The Things (And People) We Love with Dr.Aaron Ahuvia
[00:00:00] (Opening Words) (Intro)
Hey, everyone in our pursuits of living more meaningful lives, there's this concept. That's really important which is just love. It's relationships. It's friends, it's family. It's community. It's. love for our craft. Its love for the art we create. It's love. All around and today's guest is an expert in the things that we love and professor Aaron who via.
Talks about his work. First studying dating services before they were online. And then how that transformed into figuring out how. We love the things that we do in life, like brands and things and experiences and, and all of that [00:01:00] stuff. think this is a very fascinating. Episode.
I know I was trying really hard not to nerd out. Like I love. Topics like this. Ultimately, if you can listen to how to love and a different way, or to think about the things that you love. And how that relates to you that it can help you on your meaningful revolution. So with that, let's get into the episode with professor Aaron Ahuvia.
Shawn Buttner: Hey, everyone. Welcome to the Meaningful Revolution podcast. We hope to inspire you to follow your meaningful pursuits and purposes. Today's guest is a professor of marketing at the University of Michigan Dearborn. He's one of the most widely published and cited experts on brand love, noted expert on how consumer behavior impacts our happiness,
And with that, I'd love to introduce our guest today, Professor Aaron Ahuvia. welcome to the [00:02:00]
Aaron Ahuvia: Great, Shawn. It's a real pleasure to be here. Thanks for having me. on
Shawn Buttner: Great. I know we were talking about this a little bit before, turning the record button on here, but, if you could start a meaningful revolution in the world to help people follow their fulfilling transformation, their purposeful impacts or authentic movements, what would you try to call it?
Aaron Ahuvia: to come up with a term, but I'm gonna, I'm gonna go big. I'm gonna call it the love revolution.
Shawn Buttner: All right.
Aaron Ahuvia: Yeah,
Shawn Buttner: Love revolution. Based your research and expertise, could you maybe share why you called it the Love Revolution, how you got started in studying happiness and the things that we love?
Aaron Ahuvia: yeah. I call it the love revolution because it's about trying to bring love and passion into more and more aspects of your life. you want to, of course, surround yourself with people that you [00:03:00] love and love the people you are surrounded by.
But, uh,you can also love the activities you spend your time on.
You can love the objects that you surround yourself with.
noted, as I started doing my own research a while ago, that the things that we love, if they're objects that we love, they Both become part of our own identity and they also become part of our world in that if you do a good job with your home, you've got, they're all over the place, right?
You live in this world surrounded by these things. And so it really is a chance to bring, your things you love and the passion in your life into more aspects of your life.
if you wonder how I got started on this. It's a fun story. I was a PhD student in marketing at Northwestern, and there's a well known marketing professor, Philip Kotler, and he was explaining to us that everything is [00:04:00] marketing.
if you're in politics, you're marketing to voters, etc. Even if you're dating, you're marketing with the person you're out on the date with. And, I was single at the time. I thought this was way more interesting than real marketing. So I asked him if I could do my term paper on that. And he said, yes.
And connected me with the professor Mara Adelman,
who had. research data on a dating service. So this was just before the internet came around and dating services were just starting to become a part of a mainstream American culture. They were still very marginalized, but they were just getting going. Mark Edelman and I, we coauthored four major papers together on dating services and became. For a time, the world's leading academic experts on dating services, and I can say that without any vanity, because, we were the only academic experts on dating services. Nobody else in the world was stupid enough to study dating services.[00:05:00]
we were both the top and the bottom of that list, but it was very fun. And now we see that dating services are a super important part of our culture. People, that's the number one way by far that people meet their romantic partners. But at a time that I started doing this research, it was very marginalized.
