If you can study something behavioral on college students, you can bet it gets studied a lot. It’s easy and cheap to run these sorts of tests. Which is how we came to understand the power of pique and the risk of habituation.
It turns out that if you see something over and over again, you start to ignore it. And so marketers of all stripes work to pique your interest by making funky little adjustments. They’ll change the speed limit to 57, or hang a sign upside down. In one study, they found that a scientist dressed as a panhandler raised more money when he asked for 37 cents instead of a quarter. (No word about what happens when a panhandler dresses like a scientist.) And so, selfish marketers will put ʇuǝƃɹn in the subject line of an email that couldn’t be less urgent…
This leads to pique blindness.
Just as bright white snow can overwhelm our retina so we can’t see very well, all of this pique to fight habituation has a downside. It’s creating a culture of hustle and noise that only gets worse. Because then people start using pique blindness as an excuse for ever more pique.
One of the real dangers of pique blindness is that we’ll only end up seeing drama, breaking news and the crisis of the moment. The first thing we need to do is not bite the hook. Refuse to reward anyone or anything that uses pique to get your attention. Turn up the filters and walk away. The important stuff will get through even if we filter out some of the urgent.
Even more important: as Joni said, “you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.” Maybe what we need to do is invest daily effort in creating pique around the good things, the important things, the things we treasure. It could be as simple as breaking our pattern, coming up with a new way to walk the dog or greet a friend… It might involve breaking a habit in which a delight has become nothing much more than a comfort.
Everyone gets 24 hours of fresh attention, refilled daily. But if we continue to abuse it, we won’t be able to see with fresh eyes and appreciate what’s been there all along.
HT to Simon Sinek for the pique.