What could also play a role impulse logic And wise thinking† When we think someone else is treated better than we are, it is in our best interest if everything else is the same. Even young children know this: if siblings get a bonus and they don’t, they can rebel against this stark inequality (while ignoring that unlike siblings, they didn’t do any housework). to earn that reward). If we, as adults, vote for Brexit or decide to quit and take another job, we may wish the benefits of EU membership or the fun aspects of our old job remain unchanged, but the desire is not a reality.
The grass is greener
We’ve known that for a long time, of course. The old saying that the grass is always greener on the other side doesn’t say it in many words, but it does suggest that there are more things going on than just greener grass. Your neighbors (unlike you) probably spend a lot of time, effort, and money feeding and watering the lawn. Perhaps the substrate on which this beautifully green lawn grows is so unstable that landing regularly leads to cracks in the walls of the neighbor’s house. Or maybe this grass is brilliantly green, but also so prickly that you shouldn’t expect to walk barefoot on it in summer.
When we compare our situation with an alternative — someone else, or a hypothetical future for ourselves — our emotions inevitably play a role in that, too. Even if we do little more than list and describe all the differences, we can’t help but make an instinctive judgment about the best and worst aspects.
However, when an aspect of that alternative particularly appeals to us (or if we don’t particularly like an aspect in our current situation), our focus is on that one trait. ceteris paribus– Activate the fallacy. The house is too big and hard to keep tidy and clean? Let’s move to a smaller house! (And assuming there will be plenty of room for all of our stuff.) Do we spend a lot of time commuting to and from work? Work from home! (And we think we’ll still be able to enjoy casual chats with colleagues and the unexpected insights that pop up regularly.) Even an extravagant purchase of something we desperately desire can lead us to believe it won’t affect us. The savings, or it won’t push us beyond our monthly budget, leaving us in debt trouble.
When the benefit of a positive difference requires our attention, there is little left for anything else. Even when we realize that there are other, less positive differences in addition, the ceteris paribusLatent fallacy: We dismiss these differences as irrelevant and unimportant, and immediately forget about them.
However, there is a simple alternative way of thinking that avoids being fooled by this misconception, with only one difference. All we have to do is ask ourselves, “What are the other differences?” Why don’t we always think like this? For here, too, there is more than one difference: to answer this question is to delude us that we can save goats and cabbage, that we can have everything, that we can change things without making sacrifices. Often that’s one big difference…