"He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not… ": Uncertainty Can Increase Romantic Attraction


You know all those TV shows and movies and anime where the guy and girl never say what they feel and this drags on to the point of insanity and you’re like “JUST TELL IT ALREADY DAMMIT!!”? Turns out that pointless, annoying dilly-dallying is actually beneficial to the success of the relationship. 

This research qualifies a social psychological truism: that people like others who like them (the reciprocity principle). College women viewed the Facebook profiles of four male students who had previously seen their profiles. They were told that the men (a) liked them a lot, (b) liked them only an average amount, or (c) liked them either a lot or an average amount (uncertain condition). Comparison of the first two conditions yielded results consistent with the reciprocity principle. Participants were more attracted to men who liked them a lot than to men who liked them an average amount Results for the uncertain condition, however, were consistent with research on the pleasures of uncertainty. Participants in the uncertain condition were most attracted to the men—even more attracted than were participants who were told that the men liked them a lot. Uncertain participants reported thinking about the men the most, and this increased their attraction toward the men.

So next time you fall in love, don’t tell them right away. Tease them with your uncertainty till they (and all who observe) end up in a mental asylum ‘cause apparently that’s how humans work (doing this increases the time the target thinks of you leading to higher chances of a favorable response). Marlon Brando employed this strategy in his life and he was quoted approaching friendships as a spider tackles its prey; he moves closer, pulls back after a while and then moves closer again thus slowly weaving his target into his web.

The whole process, to me, is very convoluted but knowing the reason for why this strategy seems successful makes it a bit more palatable. If I have to give an anology, this strategy of maintaining ucertainty is like a dance and dance is way more harder and absolutely pointless when the goal is simply to move from point A(strangers) to point B(relationship) when compared to just walking straight from A to B. Yet dance is undeniably more memorable and interesting than just marching from point A to point B. Guess it’s the same deal here, when it comes to human relationships the memorable and more interesting “uncertainty” approach has a higher success rate than the straighforward approach.

(Of course, the rich and the famous and the beautiful have no need for these convoluted strategies, these are mainly for normies like you and me.)

Why kids love to run and jump and slide

I was thinking back to my own childhood yesterday and one little thing that stood out was this feeling of intense happiness I got from being in motion. Running very fast, swinging real hard, sliding, rotating fast about bars — I recalled intense pleasure from doing these activities even though they were physically tiresome. And it got me thinking… why? Why did I love these intense physical activities so much as a child but not so much as an adult?

I thought about that for a bit and I think I have a plausible answer - hatred for gravity.

See, babies are floating in fluids inside their mother and are accustomed to that buoyant feeling. But once they are out in the real world gravity plays spoil-sport by literally “weighing them down”, crippling their freedom, dragging them down to the floor; they are no longer suspended in fluids that can give them that buoyant feeling. And to escape from the shackles of gravity, children, who are not yet accustomed to gravity like adults, run and jump and swing and slide. The pleasure I got from doing these activities seems to stem from feeling gravity’s hold over me dissolve away, the faster I run, the higher I jump, the harder I swing.

This is also why I think kids (and adults) love to hit the pool — freedom from gravity, just like how it was back in the womb. Also explains our love for jumping on trampolines.

Knowing what I know now, when I have kids I’m going to make sure they get as many opportunities to escape from gravity for as long as possible.

Photo credits: froodmat

The Power of Charisma

It is said that when the ancient Roman orator Cicero spoke, people said to one another: “Great speech.” When the ancient Greek Demosthenes spoke, people said: “Let us march.”

Charisma is not just impressing people, it’s about getting them to act.

“Be yourself.”

David Brooks has a positively fascinating piece in the NYT talking about the power of things that you would think are particular but actually have a global appeal. He starts with an anecdote of his trip to a Bruce Springsteen concert in Europe.

Here were audiences in the middle of the Iberian Peninsula singing word for word about Highway 9 or Greasy Lake or some other exotic locale on the Jersey Shore. They held up signs requesting songs from the deepest and most distinctly American recesses of Springsteen’s repertoire.

