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Episode 147: The Psychology Of Stuff

Clients will often tell me that they feel overwhelmed with even the simple things in life, their house is a mess and they just don’t know where to start putting it right.
They feel that there’s so much to do that it’s easier to just do nothing and watch everything gather dust, further contributing to their depression and self esteem issues.
So occasionally someones homework is just to go and tidy out their garage or their garden shed, to throw out some old stuff that they don’t need and begin creating an environment that feels more spacious and gives them room to breathe. And it really helps.
But it also highlights when someone might have a bit of a hoarding problem. Occasionally people will talk about their collection of magazines that goes back 10 years that might come in useful, so they don’t throw them away.
They say that getting rid of all their old stuff makes them feel really quite anxious as there are these mixed up emotions of waste and loss, as if to get rid of something invalidates it’s usefulness.
It’s odd how our brain plays these tricks on us, one interesting piece of research to come out of MRI brain scanner machines is that we use the same neurons for thinking about ourself as we do for thinking about our possessions. We see our things as an extension of ourselves, and that’s probably why we put more value on something we own compared to something that we don’t.
Most children will have an unusually intense relationship with a specific ‘attachment object’, usually it’s their favourite blanket or a soft toy. This is often called The Endowment Effect and you can even see it with apes and monkeys.
One very clever and subtle way of showing this in adults was done by Daniel Kahneman and some of his colleagues back in the 1990s. They created an experiment in which participants were each given a mug and were later on offered the chance to sell it or trade it for an equally valued alternative of some pens.
They found that the amount everyone wanted as compensation to give up the mug was twice as much as the amount they were willing to pay to acquire the mug in the first place.
Owning something doubles its value!
Similarly when half of a group are given a chocolate bar and told not to eat it, but later on are asked if they would be willing to swap it for a mug nearly everyone says “No.”
Does this mean that chocolate bars have more value to us than mugs do?
Nope. Because if you do it the other way around you get the same results, give someone a mug and then later on ask them if they would be willing to swap it for a chocolate bar nearly all say “No.”
It’s owning it in the first place that gives something greater value, even if it’s just for a couple of minutes. In fact what one bizarre experiment showed is that you don’t even need to have actually bought it for its value to go up in your head, merely touching it will do that too according to research done by Joann Peck at the University of Wisconsin, and even just “imagining” that you’re touching it will too.
Another research project that showed this was at Boston College, where they compared how we value items we’ve added to an online shopping cart using different devices.Some used a PC with a mouse, some a touchable computer screen and some a laptop with a trackpad.
Afterwards everyone was asked how much money they were willing to accept if someone else wanted to buy these items from them. On average, people in the trackpad group wanted $44, the mouse group was $47 and the touch screen was $68!
All they’d done was touch a picture of the product and they found they valued it more. So the experimenters did the same thing again this time comparing an iPad and a laptop with a trackpad, On average, those using the iPad wanted to sell their item for significantly more than those that were using a laptop. $213 compared to $154. Just pressing their finger against a digital image on a fake website. That’s all it took to make people feel like they actually owned an item, and then to value it more because of it.
So next time you’re doing your online shopping maybe put down the tablet and use your laptop instead, you might find you save a bit of cash.

Episode List

Episode 138: Keeping Up With The Joneses
Episode 137: The Likeable You
Episode 136: Why It's OK To Be A Loser
Episode 135: The Psychology Of Extremism
Episode 134: Are You A Lobster?
Episode 133: Critical Thinking
Episode 132: There Is Nothing Either Good Or Bad
Episode 131: The For And Against Of Imagination
Episode 130: Loneliness & Social Networks
Episode 129: Letting Go Of The Past
Episode 128: What Is Love?
Episode 127: Procrastination
Ep. 126: Who Were You Before The World Changed You?
Episode 125: Stop Saying "Sorry"
Episode 124: Emotional Contagion
Episode 123: Patience
Episode 122: Building On Your Foundations
Episode 121: Dealing With The Critics
Episode 120: Being Assertive. Just Say No!
Episode 119: Inactivity
Episode 118: Social Functioning & Evolution
Episode 117: Unleash Your Inner Superhero
Episode 116: Goals, Values and Priorities
Episode 115: 10 Tips To A Happier Life
Episode 114: Lies And Confabulation
Episode 113: Confirmation Bias
Episode 112: Are You An Imposter?
Episode 111: What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stronger
Episode 110: Are New Years Resolutions a good idea?
Episode 109: The African Violet Queen Of Milwaukee
Episode 108: Reframing
Episode 107: Spiders And Behaviourism
Episode 106: Practise Makes Perfect
Episode 105: Fear Of Flying
Episode 100 - 104: Happiness
Episode 99: Body Image And The Media
Episode 98: Evolution and Adaptation
Episode 97: Reflections And Regrets.
Episode 96: Dealing With Fear
Episode 95: Confidence
Episode 94: Enthusiasm
Episode 93: Tips To Relieve Christmas Stress
Episode 92: Dealing With Change
Episode 87 - 91: Self Esteem
Episode 86: Correlation Does Not Imply Causation
Episode 85: The Importance Of Being Lazy
Episode 84: Elephant Chains
Episode 83: Eating Bananas And Setting Goals
Episode 82: Ignoring The Media And Listening To Music
Episode 81: Awakening The Instincts
Episode 80: The Fine Line Between Love And Hate
Episode 79: The Best Medicine
Episode 78: A New Start
Episode 77: Time Distortion
Episode 76: Making Decisions
Episode 75: What's In A Name?
Episode 74: Pushing Ourselves Further
Episode 73: Conformity
Episode 72: Purpose
Episode 71: Perspective
Episode 70: Expectation
Episode 69: The Mind / Body Link
Episode 68: Overcoming Shyness
Episode 67: Mood Boosting
Episode 66: Sabotaging your goals
Episode 65: Self Talk
Episode 64: Money Makes The World Go Round
Episode 63: First Impressions Count
Episode 62: False Belief
Episode 61: Absolutes
Episode 60: The Psychology of feeling calm
Episode 59: Belief
Episode 58: Anchoring Emotions
Episode 57: Negativity and Perspective
Episode 56: Health And Happiness
Episode 55: Imagination vs Reality
Episode 54: Change