I got bored with my big-screen TV -- before I even bought it.
We've never paid more than $250 for a television. I don't watch much TV. But I do enjoy movies. So a few years ago, I started fantasizing about buying a 32-inch flat-screen TV to replace our 25-inch set.
Back then, such a high-definition TV would set you back around $1,500. That seemed like a terrible extravagance. So I told myself when the price dropped to $500, I would buy one.
This Christmas, I spotted one for under $500 but felt no urge to buy it. So I didn't.
I talked to Yaacov Trope, a New York University professor who has researched how people's reactions change as they get nearer to a situation. Dr. Trope believes the shift in my mind occurred when dropping prices suddenly made a big-screen TV a real possibility for me.
He likens the process to a trip to the mountains. When the trip is far off, we focus on the scenic view we expect to see. As the trip nears, we begin thinking about all the hassles of traveling there, the mosquitoes that will bite us and so on.
As I talked to him, I realized that was exactly what happened with me and my big-screen TV. I knew there was no way I'd shell out $1,500 for a set, but it was fun to think of viewing movies on one.
The big price drop changed everything. Now I began focusing more on mundane concerns. Where would the TV actually sit? Would it be a hassle setting it up?
There were other factors as well. During that time, we moved and bought a new house. The owners left their relatively new 27-inch Toshiba TV behind. It wasn't a high-definition, flat-screen TV. But it was a big improvement over our old set. So I had already gotten a better TV without buying anything.
I seem to talk myself out of buying things more and more as I get older. I briefly covet something, and then the urge passes.
It wasn't always this way. When I was four years old, I heard about a new hot cereal called Chocolate Malt-O-Meal. It sounded divine. So for my fifth birthday, I asked my parents for it. They bought me a box.
On my birthday, my mother made me a bowl as I sat at the table eagerly awaiting my just reward. I ate a couple of bites and quickly realized I hated the taste. I never had a second bowl.
I called up the Malt-O-Meal Co. recently. It still makes Chocolate Malt-O-Meal 47 years later, so the concoction has some loyal customers. A company spokeswoman offered to send me a free box. I don't take gifts in this job. But even if I did, eating it once was enough.
I've experienced the Chocolate Malt-O-Meal effect more than a few times over the years. It has made me gun-shy. But even when I buy something I like, I often find myself vaguely disappointed. The car that seems so magical in the dealer's lot is just a car a few weeks after you take it home.
In the end, few purchases give me true psychic joy. And those that do are usually embarrassingly prosaic. I bought a Mini Dozer ice scraper for 99 cents 19 years ago in a Michigan car wash. I still have it. It's basic but it has a tough blade that is particularly good at chiseling a sheet of ice off your windshield.
During that period, we've owned a series of more-expensive contraptions that combined an ice scraper with a snow brush or even a glove. They're not as sturdy as the Mini Dozer. If you apply a lot of pressure, the blades often snap.
What about the big-screen TV? I'm sure I will buy it at some point. Then I'll sit down in my sofa, flip on the set and see if it was worth it. All I ask is that a Chocolate Malt-O-Meal commercial isn't playing.
我去找纽约大学(New York University)教授雅科夫•特罗普(Yaacov Trope)谈了谈。他专门研究过当人们接近某一情境时，反应将会发生怎样的变化。特罗普认为，当价格骤降让拥有一台大屏幕电视突然成为切实的可能时，我的反应发生了变化。