The oddest moment came midconcert when I looked across the football stadium and saw 56,000 enraptured Spaniards, pumping their fists in the air in fervent unison and bellowing at the top of their lungs, “I was born in the U.S.A.! I was born in the U.S.A.!”

That is an absolutely amazing phenomenon. He continues…

Did it occur to them at that moment that, in fact, they were not born in the U.S.A.? How was it that so many people in such a faraway place can be so personally committed to the deindustrializing landscape from New Jersey to Nebraska, the world Springsteen sings about? How is it they can be so enraptured at the mere mention of the Meadowlands or the Stone Pony, an Asbury Park, N.J., nightclub?

Brooks is not a passive observer though, he has thought about it and believes he has the answer to why people seem to enjoy, and even desire, things that are “alien” to them…

My best theory is this: When we are children, we invent these detailed imaginary worlds that the child psychologists call “paracosms.” These landscapes, sometimes complete with imaginary beasts, heroes and laws, help us orient ourselves in reality. They are structured mental communities that help us understand the wider world.

We carry this need for paracosms into adulthood. It’s a paradox that the artists who have the widest global purchase are also the ones who have created the most local and distinctive story landscapes. Millions of people around the world are ferociously attached to Tupac Shakur’s version of Compton or J.K. Rowling’s version of a British boarding school or Downton Abbey’s or Brideshead Revisited’s version of an Edwardian estate.

And here’s the kicker…

Millions of people know the contours of these remote landscapes, their typical characters, story lines, corruptions and challenges. If you build a passionate and highly localized moral landscape, people will come.

Don’t try to be everyman. Don’t pretend you’re a member of every community you visit. Don’t try to be citizens of some artificial globalized community. Go deeper into your own tradition. Call more upon the geography of your own past. Be distinct and credible. People will come.

In short, have a strong personality and the world will value you for it.

Be yourself.

I left out some very interesting portions of the piece where Brooks applies his theory to explain Springsteen’s success that continues even to this day, which is a monumental feat, so you should go check out the full post, it’s a fascinating read with a lot of food for thought. 

“A woman tries to get all she can out of a man, and a man tries to get all he can into a woman.”

– Isaac Goldberg (via paiginaaa)

About that 99 cents…

What’s the reason behind the $x.99 and $x.95 price tags?

The real reason for this was to force cashiers to open the cash drawer and give change, thereby making it harder for them to steal from the shop owner by simply pocketing the sale. It has persisted over time as there’s also a psychological benefit where $24.99 looks cheaper $25. Sales have increased by as much as 20% by making this one simple change.

An old discussion on .99 vs .00 pricing on 37 signals.
More discussion on Fogcreek.

Why I am afraid of the dark

I was about 9 when one day my parents went shopping in the evening while I was taking a nap. I woke up around 7:30 p.m. only to find the house empty, pitch black and eerily silent. I didn’t know then that my parents had gone out so I tried to call my dad but no sound came from my throat. I was paralyzed in fear, seeing things and hearing noises all around in the darkness that surrounded me. It was a while before I calmed down enough to get out of bed and nervously turn the lights on afraid to see my fears realized. And when the lights were on… my fears were gone. Just like that. Nothing had changed, the room was the same, the house was still empty and eerily quiet. What caused my fears to go away was simply due to the “unknown”, what else is in the room with me in the darkness, becoming “known”, when the lights turned on. There was no longer any room for my imagination to cook up monsters and devils lurking behind doors and under beds and crawling across the walls, because I could see for myself that what my brain imagined did not match the reality my eyes saw. Seeing reality for myself drove my imaginary fears away, but not for long because the power went out instantly plunging me once again into darkness, “the unknown”. 

