It’s Memorial Day, the unofficial start of summer vacation season, which means it’s my annual chance to remind you that far too few of you are actually taking vacations. It’s also a good time to let you all know that I am now writing stories for a cool website named PeopleScience.com, which explores the world of applied behavioral science — i.e., how those cool psychology studies you read apply to you in real life. How car dealers trick you into overpaying for things. Why everyone thinks they are a better than average driver. Why a free drink at the end of the night might make you feel better about a huge bar tab. Why you like building things yourself.
I love this stuff and find it really useful — and it can also be abused. It’s one of my themes in Gotcha Capitalism, that consumers have been “hacked” by research which constantly nudges them into making bad decisions. In the information warfare that is commerce, businesses often have the upper hand because they know this stuff. Arming people with this same knowledge should help make it more of a fair fight.
I am a dabbler in this area, and that’s why I’m thrilled to be working with Jeff Kreisler, co-author of the recent book Dollars & Sense with legendary behavioral economist Dan Ariely. (The book is chock full of practical ways you can re-think your approach to money, and you should buy it). Jeff runs PeopleScience.com, and he’ll be editing my pieces and suggesting topics.
Social scientists have found hundreds of “cognitive biases” that mess with people’s perceptions and often lead to bad choices. If you’ve never seen this “wheel” (codex) of labels, take a look at it now. I’ve spend years looking for an excuse to write a series of essays in this area, and I’m very grateful to Jeff and PeopleScience for giving me the opportunity. Jeff is using the label “Know Your Nuggets” for my essays on these individual biases — like the Ikea Effect, the Identifiable Victim Effect, and Social Proof.
Here’s a taste of this week’s essay, where I explain all the horrible things that happen to you (and your company!) if you don’t take real breaks and real vacations. You can read the whole thing at PeopleScience. Here’s a link to a few more of my “Know Your Nuggets” essays on the site.
The New York Yankees were in Houston recently, taking on last year’s World Series champs. It was their first meeting since the Astros eliminated the Yankees in a dramatic seven-game playoff series last fall, so there was a lot of media buildup and fan attention. But when that day’s lineup card came out, reporters were stunned: Rising star Aaron Judge wasn’t in the lineup.
Was he hurt? Were there some other issues? (Editor’s note: Did he just really hate being a Yankee, because they’re so evil? Go Red Sox!)
Nope. His boss just gave him a day off.
Judge is only 26, and the season was not even a month old, but the Yankees are committed to giving players rest so they stay fresh throughout the season. Workers and bosses take note: The Yankees are on to something.
Memorial Day is the unofficial beginning of summer, which makes it the unofficial beginning of summer vacation season. If you’re like most Americans, you are terrible at taking vacations. More than half of American workers – 52%– ended 2017 with unused vacation days, according to Project Time Off.
That’s bad for you and your employer.
A mountain of research published in recent years has shown that people need real breaks – be they minutes, days or weeks long – to reach their full creative potential. Meanwhile, so-called work martyrs who spend nights and weekends catching up on email can actually do more harm than good, as fatigue means productivity plummets while health risks rise.
Yankees manager Aaron Boone wasn’t just being nice when he gave Judge an off-day; he was managing a critical company asset.
“I am just trying to pick a day here and there with some of our guys,” Boone said. If losing a game in April means a better chance to win in October, so be it. Other Yankees stars, and in fact stars all around baseball, are getting the sports equivalent of personal days. This is new; not long ago, baseball idolized Baltimore’s Cal Ripkin, who famously played in 2,632 consecutive games. Today, young players like Judge are getting days off if they play 30 or 40 games in a row. In 2015, only a single player took the field in all 162 games – the Orioles’ Manny Machado.
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