Friday, September 24, 2010

Stranger in a Strange Hobby

Robin Hanson wonders why people don't try new things:
It seems we see far larger costs than the time for a trial. My guess: we value our current identity, integrated as it is into our job, hobbies, friends, etc. We fear that if we try new joys, we will like them, and jump to practicing them, which will change us. We fear that by jumping to juicy joys, we won’t be us anymore.
Relatedly, it's more of an issue of being a stranger. Trying a new thing means you're surrounded by a strange world, something that humans find very uncomfortable (which is why tourist traps are some of the most American parts of a foreign country). Having someone familiar with us, especially if they are close to us and share the strangeness, blurs that outsider feeling. For example, a couple of months ago I went to a baseball game with my girlfriend who shares my apprehension about sporting events. I would not have gone without her (and not just because we were attending an event hosted by her firm).

This runs counter to the common intuition, that going with an insider makes it easier because you have a "guide." But if the guide's more associated with the surroundings than with you, you're still just an outsider but now find it socially awkward to escape.

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