BS Shorts #18: 24.02.22
Thursday Amusings on the BS in my life
If you’re interested why on earth you behave as you do, why you constantly make flawed, emotional decisions and what’s going on in that jelly in your head, then subscribe here for entertainment and self-improvement.
Let’s keep it real. Behavioural science books bias towards collections of experiments undertaken at Stanford, MIT or Harvard which demo some kind of odd goings on in our choice making. We are indeed Predictably Irrational (Dan Ariely) and endlessly Misbehaving (Richard Thaler).
Since most of us have never been invited into booby trap exercises like comparing normal beer with a vinegar spiked version to examine how expectation defines experience, or like eating soup from a bowl with a hose connected to the bottom, while more soup is imperceptibly pushed in, in order to determine the relationship between receptacle size and hunger, we rarely take time to consider our own fallibility and biases. We nod sagely and careen across the room for our device to tweet immediately about the exciting revelations (also guilty).
So here are some of my own BS observations of the last fortnight.
I get fuzzy eyed at the never-ending carousel of marinades, foraged spice blends, vacuum packed ice creams and nick of time dishes that MasterChef throws up. Formulaic it may be, but as a diet version of human endeavour, suffering and survival, it finds no equal in its genre and is my firm favourite in the reality stakes.
There is chattering class belief that UK judge Gregg Wallace is the appendix of the show’s anatomy; harmless when he’s there but you don’t miss him when he’s gone. And like everyone who isn’t Simon Cowell on singing shows, no one cares what he says. But let’s not send him home quite yet, because hard as it may be to believe, the show would be lost without him.
His quasi amorous, Alan Partridge like dish descriptors are spicy, but also brilliant. While Gregg does not have culinary creds like Marcus and Monica, he is a superb communicator who brings poetry to the repetitious prose of the experts.
There are only so many ‘cooked to perfection’ and ‘you’ve nailed that’ that one can stomach and Gregg invites us into his sensory experience, without which the show becomes pedestrian. While the balance of judge character works well, most of us identify with the cockney amateur far more readily than with flinty eyed Wareing.
The power of language: Gregg’s best
I could put that meringue in a corner and snog it
It’s like angels are kissing my tongue
I want to take my shirt off and dive in
I love a bit of goo
That’s like a hug from a great big mushroom
I wouldn’t marry your rhubarb crumble – but I’d take it away for a dirty weekend
I’m desperate to dip that pork into something wet!
Watch the American version of the show with Gordon Ramsey and see how long you last. It’s shiny and boring.
Research tells us, and we know it intuitively, that language is hugely influential in how we experience things, and food and drink is the best example. Sipping a wine that a sommelier has explained, recommended, prepared and poured for us tastes darn better than glugging it from a mug in front of, well, MasterChef.
In his book Alchemy: The Surprising Power of Ideas That Don't Make Sense, Rory Sutherland talks about the difference between 200 people stuck standing on their commuter train for one hour once and one person for one hour every day for 200 days. Mathematically, they are identical, in reality they are quite different. The former case is a mild inconvenience, the latter is dreadful.
In similar vein, Rory tweeted recently his ‘accidental discovery I have made in the field of ergodic gastronomy’. Ergodic assumptions (meaning) aside for now, as you see below, the maths in each scenario is the same, the experiences different; here however, both are perfectly acceptable!
Prompted further on this line of thinking by Ben Brabyn, I took the idea of unequal outcomes to Smart Zebra, the smart buildings start-up in which I am a shareholder, to propose a rather different reward to customers kind enough to fill out our survey.
Identifying Zebra Kit-Kat bars as fitting rewards, why would we give lots of customers a single pack when we could give one customer a year’s supply? There’s your PR campaign sorted, because of course grotesque is rather memorable.
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Next Thursday, I'll be talking money with Jeff Kreisler. Jeff wrote the book Small Change: Money Mishaps and How to Avoid Them with Dan Ariely. Jeff is a qualified lawyer, stand-up comedian and now Head of BS at J.P. Morgan Chase bank. Fill in your own punchline 😀