Thursday, October 25, 2007

Law of Diminshing Returns???

I have been going over this in my head for the last few days - why do we lose interest in things? The same things we might have fought tooth and nail for, hurt other people for, lied for - yet sooner or later that very thing loses its allure.

I have observed this in so many people of so many different backgrounds so I know it's not a culture thing - it's a human condition.

Nothing makes us happy for too long, not those gorgeous boots that look so sexy or the 10 lost pounds or that amazing new game we played. We get hooked, we conquer it and then it stops giving us the same happiness.

Happiness is a totally separate issue so perhaps I should leave that out right now, I am going to limit myself to interest. There are things that we can't wait to do, that are irresistible to us, we are obsessed yet when after a lot of effort they become part of our lives and routine they simply stop being as appealing to us.

Is it because they have become our routine that they stop being exciting?

Perhaps Economics would explain it better than psychology or philosophy - is it merely a case of diminishing returns?

This famous law was first written about by a Frenchman, Anne Robert Jacques Turgot and then alluded to by Thomas Malthus in his Essay on the Principle of Population (1798).

When one of the factors of production is held fixed in supply, successive additions of the other factors will lead to an increase in returns up to a point, but beyond this point returns will diminish


After getting those lovely boots and wearing them a couple of times or driving that sexy car, a point comes when the thrill kind of dies down. We become used to it.

Psychology would explain it as perhaps the human nature to want to conquer and once that need is met and the prey captured, interest lost.

I wonder why it happens though? What do you think

29 comments:

Dawn said...

I don't know the answer. Everything new becomes old... it happens to me all the time. When I bought new living room furniture the thrill lasted for about a week and then I just became accustomed to seeing it there. I do recognize ahead of time that thrill won't last and I think that's important... knowing that keeps me from getting too wrapped up in material things. But if anyone does know the answer I'd like to know about it!
Good question and great post!

Rambler said...

I guess interest like many other things too is alive, it grows reaches peak and has to go down. the best part is we do develop new interests
it would be so difficult otherwise

Ingrid said...

I would not presume to know why things (and for some, people) stop being excited once they are familiar. It may be human nature. But it seems to be exacerbated in cultures focused on constant purchase and consumption of goods.

Ingrid said...

I meant stop being exciting...

paisley said...

from personal experience,, when the desire to renew,, ie belongings relationships stations in life,, etc,,, diminishes,, or in some cases disappears,, what follows is a distinct desire to cease... i know i went thru this for quite a few months this year,, when the desire to stop being was oft times greater than the desire to move on,, as i had nothing to aspire to.. could find nothing in this life i wanted or looked forward to... renewal,, of something as simple as ones behaviors, ipods, dreams, cellphone... can mean the difference between the desire to live and the desire to die.. strange isn't .. coming from me a self proclaimed non materialistic minimalist???

Amel's Realm said...

Interesting topic! Yeah, I agree that it's a human condition. Novelty wears off pretty quickly, doesn't it?

However, what if in order to get something we want, it takes a LONG time and we practically have to put some extra hard effort to get it? Maybe then we'll be able to enjoy the excitement even longer than usual? At least that's what I saw in my Mom. She saved money bit by bit to buy a washing machine, for example...and she took very good care of it 'coz she knew how hard it was to get the money to buy it.

Hmmm...my brain's too muddled up to think of anything else right now. I'll be back later he he...

QUASAR9 said...

Where you been girl,
that must have been some birthday bash - or dream hol

QUASAR9 said...

Some things we think we'd like to hold onto for ever, other things we know we just want to taste ...

take food, we might love cake, but we's doon be bored with cake every day, so we invent 1001 cakes ...
and yet there are those we just cannot resist "Cheery Filled Clack Forest Gateux" or whichever your favourite may be.

As with people it's a curious thing, how the touch (or words) of one person can leave us cold, and yet the mere touch of another can send us into rapture and their voice (whatever they say) make us melt like 'butter-scotch'

I think most people live with the truth, even a new ferrari or the latest power boat can only thrill us for the moment - after that we just learn to be either happy that we have it (while waiting for the next upgrade) - and the same with people too.

Except that those who are not happy with their current partner are continuously on the look out for an 'upgrade' or a 'change'
C'est la vie, mon amie

Josie Two Shoes said...

Hi Amber! I don't know why it happens, but it certainly does. When something is new, we only experience the positive aspects, and it is only after the shine wears off that we begin to realize the negatives as well. Those lovely new boots might be warm or pinch our toes if we wear them long. I love to learn and experience new things, I attack them with fervor, but I do lose interest fairly quickly. I usually dislike myself for that, maybe indeed it is a common fact of human nature are you present. Good post, and so nice to see you back!

D said...

OMG... this reminds me of my Microeconomics class I'm currently taking...

'The law if diminishing returns states that with each additional unit consumed the utility (satisfaction) derived from each consecutive unit decreases'

*sigh* At least I remember my stuff...

I never thought abt it this way... interesting way to put your point across!!!

meleah rebeccah said...

First! WELCOME BACK. Oh I have missed you.

Second... I dont know why that happens. But it sure does.

I am one of those people who wants what I cant have...but, then the second I get it, I dont want it anymore.

Im sure Greg will have many thoughts on this subject. Im actually curios to see what his answer will be.

