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“Don’t Trust Your Gut: Using Data to Get What You Really Want in Life” Book Review


“Don’t Trust Your Gut: Using Data to Get What You Really Want in Life” Book Review

When it comes to data, there are two types of people — techies who are obsessed with trying to optimize everything and those who are freaked out by the word alone. Maybe there are other types of people, I dunno, I don’t have the data.

Anyway, I get it – it’s creepy to have a pop-up notification from the Domino’s pizza app on your phone every time you walk slightly closer to the nearest location. At the same time, we all need and use information, either rationally or randomly, and we all need pizza. Okay, maybe pizza isn’t really a need…

But clothes are, right? Unless you want to get arrested. And when it comes to your own individual fashion choices, you should be aware that there are some inescapable facts and statistics related to how you’re being perceived. That’s one of the things that LittlePinkTop took away from a recent book by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, an American economist and former Google data scientist. In “Don’t Trust Your Gut: Using Data to Get What You Really Want in Life,” Seth explains how to navigate educational options, career or business paths, and even your personal life with less friction, based on what’s most likely to happen, according to the data.

Does Appearance Matter?

The long-loathed question that no one wants to give an honest answer to… So as not to be subjective, Seth makes an academic case in his book that how we look “massively influences how far we advance in life.” For example, Alexander Todorov, a professor at the University of Chicago who studies how people perceive, evaluate, and make sense of the social world, has proven that superficial impressions can majorly factor into election results.

Politicians blessed with faces considered to be more competent-looking by the majority of survey subjects tended to come out on top: 71.6% of the time in Senate races, and 66.8% of the time in House races.

Obviously, policy positions, communication skills, and campaign strategy all matter, too. If David Beckham wanted to be prime minister but his platform was based on changing the national anthem from “God Save the King” to one of the Spice Girls’ greatest hits, his wife Victoria Beckham might be flattered but would he really get political support in 2023?

Anyways, what matters in politics is the visual appearance of competence. But if you are pursuing a career in the military, you need to seem naturally authoritative. As Seth writes, “having a face that people judged as looking dominant increased the odds of a colonel becoming a brigadier, a brigadier general becoming a major general, and a major general becoming a lieutenant general.” Have you noticed how the generals in movies are usually played by the same group of character actors? Now that makes sense!

Some of this might sound depressing and deterministic, but don’t despair just yet. As Seth references in his book, Todorov also studied if individuals can be perceived differently when their appearance or environment gets slightly tweaked.

The researcher used five to eleven slightly different headshots of the same person – different hairstyles, facial hair, a photo showing a buttoned-up white collar, an unbuttoned collar, or a T-shirt. The scholar asked people to rate photos based on competence, attractiveness, and trustworthiness. And yup, these different visual cues had an effect on the overall impression. Seth concluded that “this implies there might be even more variation from bigger changes: changes in facial hair, haircuts, glasses, and much more.”

So, what are you waiting for? Go and check out LittlePinkTop’s articles about “The Best Low-Maintenance Styles for Fine Hair” or “The Best Under-Eye Patches of 2022 to Freshen Up Your Look,” and actually, why not just read the entire website in small doses?

Which Activities Will Make Me Happy?

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Obviously, there’s more to life than just fashion. And have you heard the saying, “what other people think of you is really none of your business”? That’s generally good advice, unless you’re talking about actual business, in which case, why not make a few minor adjustments that could change important outcomes? It’s really your call!

Seth’s exploration of data also considers happiness. He referenced an academic project that recruited tens of thousands of smartphone users. The researchers pinged them randomly throughout the day to ask what they were doing and how it made them feel…

The top ten activities that make people the happiest (according to the Happiness Activity Chart) turned out to be:

  • Intimacy/making love, 
  • Theater/dance/concerts, 
  • Exhibitions/museums/libraries,  
  • Sports/running/exercise,  
  • Gardening, 
  • Singing/performing, 
  • Talking/chatting/socializing, 
  • Birdwatching/nature watching,  
  • Walking/hiking,  
  • Hunting/fishing.

So, fashionistas out there might now be asking, “But what about hunting for good deals? And does shopping belong on that happiness list?” Look, I know you’ve heard about buyer’s remorse – that is, a sense of regret or anxiety after making a purchase. But the activity of shopping itself, according to the data collected, is one of the underrated activities that tend to make people happier than we think. And it made it into the top 20 activities that bring joy, along with drinking alcohol and gambling or betting. Hey, LittlePinkTop is not promoting or suggesting anything here, use your own sound judgment before engaging in any of those activities. 

Furthermore, the data regrettably indicates that you will be happier if you stop reading this article and go to a library instead – browsing the internet was found to be an overrated activity. Oops! Maybe you can read LittlePinkTop in the library then? Loophole? Yeah, there, solved it!

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