A Behavioral Economics approach to a Break-Up?

To other questioning Minds,

I have been taking a wonderful class through the Coursera.org website on irrational behavior. My professor is Dan Ariely, a leading researcher in Behavioral Economics. He began his career by examining patients perceptions of painful procedures. He had personally observed that all the nurses choose to complete the specific procedure as quickly as possible even if that meant more intense pain. He discovered that they believed they were correct that this way would be better than a longer, but less intensely painful procedure.

After doing many extensive tests, Ariely discovered two significant things. First, most people declared that they too would prefer the short/more intense procedure over the the longer/less intense one when given a hypothetical scenario. However, his second discovery clearly demonstrated that patients who had the shorter/more intense procedure indicated significantly more negativity than those who experience less intense pain over a longer time. He concluded that intensity is more of an indicator than duration in these case. So don’t rip that band-aid off to fast!

This had me wonder if there would be a similar occurrence between physical pain and emotional pain. Would longer periods of emotional pain that had less intensity of feeling perceived as preferable to short and intense bouts of high emotional pain?

Consider this as just food for thought: Would you prefer a fast, quick but extremely emotional break-up, or would you rather have your relationship die a slow death?

From my experience, the worst experience I had was the one that I had no warning about, which happened quickly and more completely uprooted my life. The other relationships had warning signs, and I was in prolonged contact with my ex as we sort of slowly extracted from each other in stages. I am NOT saying that this has any bearing on how much I loved each of these men. I am merely describing the break-up experience. In fact, the man with whom I had the worst break-up was probably the least well-matched to me…(or is that part of my perception of him now BECAUSE we had such a hard break-up?)

Another piece of this interesting study by Ariely was that people who went from high levels of pain to low levels had a more positive opinion of the procedure than those who ended on an intense pain level. This seems to support the idea that if it is all possible to “complete” your relationship (see my reblog of http://bit.ly/X4HmX4) on a high note!

This is a limited pool of data to draw from, but if any of you have opinions on this as a hypothetical or can draw on your own experience, I would be very interested in how you perceive your past break-ups! Perhaps, there is some irrational behavior going on when we try to go off our exes cold-turkey style!

Thanks for reading,

this Mind

p.s. See more of Dan Ariely on his website: http://danariely.com/

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