Do you often hold doors open for other people? How about parking close to another car in an almost empty parking? These are the things we do almost subconsciously. In this article, we found out what scientists think about it. It turns out that for every unspoken rule there is a simple explanation.
We at Smalljoys collected 9 ordinary rules and found out why people follow them.
19. We’re constantly altering our memories
We tend to see our memories as small movies or video clips. Things that lie on some “shelf” inside our brain, safe and unalterable. But, as it turns out, recollections of past events change every time they pass before our mind’s eye.
Their content is influenced by memory blackouts and by events that took place in the morerecent past. For example, you don’t have clear recollections of all the people who attended a family get-together a couple of years ago, but since your aunt never misses events of this kind, your mind eventually includes her in the memories — even if she was absent on that particular occasion.
18. We can only have a limited number of friends
Psychologists and sociologists have come up with something called the Dunbar’s number — the maximum number of people with whom a person can maintain close ties. So, even if you have thousands of ’friends’ on Facebook, you can only have meaningful communication with 50-200 of them.
17. We feel happier when we’re busy
Imagine that you’re at the airport, and you need to pick up the luggage. In ten minutes, you reach the claim area and immediately collect your suitcase.
And now, a slightly different situation. You find a shortcut and manage to get to the baggage carousel in just two minutes. Then, you spend the remaining eight minutes waiting for your suitcase to appear.
In both cases, it took you no more than ten minutes to pick up the luggage. However, in the second scenario, you probably felt more impatient and dissatisfied. This is due to the fact that our brain dislikes being idle and prefers to stay busy instead. And, for every task completed, it rewards us with dopamine, the hormone of happiness.
16. We can memorize only 3-4 things at a time
Studies show that our brain can store no more than 3-4 pieces of information at once. In addition, this info can only be preserved for 20-30 seconds. After this time, we forget it unless we keep refreshing it in our memory over and over again.
For instance, you are driving and talking on the phone (don’t do that!). The person on the other end gives you a number, but you can’t write it down so you try to memorize it instead. You repeat the number again and again, so as to preserve it in your short-term memory until you can disconnect and write it down.
By the way, the fact that we find it easier to remember 3-4 pieces of information at a time explains why so many things consist of 3-4 digits or lines. This applies to phone and credit card numbers and even to the paragraph you’re reading!
15. Our visual perception of things differs from their actual appearance
Our brain constantly processes information received from sensory organs. It analyzes visual images and interprets them in a form accessible to us.
- For example, the reason for us being able to read a text quickly lies in the fact that we’re not actually reading it. We simply notice the first and last letters of each word, and intuitively fill in the rest, based on our past experience. As the saying goes: “It dsoen’t mtater in waht odrer the ltetres apepar in a wrod, if the fsirt and the lsat lteters remian in palce.”
See? We look at groups of jumbled letters yet perceive them as proper words! And this doesn’t just happen with texts.
14. We spend 30% of our time daydreaming
Imagine you’re at work studying an important document. Suddenly, you realize that you’ve just read the same sentence three times in a row. Instead of analyzing the text, your mind was wandering.
Scientists from the University of California say that every day we spend 30% of our time daydreaming. Sometimes (for instance, during long trips) this share increases to as much as 70%, but there’s nothing wrong with it. Studies show that people who love to wander in the clouds tend to be more creative. Also, they’re better at solving problems and getting rid of stress.
13. We can’t ignore 3 things in life: food, sex and danger
Have you ever wondered why people always stop to look at the aftermath of a road accident? Even though bystanders find the sight distressing, they continue to gawk.
Such curiosity is triggered by our “ancient brain” — a section responsible for survival. Its function is to constantly scan the environment, posing (and answering) 3 questions: “Can I eat that? Can I have sex with that? Can I be killed by that?” Food, sex, and danger are still the things fundamental to our staying alive, so we can’t help but pay attention to them.
12. We need as much choice as possible
As part of a recent study, scientists set up two tables in a supermarket. On the first table, they placed 6 types of jam, on the second 24. As a result, 60% of customers stopped to try jams at table #1. However, when it came to making purchases, table #2 proved 4 times more popular.
Why did this happen? As we already know, our brain can only focus on 3-4 things at a time. Therefore, making final decisions is easier when there’s a limited number of options (i.e., 6 types of jam).
Nevertheless, we always crave variety. We love to browse through a wide range of products — that’s why we’re more likely to stop by the table with 24 types of jam (although, in the end, we’ll still go for the same brand we’ve bought many times before).
11. Most of our decisions are unconscious
We’d like to believe that all our actions are the result of careful planning, but in reality, 60-80% of our everyday decisions are made subconsciously. We don’t think about doing those things, we just do them.
Every second, our brain receives millions of units of data. To prevent over-exhaustion, some of the work gets relegated to the subconscious. Pocketing the keys, turning off the lights, closing the front door — we perform such actions automatically, without thinking.
On the downside, this often leads to self-doubt. For instance, when we arrive at the office and suddenly begin to fret over whether or not we’ve turned the iron off.
