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Do we value more what we achieve with much effort?

Do we value more what we achieve with much effort?

June 21, 2024

I am going to tell you about an experiment carried out with children some years ago.

The procedure consisted in the following: two toys (robots, for example, emitting sounds and flashes of lights) were placed in front of a baby, at a safe distance. The arrival to the first robot was hindered by a barrier of transparent acrylic, which allowed to see the toy, but it was difficult to touch it. The arrival to the second robot was not hindered in any way.

As irrational as it may seem, most of the babies were heading as fast as they could to the first robot, and trying to take it by trying to pass over the fence . The most striking thing was that the higher the barrier that separated babies from the toy, the faster they crawled and the more energy they invested in trying to touch the robot.

When the difficult becomes irresistible

Oddly enough, babies showed a much stronger preference for toys that were difficult for them to reach.

This is just an example of a singular phenomenon that characterizes the human being and conditions his behavior from the very cradle: we react with vehemence, resisting, before anything that hinders or limits our freedoms personal and decision-making capacity. We like to have control, or at least think that we have it.

The case of celebrities as something unattainable

Another good example is the celebrity stars.

The truth is that most of the famous actors and actresses are, on average, neither more beautiful nor more intelligent than the ordinary people who walk down the street. The most beautiful women, I know, and from this I can speak for the simple authority that confers me the fact of being a man, do not appear in fashion magazines or star in novels on television. On the contrary, I have seen them in public transport, in the neighborhood supermarket, and walking the dog in the square.

If we get desperate to ask for an autograph or to take a picture with the sportsman of the moment who happens to be sitting at the next table in the restaurant we went to dinner on Saturday night, or if we have lustful romances in our imagination with the catwalk model of the moment is, in large part, because we perceive them as unique in their kind, and fundamentally unattainable . Yes, just as babies saw toy robots behind the fence.

The forbidden attracts

The bible says that at the time of creation itself, even Adam and Eve screwed up their necks, biased (and blinded) by the possibility of accessing the inaccessible. The couple of lovebirds could eat of all the bushes that populated the magnificent paradise, less of the forbidden fruit. The rule was simple, clear and forceful; it did not lead to further interpretations.

Well, of all the trees and apples available in the vastness of the divine meadow, Which one did you find most appealing in the first place? Exactly, the only one that had been forbidden to them.

The same thing happens today with the pure versions of any director of the seventh art, without the cuts imposed by the film producer, which is commonly known as "extended version". The film that supposedly escapes the censorship that has been exercised over the original work of the filmmaker, is usually presented with a certain air of mystique and exclusivity, sold separately on DVD, and is always much more desirable by the general public.

Self-censorship is a phenomenon that many groups and political parties use to draw attention to the message who want to transmit.

Instead of seeking mass dissemination of their proposals, they try to sell the idea of ​​a censorship exercised by the authorities or the government in office. "They want to silence us" and "they do not want us to tell the truth" are allegedly anti-advertising characteristics that exploit the typical human desire to obtain what is forbidden.

Everyone who knows me knows that I am a recalcitrant fan of "The Simpsons". There is an episode in which the police chief has to go to an emergency. He is at home, taking care of his son, if I remember correctly. Given the impossibility of leaving it under adult supervision; Before leaving, he warns the little boy seriously that in his absence he can play with all the toys he wants, but that in no way open the "mysterious closet of forbidden secrets" . Well, if the reader friend did not see the chapter or is not a fan of the series, you'll already be imagining where the child hurriedly went as soon as the boss crossed the threshold of the door.

The case of the Argentine crisis and the corralito

Those who live in Argentina and are already a certain age, will remember the world famous "corralito" that in 2001 decreed at that time who was the minister of economy.

This politician arranged for the national network that from that moment, all those inhabitants who had personal savings in banks, could only withdraw the absurd figure of $ 250 per week in concept of any use that would be given to that money. What happened next went around the world.

The people, who a week before had no intention of taking their money from the bank, suddenly experienced the imperative need to do so . The measure triggered an authentic collective despair among the population to have in their own hands what rightfully belonged to them.

Social protests piled up and chaos took over the streets. In a few days, the president of the nation had to resign, harassed and overwhelmed before a social explosion that ended with several deaths and dozens of injured.

Overcoming the crisis of then, many years later, a different government in power in the Argentine state ruled severe restrictions on the purchase of foreign currency, mainly dollars and euros, in what ended up being called "exchange rate trap".

Buying bills as if there were no tomorrow

Up to that point, any ordinary citizen was free to acquire US or European currency in any bank without greater requirements or conditions. From the establishment of the trap, the prohibition to buy dollars was practically total, with which, this strange psychological phenomenon appeared again on stage.

With the greenbacks restricted to almost everyone, they became the hard-won figurine, which brought with it not only severe complications for the local economy, but also the proliferation of clandestine houses of change everywhere , and the establishment of a parallel market that was soon out of control.

More than once I have thought seriously about the possibility of sending a copy of this article to the Casa Rosada by mail. Or offer psychological counseling. I can not believe that after years of first-hand experience, they keep making the same stupid mistakes over and over again.

Profiting from the attraction for the difficult

In contrast, those who did do well in the 80s was the national rock band "Patricio Rey y sus Redonditos de Ricota". They applied the concept that we are here debating to perfection, and for their own benefit.

In the first place, the Redonditos gave live concerts very sporadically. To the sumo, they did it only once a year, which, thanks to the scarcity of the offer, ensured that the recitals were always multitudinous.

As a corollary, they appeared at points well away from Buenos Aires, where the largest concentration of the public that followed them was. Just like the acrylic barriers that made it difficult for babies to touch the toy, the Redonditos gave their concerts in La Plata, Mendoza, and even Uruguay , ensuring the difficult access for a good part of his fans and therefore a greater degree of interest for his followers.

Surely some reader will be thinking that actually the Redonditos presented their shows in Uruguay to the Uruguayan public's satisfaction. Well, no. That is a rather naive point of view on the matter and in truth to the truth, if there is something that the band members and their production never sinned, it was naive .


Things are more desirable and valuable to the extent that we can not have them, and less desirable and valuable as their character is perceived as ordinary, current and easily accessible.

And this is true from the very origins of humanity, from the time of the caverns, a context in which all the basic elements we needed to survive childhood, reach adulthood and be able to reproduce were scarce.

Nowadays, practically everything that was difficult to obtain before, we can request it by delivery in our own home. However, we continue to make decisions based on an unconscious mental premise, and that leads us to believe that what is achieved with effort, or has a certain degree of exclusivity , it is more important or valuable to us, and we want it at all costs.

If you want to achieve your goals, don't focus on them: Reggie Rivers at TEDxCrestmoorParkED (June 2024).

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