Loss Averted

One of the principles that I keep running across in several of the books I've read lately (The Paradox of Choice, Stumbling on Happiness, and Nudge) is that of loss aversion. Basically put, this is the idea that most people strongly prefer avoiding losses than acquiring gains. Additionally, losing seems to be a lot more bitter than winning is sweet.

This is why I try not to put to much emotion into the outcome of sporting events. In NCAA football, winning every game is often necessary in order to earn a BCS berth. It's kind of sad (and a little funny) to see the faces of the fans of a team that just lost their first game of the season after winning 8 or 9 or 10 straight. Clearly that loss causes more hurt than any of the wins caused joy.

On a somewhat related note, Stumbling on Happiness describes studies that show most people are not significantly happier or sadder three months after a major event in their lives (winning the lottery, death of a loved one, getting dumped etc.) Anter one year, almost nobody maintains significant change over their pre-event state.

I think all of this serves to remind us that when life stings us, keeping perspective can surely help us press on. Within a few months, chances are that everything will be back to normal.

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