While my childhood fear of dark places has gone away, the root of that fear, the fear of the “unknown” still lingered in me carrying over into my adult phase, and recently something happened in my life that reminded me of this. Last month I developed a slight pain near my right ankle. I didn’t think much of it but over the next week it developed into a swelling that wouldn’t go away. There was no blood, I had not sustained any injury, the origins of the swelling were puzzling me no end. The mysterious condition of my feet drove my to behave exactly as I did on that day my parents left me home alone — panic caused by my imagination working overtime as I was in the “unknown” once again. Back then the darkness caused me to imagine monsters hiding under my bed waiting to eat me; this time, “the unknown”, the mysterious swelling that popped out of nowhere made me imagine that it was the result of me having a deadly disease that I didn’t know about yet. Then last week, I saw a tiny bump near the ankle and that fired up my crazy imagination once again — it told me the bump was proof that the mystery condition was definitely the beginnings of Cancer. 

Almost as if it’s all scripted, I did the exact same thing today that I did back when I was panicked as a child — get over the initial panic and turn the lights on to see if my fears were true, which here meant doing an MRI scan to see what the hell is causing my feet to stay swollen for over a month; to see if that bump on the ankle was really a sign of Cancer as my imagination told me.

I went to the Scan center to get the MRI done. It was nerve-wracking in there and the fact that it was an underground lab looking like something out of Resident Evil didn’t help. While waiting for my turn at the machine, I began thinking why in hell am I so afraid of the dark. Why do I panic when faced with an unknown and then madly scramble to “turn the lights on” and know more about the “unknown”. It struck me then — I was afraid of the dark because I assumed whatever is in the dark was my enemy and I didn’t know how to turn this enemy into my ally. Back when my parents left me alone and I panicked in the darkness, I was afraid because I didn’t know if I could turn whatever imaginary enemies my mind conjured up, into my allies. Now when this mysterious medical condition affected me, I panicked because I did not know how I could turn the imaginary beast my mind conjured up — Cancer — into something that’s harmless to me. 

I was afraid of the dark because I didn’t know how to handle the unknown.

So the key to getting rid of the fear of the dark, of the unknown, is to develop the ability to handle anything that comes out from the darkness. Once I have that ability, no matter how nasty the beings that my mind conjures up, the confidence I have that I can turn them from enemy to ally will ensure that I won’t ever be afraid of anything ever again. It’s dark, I don’t know what’s wrong with my feet and neither does my doc. If it is indeed Cancer as my mind fears, is there  a way to handle it? Me and Cancer alone in a room, how do I handle Cancer? Maybe I can do what they do with pest control and introduce germs or chemicals that specifically affect Cancer cells… wait… that’s it! That’s one way to handle any unknown — find out something unique about it and then see if that unique property can be used against it! I was getting excited but before I could carry this thought further, my turn came up and I had to put this on the back burner. 

The MRI results came in yesterday. I was OK, just a bruised ankle joint caused by my unique exercise regimen**. I didn’t have Cancer, as my imagination had feared, and I was relieved to say the least. Looking at the MRI and seeing the bruised ankle for myself brought the same cathartic relief i had when I turned the lights on in my room years ago. I knew what was going on and I knew how to handle it, my fears simply disappeared

I didn’t think much about after that but then, as if it was meant to be, I ran into a Wired piece today morning on how scientists had found a way to turn stormy seas into calm waters so ships can pass safely even in adverse conditions.

In an ocean, water typically stratifies into layers. The top layer is warmer and lighter, while the bottom layer is cooler and more dense. Waves, of course, ripple along the top of the water. But they also ripple between those two layers — and those waves are known as “interfacial” waves.

Scientists figured they could help protect vessels from turbulent seas by turning surface waves — the ones that get rocky and cause all kinds of shipboard havoc — into those interfacial waves. Using computer simulation, they modeled a process of laying down a carefully sculpted section of ripples along the ocean floor in front of the object in question (a sailboat or an offshore oil rig, let’s say). The transfer of energy between that sea floor section and the waves above — both interfacial and surface — would create a sort of “wave vector,” in the words of Science Magazine.

The researchers don’t specify how, exactly, they’d lay down these rippling “cloaks” on the seafloor. But, according to their calculations, as long as “the wave vector of the ripple [cloak] equal[s] the difference in the wave vectors of the interfacial and surface waves,” a rough wave approaching a vessel will suddenly disappear — and pass far below the vessel.

