Imagine you are walking in a park, admiring the song of an unseen bird while watching light dance on a lake across the peaks of wind-pushed ripples, when you notice out of the corner of your eye a coppery lamp lying on its side. You pick it up, realizing instantly that this is not some ornate crack pipe—no, this is an object of quality and value. A little polish and maybe this thing will . . . whoa! As you buff it with the cuff of your sleeve, a vortex of magical dust and vapor surrounds you, and out of the fractalized tendrils of smoke a blue-skinned, legless djinni comes forth grinning and smelling of fresh-baked brownies.
The djinni offers you a reward for freeing him from the lamp through your concentrated scrubbing. Unfortunately, he’s just a multiple-choice wish granter, and says you may choose only one item among four choices: an extra paycheck; obligation-free fantasy sex with the partner of your choice; a gourmet meal comprised of as many delights as you can imagine; or a nice, heartfelt compliment. What would you choose?A version of these choices appeared in a psychological study conducted by Brad Bushman, Scott Moeller, and Jennifer Crocker published in 2010. As part of a series of experiments exploring self-esteem, they asked college students to rate a variety of things the average person desires—food, sex, money, friendship, compliments—and a sex, money, friendship, compliments—and asked the subjects to say how strongly they wanted those things and how much they tended to like them. The clear winner? Compliments. In studies of high school– and college-age people, boosts to self-esteem were found to be usually more attractive and beguiling than the sort of things older people see as proper rewards. When you ask a person in the first quarter of her life what she would rather have—sex, pizza, or a positive comment about her—the majority of people tend to go for the kind words, even if the subject had not enjoyed the other options in a very long time. The same researchers found in another study that this tendency to prefer boosts to self-esteem over other rewards diminishes over time, but it doesn’t completely go away.
When I read this passage,the first thing I said was’I’ll take anything but the compliment’
I guess I’m not normal.