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Posted: April 01, 2010

Rundles Wrap-up: Psyched out

Jeff Rundles

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My sister and I were discussing children the other day and what to do as parents about troubling situations. She said she fears saying anything about her 20-year-old's love life. To say what she thinks - that the boyfriend is a scumbag - might push the daughter even closer to him, but trying reverse psychology might backfire. My sister is a lawyer, not a psychologist.

Then I heard a radio news report about the recent election in Iraq, and I found one Iraqi's predicament interesting. He said he voted for current Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki instead of his favored choice, former Prime Minster Ayad Allawi, because he assumed there would be widespread voting fraud - switching of ballot boxes - so his vote for "A" would end up being counted for "B." It struck me that this kind of reverse psychology might backfire, too.

Then I had to laugh at a recent news article that said women who drink a moderate amount of red wine are skinnier than those who don't drink red wine. The first thing I thought was that the red wine industry, figuring women represent a sales growth opportunity, got some scientist to do an "authoritative" study on red wine and weight, and would let psychology take its course. A pretty evident sham, I thought, until soon after my vehemently white-wine-only wife tried some of my red wine and pronounced it "tasty."

A similar thing happened a few weeks ago when some of the major banks in the U.S. announced they were eliminating overdraft fees on their debit cards. They made it sound like the deal of the century for prospective customers, but, of course, underlying it all was simply a new way for the banks to charge even more fees and make more money, not less. Some people call it "spin," but it's merely psychology.

For the first time in my life, and some 34 years after graduating from the University of Denver, I finally understand why all the people I knew in college who majored in psychology are so successful. I thought they were just trying to get out of foreign-language requirements or otherwise coasting in an "Easy B" curriculum; turns out they were planning to rule the world. The "smart" people, like me, went into journalism and now, of course, need psychologists - and head hunters, who mostly were psych majors in college.

You see this everywhere. As I spend a considerable amount of my time reviewing automobiles, people all the time are asking my opinion on cars, and what's happening lately has me surprised. A number of people have pointed out to me that this is the perfect time to buy a Toyota because, they figure, most people are afraid, so the prices are way down and the deals will be amazing. They must be psyche majors because they understand the psychology of Toyota: This would be a bad time for anything else bad to happen, so therefore everything with a Toyota is bound to be good. This has nothing to do with real value, of course; it's just basic psychology.

I've never really studied psychology, but I'm thinking that now would be a good time to invest in solar companies, wind-energy firms, and anything related to "saving the planet," because clearly all the psyche majors, who run the world, are spewing that global warming is a hoax, so I assume they are quietly investing in green technology while the prices are down. A friend of mine - who, I was surprised to find out, was a psyche major in college before going to law school - said he truly believes come November the Democrats will win more seats than Republicans.

Maybe. I used to use echinacea quite successfully to avoid colds or to knock down their severity. Then I read a study that said echinacea doesn't work and now, for some reason, it doesn't.
This all leads me to wonder about one of the most pressing issues of the day: Is the new Domino's Pizza any different than the old Domino's Pizza just because the new ad campaign says the pizza used to suck and now it doesn't suck anymore?

I just don't know. I'm too psyched out.

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Jeff Rundles is a former editor of ColoradoBiz and a regular columnist. Email him at jrundles@cobizmag.com.

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