Using the unknown against itself — it lined up perfectly with the thought I had yesterday at the Scan center — to be fearless in the dark, in the unknown, you must know how to deal with whatever it is that lives in the unknown with you and the only way to do that is to use some unique property of the enemy against itself. 

My belief that, in the face of an unknown, all I need to do is find something that is unique to the unknown and use it against itself, has diminished my fears a bit. I have faith that the more I keep working on this, the more the possibility of me finding something tangible that might help others who, like me, are afraid of the dark.

The future of social networks. The future of our human race.

This realization came to me sometime last year while I was talking about fractals and how the larger fractals are merely composed of scaled-rotated versions of itself (recursion). We can see this in our daily life - something as massive as our solar system is in fact, made of atoms that have the same structure as the solar system - bodies rotating and revolving around a central mass. In simple terms, everything (of course, trees look nothing like atoms but I’ll talk about it another day) in our universe is a mirror image of the most basic elements that it is made of.

The talk (with @praveenvasudev) soon turned to social networks and it struck me that the same fractal behavior applies here too - social networks will evolve to resemble their most basic element. What is the social network’s most basic element? Easy - social networks enable communication and the most basic element of communication is our own nervous system. This leads me to believe that if we map out social networks and all the interconnections, we’ll simply be looking at a mirror image of our own nervous system. 

[Image via dapla, which shows the same fractal nature that we talk about in this post, that is inherent to all things in our universe. Here the image compares how galaxies have the same structure as mouse brain neurons.]

What does this mean? This means that social networks are the next step in human evolution - in about 500 years, there will no longer be ‘you’ or ‘they’. There is only one - ‘I’. The entire planet will be one single mind. This is the final stage in the cycle of life, imo. Full circle, or rather, spiral. Life started from a single cell and we are going back to it - a single cell(metaphorically), albeit at a completely different scale. Fractals, once again.

This leads me to other conclusions:

  • Privacy will be dead. Everyone is jacked into everyone else 24/7/365. Everyone knows everything about everyone. For instance, your hand holds no secrets from your brain, what your hand knows will be shared with your brain. There is also the concept of ‘relevancy’ which covers how not everything the brain knows will be shared with the hand but I’ll detail it later.
  • The future will no longer have corporations of any kind. Why? Corporations, i.e., large groups of people working together, cannot keep up with the rapidly increasing pace of change. We already see it today - there’s more and more startups than ever before as large companies cannot move that fast. As we progress towards ‘One mind’, the change of pace will be so fast that even today’s 3-man and 5-man lean startups can’t keep up as the fastest pace will be set by the 1-man team. Anyone forming a team will lose to the ‘One mind’ ensuring that in the end only the ‘One mind’ survives. That’s how there’ll be no more corporations or even teams, only individuals who have no individuality, communicating and working with billions of other similar individuals who collectively form the ‘One mind’.
  • Our currency will be energy.
  • No more reproduction. Not sure if we’ll even have limbs and torsos.

If you think about it, we’ve seen similar stuff before but in slightly different and less fantastic flavors - Ghost in the Shell’s Stand Alone Complex phenomenon as well as the humans plugged into The Matrix are the most famous examples I can think of.

There’s more to explore, like how I can log-in/jack-in to someone else’s brain and take over his conscious mind, etc. Again, remember that ‘I’ and ‘someone else’ no longer exist as the entire human race is now one mind, all people are jacked in to each other in the social network and thus there is no more ‘identity’ for anyone anymore - everyone’s one and the same person. But I give up some accuracy here, to make it easier to understand.

I’ll make updates and edits to this post, as I learn more, understand more, discover more and find ways to clarify stuff more. All this sounds too fantastic? Maybe, but so was landing on the moon, a 1000 years ago.

“I’ve found that it is the humble who are the most stubborn of all.”

- Me (@vjk2005).

Most famous examples would be Gandhi and MLK, but I first realized this from interactions with everyday people as well as from introspection/self-reflection and later found parallels among famous people.

Note: ‘Stubborn’ and ‘humble’ are used here without any slants to either negative or positive. Humble means ‘modest’ and stubborn means ‘will not yield easily’.