10. There’s no such thing as multitasking
Studies show that we can only perform one cognitive activity at a time. Try talking and reading at once or writing a letter while listening to an audiobook. Most likely, nothing good will come of it — our brain just can’t focus on two tasks simultaneously.
However, there is an exception. If the second activity is purely physical and automatic (the type of thing that we perform on a day-to-day basis), then it is possible to combine both tasks. For example, you can talk on the phone while walking. But, even then, there’s is a good chance of tripping and losing track of conversation.
9. We turn the volume down or off when we are driving in unfamiliar locations.
Imagine you are driving to an important meeting in an unfamiliar place. It’s likely that you will stop talking to the other passengers, turn the volume of the radio down, or turn it off completely and focus on the road so you don’t get lost.
A professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Johns Hopkins University, Dr. Steven Yantis, proved that in moments when we focus our attention on listening, we are less aware of the visual information that our brain gets. That’s the reason why we very often we need to turn off the background noise so we don’t miss the turn that we need to take.
8. We gesticulate while talking.
If our hands are not engaged in some activity during a conversation, then we usually start to actively gesticulate them. And that’s pretty normal.
Professor Andrew Bass, from Cornell University, found out during his research that our instinct to gesticulate during conversations is part of our evolution. Scientists traced how the neural networks in the brain that help us gesticulate and speak developed and found that the social signals that birds and mammals (including humans) use come from the hindbrain of fish. That’s why coupling speech and gestures have evolutionary origins.
7. We prefer to park our car near another car in an almost empty parking area.
This behavior is explained by the fact that humans are social beings. We often follow the crowd and that’s why in a normal situation, we automatically park our car near the only other car in the parking lot.
Rob Henderson, a research assistant at Yale University, analyzed the research on this topic and outlined several reasons why people follow the crowd.
One of them is because the number of products and services around us is skyrocketing. We don’t have enough time to test them all. That’s why we use things that have already been tested by the majority. That’s also the reason why in commercials we very often can hear the statement that this product is recommended by 9 out of 10 experts. That’s how they are trying to prompt us to follow the crowd.
6. Men don’t use 2 neighboring urinals.
Public toilets are not a very pleasant place even if they are perfectly clean. The thing is that personal space and confidentiality are important for all of us. However, there are also exceptions to this rule — like shameless and tactless people.
Anyway, the majority wouldn’t want to use the toilet under the wandering glance of someone else’s eyes. That’s the reason why men prefer to use urinals located at some distance from each other.
5. We don’t take the last piece of pizza or the last doughnut.
This fact is actually pretty strange because it contradicts many pieces of research studying deficiency. They say that the scarcer a product is, the more we want to get it. That’s why in sale commercials we often hear that the amount of this product is limited.
However, scientists Daniel A. Effron and Dale T. Miller from Stanford University have specified during their research that people in a big company don’t take the last piece of pizza, the last doughnut, or the last gum in a pack because they don’t feel that they have this right. Specialists called this phenomenon the diffusion of entitlement.
4. Men prefer not to ask directions.
According to a TrekAce survey, only 6% of men said that they would ask the way from a stranger if they were lost. In the same study, it was found that on average men travel about 900 extra miles within 50 years of their life because they refuse to ask for directions.
Mark Goulston M.D. tried to explain the reasons for this. In his opinion, men don’t ask for help when they understand that they got lost because they don’t want to feel incompetent, vulnerable, or even humiliated.
3. We hold doors open for other people.
From our childhood, we are taught to hold doors for other people because it’s correct and polite. However, is there anything else besides our desire to be polite that prompts us to do it?
Scientists think yes. In an article, written by Joseph Santamaria and David Rosenbaum it’s said that we hold doors for others to minimize the collective efforts spent, meaning that a person for whom you have held the door didn’t have to spend their energy. While next time, when someone holds a door for you this will prevent you from spending that extra effort too.
In fact, it personifies the “golden rule of morality” — treat people the way you want them to treat you.
2. We neither buy the most expensive nor the cheapest things.
Basically, we try to spend our money rationally. And that’s why we usually choose products with a price and quality that match well. That’s the reason why mostly we prefer to buy neither the most expensive nor the cheapest goods. In the first case, in a customer’s opinion, the price could be overestimated, while in the second case it’s the quality of the product that could be compromised.
Even though we find this behavior reasonable, it’s worth noting that marketers are also aware of it. Sometimes in order to sell similar products, they intentionally place the most expensive and a cheaper product next to each other. Most of the time buyers don’t have any hesitations and end up buying the cheaper product.
1. We place our feet toward a person we are interested in.
It’s not just the position of the body itself that matters in conversations, but also the position of feet. If your date’s feet aren’t turned toward you, but their torso is, it means that the person is not interested in the conversation.
Joe Navarro M.A., in his book ’What Every BODY is Saying,’ explains that it all comes from our nature — our body makes sure that our feet could react right away if it feels some threat. It’s a survival instinct. We keep our legs crossed when we feel comfortable, for example, when we are alone in an elevator, but we will instantly uncross them if a group of strangers comes in to be able to quickly escape. Therefore, when a person feels bored or not interested, their feet will also be oriented toward the way out or toward another person.