Question & Answer
So I guess like one way to avoid it is just to put all these filters such as deactivate Facebook or you use less of social media. Like nobody is giving an accurate sense of what their real world is, of what their beliefs are, of how much fun they're having on these tools. And so, in the context of these kind of magazine images, you can shut it off a little bit by realizing these things are Photoshopped.
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I have a question about the TV study that you talked about at the beginning. So you said that there’s this idea that you watch TV, and as you watch people on TV, you feel inadequate because they make more money and then it makes you spend more money. But I was wondering if there’s maybe like a confounding variable in that, because it maybe that because you are watching a lot of TV, you have a lot of leisure time, and as you have more leisure time, you buy things. So you’re buying potato chips to watch the TV and not necessarily buying things because you’re watching the TV and feel inadequate. Yeah. Great question. And in fact, in all those cases, they weren’t able to like what is the extra four dollars being spent on from that statistic and so on. With all these studies, they’re kind of pooling data that’s correlational, right? So they’re looking at, I’m going to correlate the amount of TV you watch with some outcome. And in all those cases, all the things you are talking about where it’s like maybe you’re getting this effect but not for the reason you realize. Maybe just the people that are watching more TV are the people who would like the cushiest job. So they have the most money to like blow on things and so on, right? What would be awesome is to do those same studies in a more experimental way where you just assign people. I just bring random people off the street and I assign you to watch more TV, and I ask if that impacts your behavior. Those kinds of studies haven’t been done yet, but I think those are the kinds of studies that are being done in a different context, like in the Facebook study, where I assign people to look at Facebook, and not necessarily in terms of money spending, although they didn’t look at that, but some of the same effects are there. So I agree. There could be all kinds of things that are going on with those data points and they should do the right kind of more experimental not correlation equals causation kinds of studies. But my prediction is if they did them, you probably could get a lot of the same effects. And one of the effects in there that does worry me that we already have is this idea that when you watch more TV, you perceive your income as worse. So if it really was the case that people were watching a lot of TV had more salary and more leisure time, maybe they wouldn’t just necessarily see their absolute salary as worse than the same salary if you didn’t watch some TV. But totally agreed. It’d be awesome. A lot of the studies we’re going to see, and this is going to be true for the whole course, is like if you just looked at that one study, you’d be like, okay, there’s like a way better way to do that study, and we should do it the right way. But sometimes the mass of all this evidence together starts building the same case about it. Yes, totally right. And whenever you see a correlation, you should call me on like, okay, what’s really doing the work there? Is it the thing that you think or is it like something else? Okay, you? Yes, my question is regarding social comparisons, like, we are, at the end of the day, like super social creatures, particularly in college where students are always looking at their shoulders and see how other people are live their lives. So I guess like one way to avoid it is just to put all these filters such as deactivate Facebook or you use less of social media. But other than like kind of totally just detaching yourself from the social realm, which is kind of impossible, what other factors kind of help with the problem with social comparisons other than proximity? Yes, yes, yes, yes. So a couple of things on that, because that’s like, I think, the million dollar question, right? Like are all of you going to deactivate Snapchat and Facebook tonight and all the stuff? Although, I think, I kind of think you actually should but whatever. But let’s say you won’t, probably most of you won’t do it. Okay. So how do we shut it off. First thing, I think, on social comparison, because I kind of presented it in a pretty negative way. I’m like this is this horrible thing. But like the fact is when social comparison was first studied by social psychologists, like back in the ’50s, they actually thought of it as a good thing. And it’s a good thing because it allows you to like set your compass, right? So like how much should you earn? Like how pretty should you be? Like how many likes should you get on this comment on Facebook, right? Like you just don’t know. Like there’s no absolute value. In fact, the idea is that the only way we could get an absolute on this is to look to other people, like other people as a reference point is really useful because it kind of tells you what the yardstick is, right? And so when social comparison was first studied, people thought of it, in some ways this is kind of almost like a positive, right? Like it’s this way our minds seek out information about what should our yardstick be when we don’t have any way to have an absolute yardstick. So it has its good points, too. And that’s kind of part of your question, because you couldn’t shut it off for everything, right? Or you kind of need to know like how many internships should I be applying to and like how should I be doing in this class generally. But you kind of need that information and we get it from the social world. The problem is that the information we get from the social world isn’t an accurate yardstick, on Facebook, Snapchat, et cetera. For the same reason that I think it’s not an accurate yardstick, when I go look at fashion magazines, right? So let’s say it’s