Titania Starlight said...

I am not so sure. Was it always this way? I wonder? With our current abundance and choices have we all been cursed with attention Deficit Disorder. Possibly. A big "possibly.

i find that the only thing I do not tire of is my hubby. But I did my ex! :o)

Oh, yeah... welcome back . I agree with Quasar, you must have had one big Birthday bash! LOL! :o)~

John said...

Good to hear from you again.
Welcome back.

The Real Mother Hen said...

Because we are the ever demanding human race :)
Seriously, this is a good question.
I used to think that if I do work that doesn't need to use brain - I would be happy. I was so wrong :)

Ricardo said...

This is totally a human thing and not cultural at all. I agree. We do it with the material possessions and some even do it with their romantic relationships. I think we thrive on pursuit and conquering even if it's not a dominant trait. It think it's still in all of us. But you must also ask, is it possible and natural to sustain such a high level of desire all the time? Is an ebb and flow natural and to be accepted? I think so. It's when the desire vanishes completely and never returns that you have to really give the situation a hard look.

JYankee said...

grass is greener on the other side? as they say? dont know,, but it is a very interesting topic...

Random Magus said...

Dawn: Its ironic that even though all the material things in the world will not hold power over us for long and we will eventually lose interest we still make ourselves miserable over getting them.

rambler: Developing new interests is the key to staying alive.

ingrid: You are right and it could also happen because to take things and people for granted is human nature

paisley: I have been there too and not because of anything bad happening but because of a weird lack of interest in being.

amel's realm: I think we lose interest because of the time we are living in, where getting things is too easy and life's about the next achievement. We forget to savor.

Quasar9: Was taking a sabbatical - needed one. I get what you are saying about wanting to just taste but why make ourselves sick over it - knowing how transient it will be?

Josie Two Shoes: I am plagued with the same I will start something with such zeal and fervor but then lose interest but it doesn't happen with the very important things in my life. I don't let it.

Michelle said...

Restlessness... one way or the other humans suffer from it. We need to strive for "something". It might be fame, being popular, being wealthy, owning a specific thing, getting a specific person to love us...

Fascinating topic, really.

Random Magus said...

D:
Economics - I had a love-hate relationship with it :)

meleah rebeccah:
I missed you too :)
I think it's the challenge and it's about seeing if we can get what we put our minds to.

Titania Starlight:
Same here. Married 8 years and still not lost interest :)
But he's a challenging person.

John:
Thanks John.

The Real Mother Hen:
Wow - we might be soul sisters :)

Ricardo:
You are right. I think we are just a spoilt people with not enough discipline because we have had a relatively easier time then say people living in the Dark Ages.

jyankee:
Until we reach the other side, as soon as we are there we start to miss our old grass :)

Jay Cam said...

i think becomes boring because we can anticipate whats going to happen... as humans i think we need constant amusement to keep ourselves going - videos games, music, etc. !

lol wow that sounds pretty good
: )

Amel's Realm said...

Yes, that's true, Amber...the ability to savor everything is really crucial in this busy modern life. Everything's so hectic so that we don't even "stop and smell the roses" anymore, do we?

somewhere joe said...

It's in the nature of human beings to conceive enthusiasms and tire of them. Yet some object are guests, others are family. I have beloved clothes that I'll wear til they shred. I love my motorcycle and will try to keep it going til it dies. I have a favorite saute pan that eclipses all others. There are other things, whole species of things, of which only the latest and greatest will do. There's a heirarchy of affection in my material world, probably more wide-ranging than that enjoyed by their human counterparts.

I think interests shake out the same way - some are lifelong and sustaining passions, others come and go. Seems to me life is always reaching as far and wide as possible, in each direction, at any given moment.

Greg said...

This post wasn't here before, and now it is. Some comments match its date, but then there is a hole between Oct 27 - Nov 11. Hmmm.

Food tastes best when you are hungry.

Jod{i} said...

Hey Amber! How are you?
Love your writing!

meleah rebeccah said...

Gregs comment is funny to me.

Random Magus said...

Jay Cam:
And yet there were times in history where we didn't have these games to amuse us. I guess we were more productive and less spoilt than.

Amel's Realm:
And appreciate things because they have not just fallen in our laps.

somewhere joe:
That was quite an amazing explanation - you are right and I am now wondering why there are some things we don't tire off..

Greg said...
I will explain the mystery of this post to you later :)
And if we are not, we are liable to thumb our nose at the same food.

Jod{i}:
Hi - this coming from such a powerful writer has made me smile from ear to ear.

meleah rebeccah:
:-D

Random Magus said...

Michelle: Thanks Michelle. Restlessness is one of my biggest weaknesses

Bilbo said...

We lose interest in the things that are of only transient importance. Those gorgeous boots will eventually go out of style, the lost pounds will sneak back, and the game will eventually lose its ability to hook you. We retain our interest in the enduring things that are most important to us: those we love, our friends, our fundamental values, the things that mean something to us in the long term. My home is cluttered with the things that I had to have at one time because they made me happy for a brief time, but most now lack real meaning and just gather dust. But the meaning and appeal of my wife, children, and grandchildren will never diminish. Forget economics, psychology, and philosophy and listen to your heart.

Random Magus said...

Bilbo: The things that matter the most do endure but some even lose interest in them or start taking them for granted