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Do You Really Need It—or Only Want It? Here’s How To Tell the Difference

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As anyone who counts a three-year-old among their acquaintances will know, there’s a fiery purity to the will of a small child that’s difficult to oppose. Once my son has figured out that there’s ice-cream in the freezer and decided he wants some for dessert, my role is equivalent to that of the ineffectual UN diplomat attempting to persuade a major nation-state to stockpile fewer weapons: good luck with that. Yet frequently, on receiving the ice‑cream, he’ll decide to let it melt before consuming it – then forget about it completely. He wants ice cream, monomaniacally, with a force his little frame almost can’t contain. But he doesn’t like it so very much that some other absorbing activity can’t banish it from his mind.

I only clearly grasped this distinction – and realized how it applies to me, too – when I encountered the findings of a study of coffee drinkers reported on the Research Digest blog. Using various psychological tests, researchers showed that “heavy” drinkers (those consuming three or more cups per day) had a much greater desire for coffee than those who consumed less of it, or none. But they took roughly the same, far lower level of pleasure as light drinkers when it actually came to drinking it. More serious addictions – to alcohol, or hard drugs – are characterized by a similar split between wanting and liking: you want the substance more and more, but like it less and less. And it’s been demonstrated that if you deprive people of a prize they want, they’ll desire it more; yet if they do then eventually acquire it, they’ll value it less.

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GettyImages-1226237444.jpg‘The ancient idea that what we desire isn’t necessarily what we enjoy has received support from modern neuroscience.’ Photo by Oscar Wong / Getty Images.

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Click the link below for the article:

https://getpocket.com/explore/item/do-you-really-need-it-or-only-want-it-here-s-how-to-tell-the-difference

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