Re: Wanting to Want
Fri, 3 Dec 1999 18:59:36 EST

In a message dated 99-12-03 14:41:06 EST, Robin Hanson writes:

<< I don't want to try to tell you how to tell on a case by case basis who
is fooling themselves about what. I just claimed that on average people in love do systematically fool themselves about several things.>>

If that is all you are claiming, then I would agree that people in the first blush of romance often do fool themselves about some things. I apologize if I misunderstood; I had the impression that you meant that most people fool themselves into thinking that they are in love when they are not. While this does often occur at the end of a relationship (very similar to the first stages of grief), I don't think it applies to love in general. Again, I apologize for the mix-up if I misinterpreted what you said.

<<Surely you are familiar with the standard literary scenarios of the foolishness of those in love, and those who were fooled by others who acted like they were
more in love than their later actions suggest.>>

Yes, I am familiar with those and many other standard literary scenarios. However, just because it is a standard literary motif doesn't really tell us much about the prevalence of such scenarios in everyday life.

<< I don't really care about you in particular. But there is a vast literature
saying that lots more than half the population think they are better drivers, lovers, stock traders, etc. than average. Men tend to do this more than women.>>

Okay, most people suck at realistically assessing their own abilities. I'll buy that. The more pessimistic part of the population also tend to think they are a lot worse than they are really. But the examples you give seem to me to relate more to what you can do than how you feel, and the distortions also are more of degree than type. Not many people delude themselves into thinking they can fly a plane when they never have, though they might think they'd be better than they would be should they learn.

As for not caring about me in particular, that's fine. But it seemed to me that you were trying to make your point by specifically referring to two qualities that I had claimed to possess. As for thoughtfulness and creativity, I had stated that they were necessary to keep a romantic relationship alive and well; I never claimed that people were able to accurately self assess how good they were at these two things.

In summation, I agree that people often have distorted views of at least some of their qualities, and I further agree that people first in love will often gloss over problems and those whose relationships are failing often deny the signs of its failure at first.

Glen Finney

Robin Hanson Asst. Prof. Economics, George Mason University MSN 1D3, Carow Hall, Fairfax VA 22030
703-993-2326 FAX: 703-993-2323
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