actually accurate to compare like my beauty, my physique to other people’s. It’s probably it’s not for that particular example, but let’s say it is. Like the physiques I’m seeing aren’t real physiques, right? Like they’re completely Photoshopped, idealized, fake versions of what humans actually look like. Like they’re designed to set the standard that no one could maintain, right? They’re designed to make you want this stuff, to make you feel bad. So you buy things, right? My guess is that more so than people want to realize, social media is the same way. Like nobody is giving an accurate sense of what their real world is, of what their beliefs are, of how much fun they’re having on these tools. Because the whole point of it is to like make yourself seem kind of awesome, right? And that means that you’re not getting, even if social comparison was a good thing, you’re not getting an accurate representation of what other people are really like. You’re getting this like idealized, like Instagrammy, Photoshopped version of everything that’s good. So you take your actual life and how things are actually going where you see the full spectrum, and you compare it to other people’s and it doesn’t match. But it’s not like other people’s real bell curve, it’s like as we say, like the two [inaudible] like the super awesome part of the bell curve of your life, and you’re comparing your whole like life to that, and you’re like, “Wow, it’s kind of inadequate”. And so, how do you deal with that, right? And we actually talked about this a little bit with some of the students who stayed last time. I think if we created a culture of social media where you gave like the full picture of what it looked like, then that might actually be good, then those might be yardsticks that actually didn’t have these detrimental effects. We talked last time with the folks that stuck around about an example in academics where this researcher created his real CV or his real resume. And so, usually, you see people’s CV, and it’s just all their papers and all their events. But he actually made the real one, which is like all the things he applied for, but didn’t get. And there was like all of this, it was like rejected from this grad. This paper got rejected 17 times and you had to submit this was really crappy journal. And I like went through and I felt like if you saw that, you wouldn’t feel so bad, because you see your real resume. You see all the stuff that failed. And because of a bias we’ll talk about in future times, another silly, awful feature of the mind is that pays way more attention to the negative stuff than the positive stuff. We’re just built to seek that out like a tiger could be jumping out. All our attentional resources are seeking out the bad stuff. So, when you look at your real CV, you actually tend not to see the good stuff. You see the bad stuff very saliently. It’s just attentional bias. Then you see other people’s resume, and and you’re like, “Oh, they just got this awesome internship”. But you don’t know they applied for like 70 others that they didn’t get that they are sad about and so on. And so, one solution is to have everybody be more accurate about the real stakes. Probably that would be fantastic, and you guys could start this wonderful cultural revolution. My guess is that’s not going to happen. The second is to explicitly realize that that’s the case, right? And so, in the context of these kind of magazine images, you can shut it off a little bit by realizing these things are Photoshopped. Like before you look at it to be like, this model is actually not that thin. She’s like Photoshopped. That does a little bit to kind of shut off that reference point’s power. And you guys could do the same thing when you look at your Snapchat stories. You are like, “This dude is having fun, but he didn’t show me like Thursday night, he showed me Sunday night”. And like you can try to reframe those kinds of things, and that can be really powerful. The final thing you can do is reset your comparison point, so it’s not so extreme, right? And downward social comparisons aren’t always as powerful as we think. And they don’t, as you saw in the Facebook example, it doesn’t give you exactly what you need. But you can sometimes change your comparison a lot by just not having it only be your other Yale colleagues here. You can think that there are all kinds of college students with all kinds of backgrounds who lack the kinds of accolades that you guys have. You can think even more awfully that there are people without like just reasonable means of being here. You can pick your social comparison group to be way different than you. And sometimes, that can cause you to realize like, sometimes, you can use the power of social comparison for good, because you’re realizing that like what looks bad to you, is not actually that bad in the scheme of things if you use other people. And sometimes, the act of kind of counting your blessings is what we’re going to talk about next time, is a sort of form of that and can be really powerful. So you don’t have to shut off Facebook and all these things, although I actually feel like, again, if you are trying to get a job that’s going to give you a good income, you have to recognize that the data that’s going to be half as effective in making you happy as just shutting off social media. So choose that as you’d like. Definitely, a miswanting in your mind. But try to use these kinds of techniques to feel better. And if you’re game, you know, again, you may sort of mispredict how happy it will make you like try it. Like there is no rule that says you have to have that stuff on for a week. Just shut it off for a week, and then take that authentic happiness survey. Maybe just that alone is going to bump you up a couple points more so than you expect. Any questions? All right. We will finish for this week. And next week, we will return to get the actual things that will make you happy, the actual way you set these biases off.
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