eye opening and we thought it was a lot of fun. The kids each dealt with it in their own way, but it was a positive experience on the whole.

O Ritmo Segundo said...

I will behave toward Jason the way he behaves toward me, Erika. Thank you.

Bruce Hayden said...

I don't mind wide open spaces, just think they're better off being appreciated by hikers, etc., and not despoiled by ugly sprawl. Bloomberg (and his counterparts) are actually doing a lot to "greenify" their cities, it's a great way to make their energy use even more efficient (cities can already take advantage of network effects for less per capita energy use), prettier, and sustainable while diversifying their attraction to residents and tourists alike.

Sounds nice, but mostly, I would suggest, pretty phrases. If sustainability is your goal, probably nothing better than burning wood in the winter. Used to be a great timber industry thoughout much of the northern U.S., esp. in W. Montana. Not any more, since the environmental wackos closed off timbering on federal lands. The result is rapidly increasing fire danger as the fuel naturally builds up on the forest floors, year by year. About the only thing that you can do these days with all that timber is burn it in your fireplace in the winter. But, then, we have a 90 megawatt hydro dam less than a mile from the house and long freight trains full of coal running west through town maybe once an hour...

What we saw with Sandy was the fragility of the urban power distribution system. Millions losing power for weeks because Bloomberg and his ilk were spending money to "greenify" their cities, instead of protecting the power infrastructure, which was where the money should have been going. The entire system seems to have collapsed in less fashionable parts of his city, including power, water, police, fire, sewage, etc. I try to envision that happening in NW Montana where I now spend about half my time, and frankly can't.

wyo sis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
wyo sis said...

Never act always react. That way nothing is ever your fault.
I think that's the mistaken notion at work here.

O Ritmo Segundo said...

Suburbs and sprawl are inherently inefficient, Hayden. You can look it up if you don't want to believe me. And they are also different things than wilderness living, which has little to nothing to do with the post.

Your second paragraph sounds even more ignorant than the first, though. I have no reason to believe that Bloomberg wants to prevent "decentralization" of his grid, (whatever that means; I assume you mean to invent a scenario whereby he prevented people from producing their own energy), but if you can't help wanting to score offensive political points against hurricanes and other natural disasters, perhaps the relevance hurdle of your comment is higher than what any human or worldly power can help you with.

Mo said...

Ritmo,

You need to get out more. I was born and raised in NYC, lived there my whole life with the exception of college and a brief stint in London. I, too, once believed that a big urban center was the only place worth living.

Then I was sent to Nashville for a temporary work assignment, and I realized how awful the quality of life in NYC really is. The people ARE rude, the streets are dirty, traffic is horrific an the subways smell like piss. You pay an absolutely absurd sum for housing of any kind, and you're denied rights that much of the rest of he country takes for granted. The great restaurants do NOT make up for all that.

I turned my temporary assignment permanent and have lived in TN for 3 years. Never been happier or more fulfilled. What's more, my fiancé and i are planning to move to Minnesota after we're married - true flyover country that is filled with absolutely wonderful people, good jobs, strong communities and stunning countryside. I feel really, really sorry for you, that you are so close-minded, provincial and conformist that you can't think outside the teeny box you've created for yourself.

Have fun chasing the latest, hottest dinner reservation. I'll be eating fresh-caught Walleye and homegrown corn on the shore of a crystalline lake.

Sucker!!!

O Ritmo Segundo said...

I don't live in New York, Mo. And I wouldn't; it's a little much for me there. Less congested areas are more to my liking. I travel to the scenic retreats quite a bit. Unfortunately I doubt they get as much tourism as certain cities do, but perhaps there's more to be learned in those numbers than your feelings can tell us.

Anyway, I grew up in the environment and region you seem to find as salvation. New Yorkers can be rude, but they are also more honest. The Midwest is filled with nice people who won't always tell you what they think, (or even bother to figure out what they really think); such is the price of conformity and an unwillingness or inability to ask uncomfortable questions. Also, the lack of sunlight seems to take its toll. Maybe acting nice helps keep the glum cloudiness from allowing them to kill each other - as Jeff Dahmer and so many other nice, well spoken Midwesterners have done. ;-)

Anyway, enjoy your lake and try to restrict the amount of fertilizer you use on your home-grown corn. The Mississippi headwaters are nice, but turning the Gulf of Mexico into a dead zone just might mess things up for other, non-city dwellers!

Also, say hi to Garrison Keillor for me. I actually like his show. Thanks.

Bruce Hayden said...


Your second paragraph sounds even more ignorant than the first, though. I have no reason to believe that Bloomberg wants to prevent "decentralization" of his grid, (whatever that means; I assume you mean to invent a scenario whereby he prevented people from producing their own energy), but if you can't help wanting to score offensive political points against hurricanes and other natural disasters, perhaps the relevance hurdle of your comment is higher than what any human or worldly power can help you with.


I think that you missed the point - that a dense urban environment is extremely fragile. If everything goes right, then, yes, it can be great. But when things go wrong, they tend to go wrong worst in the most densely urbanized areas.

But, you are correct, that I did maybe move the markers a bit, or, maybe you are distinguishing suburban from rural (from urban).

Yes, suburban life is less efficient. But, BFD. Our energy problems are almost entirely self-inflicted. People move out of the big cities to raise their kids in suburbia for a number of very good reasons, and most go to quality of life. Less crime. More space. Better schools. Friendlier environment. Etc.

UNTRIBALIST said...

Professor:

What MikeR said at 11/25/12 8:55 AM

wyo sis said...

It's the utter unselfconscious assininity that eventually gets to you. He genuinely thinks he's blessed with the whole truth and the world is waiting to hear it from his most worthy lips. If it wasn't so grating you could feel sorry for him.

O Ritmo Segundo said...

I just happen to think that facts are at least as important as feelings, wyo sis. No need to take that personally. Both Mo and I are familiar with the same, various settings; so she can make her choice and I can make mine. We both have the experience and wherewithall to debate them thoughtfully. To each their own. Again, no need to take it personally - unless you're not as big a person as you'd like others to think you are.

O Ritmo Segundo said...

Mo, is one of your blogs really titled "Eff My Clients"? And is that reflective of a New York state of mind or that oh so much more mild mannered Midwestern one that you tell us you are so ready to embrace?

Hayden: Not phony always beats friendly. We can leave the issue of crime for now, but keep in mind that meth, divorce and other markers of modern social dysfunction are higher in less urbanized states.

wyo sis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
wyo sis said...

QED

O Ritmo Segundo said...

I sense a wild bucking bronco deep within someone that needs restraining.

You take yourself way too seriously, wyo. Peace.

NotquiteunBuckley said...

I hate traffic, a lot. So much so, I often have fantasized about moving to Alaska.

In the end, I appreciate the assholes who drive me to road rage so much I can't leave them.

NotquiteunBuckley said...

Oh, and what our esteemed proprietor should do is star in "Front and Center" with Sarah Palin on Fox affiliates all across the nation after Fox News Sunday.

It will be an hour of in-depth discussion with a centrist and a conservative. After a while they can interview particular guests but to start the show should focus on where the stars sit, not where they stand, per Mike Rosen of 850 KOA in Denver.

ricpic said...

Bruce Hayden - To clarify, Montana Urban Legend was one of the earlier incarnations of Ritmo. I dropped the Legend and added Schmendrick for obvious reasons. No knock on Montana at all as far as I'm concerned. In fact those who are lucky enough to live in the Bozeman/Livingston region have access to all or almost all the urban amenities combined with spectacular country. Trout fishing non-pareil.

ken in sc said...

Any place in the NPR archipelago will be friendly to artists—especially bullshit artists. Missoula, Madison, Chapel Hill, Asheville, Austin, Berkeley, Seattle; those are just a few of the choices west of NYC.

leslyn said...

Joe Schmoe said..."just about everyone I've ever talked to about their careers feels limited by the status quo bias."

Thanksgiving weekend reminds me to be thankful for a father who taught me not to be afraid of risk, taking chances, and going forward into the unknown, into dreams, and after apparent failure; and for a mother who agreed those were virtues.

They never stated TR's famous quote about The Man in the Arena, but they taught me to believe it.

leslyn said...

Another great quote:

"Success isn't permanent, and failure isn't fatal."

Mike Ditka

leslyn said...

Another great quote:

"Success isn't permanent, and failure isn't fatal."

Mike Ditka

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Just about everyone I've ever talked to about their careers feels limited by the status quo bias. With very few exceptions, they'd all like to be doing something else, but don't want to switch careers or start a business

My husband, has been self employed his entire life. He has had several successful businesses in the past, which he sold or just moved on because he was tired of the. Currently has a very good plumbing and water systems business for the last 23 years.

He gave me the best advice when I was considering leaving my comfy corporate job and going out on my own as an independent financial advisor and investment agent. I was waffling. Afraid to take the leap. Worrying about all the what ifs.

He said: Unless you are willing to go to the wall, go all out and lose everything, you shouldn't be in business. Either take that first step off of the ledge or turn your back on it and don't ever talk about it again

It takes a special mind set to be in business. You DO have to overcome the paralysis of the status quo bias and the changeability bias. Once you have done it and it was successful, it is easier and easier to be free.

Lydia said...

Had to look up leslyn's beloved T. Roosevelt "arena" quote:

It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.

Sounds like dime-store Nietzsche to me.

Freeman Hunt said...

There are other cities. All of them have working artists.

jamesbbkk.com said...

This claim: " Buffett's also more talented (and ethical) than most, . . ." warrants further examination and support. For example, many have noted that Mr. Buffett is a strong supporter of the estate tax. Why? So that devisees / heirs of business owners with insufficient life insurance may sell their businesses to him at discounted prices. Or alternatively, business owners may buy life insurance from one of his many life insurance companies. Using government coercion to strip others of property so that your business might prosper hardly seems ethical. His companies also made loans or preferred equity investments on onerous terms to struggling companies in 2008. Ethical?