Almost nobody was doing this. And Marthew is a very strange person to be involved in this. It's very interesting to see that develop. Anyway. in order to do this research on dating services, I need to understand why people fall in love with each other and how romantic love works. And so I spent a couple of years researching that and really enjoyed it. But then I needed to get a job as a marketing professor. And I was like,nobody's going to hire me if I'm the dating services professor. This is still
to marginalize. Now they probably would, but then it was, it's such a weird thing. So I thought, what can I do? I've spent years studying the psychology of love, and I know that people love objects.
They love [00:06:00] brands, they love products, but they also love activities. They love all kinds of things, love nature. What if we took what we know about the psychology of love and see if that gives us any added
why people connect with objects or activities. And it did. And it was turned out that a lot of people have looked at the psychology of interpersonal love.
And a lot of people have looked at why people prefer one product to another product, but nobody had actually taken this sort of research on love and said, what is, how does this connect to people's preferences for products and brands or other kinds of things? So I was the first person to really do a significant scientific study, in that area.
And then a little bit later with a colleague, Barbara Carroll, I published a paper that popularized the term brand [00:07:00] love that had existed before, but nobody had really was using it. and so that really kicked off research in this area. now, if you go on Google scholar and you put in brand love, you'll find over 14, 000 different papers from people all over the world that are talking about this. But,when I started doing this work, that was me. That was it. it's been really fun. I've kept going at it now for many years. And the book, The Things We Love, really presents a new theory of a new way of understanding this. I guess I've been researching this for 30 years. I would say the first 20 I looked at it one way, and then there was some more recent scientific discoveries that really changed my mind about things.
I had to really re evaluate how I thought about it. And then the recent book is that re evaluation.
Shawn Buttner: Awesome.
Could you [00:08:00] go and do,that big mindset shift? Because I haven't had a chance to check out your book quite yet, but I am, like, it's on my very long to do list now, or the books
Aaron Ahuvia: So at the same time that I was coming out with this stuff on brand love, there were a bunch of people who were interested in what were called consumer brand relationships and other very closely related kinds of topics. It was a whole movement and people in that movement had a slogan, if you will.
And that slogan was, people form relationships with objects or with brands the same way we form relationships with people. and that makes a total sense and it seems like it seems obvious
and it's completely untrue.
Aaron Ahuvia: that was the big change for me. Neuroscience research started coming out and we had a clue about this earlier.
So there's this word. to objectify a person.
[00:09:00] And we all know what that means is to think about that person in the way you normally think about objects. what that implies is that there is a way you normally think about objects, and that's different from the way you normally think about people.
Shawn Buttner: What the neuroscience showed is that isn't just a cultural thing that we teach kids. It's not that we just raise kids to see people and objects in different
Aaron Ahuvia: ways.
Actually, it's hardwired into your brain at a very profound and basic level. And at a non conscious level, there's a mechanism in your brain It sorts everything you experience into two different categories. People and everything else. And the stuff that's everything else, your brain treats it and thinks about it one way, and people, your brain treats that and thinks about them in a very different way. So love is reserved for people. You don't normally love objects. That's [00:10:00] why if we take like the stereotypical situation, it could be gender roles could be reversed here, but most of the time the word is used.
It's a woman saying, Oh, that man is objectifying me, right? He's treating me like a sex object. that same woman in a different situation with a different guy, Or different woman might be really happy to be sexually involved with that person, right? They're not opposed to sex, but they're opposed to objectification.
So what does that mean? what the reason they're opposed to that is at an intuitive level. They get this idea that if you're objectifying, if you think about someone or something as if they're an object, you don't love them.
that's why it's a problem when you objectify people. It's because it's really incompatible with love. and that's what we don't like it when people objectify us because they're not treat them They're just treating us as an instrument because that's how your brain thinks about objects most of the time.
Aaron Ahuvia: from there, you might think, does that mean people don't ever really love [00:11:00] things?
And there are a lot of people who will tell you that. They're wrong, but they'll tell you that. They'll say, people can only love other people. they, nobody really loves objects. That's not true. But the way that you love objects, is that your brain makes them honorary people. Your brain has to first start treating the object as if it was a person.
And you can see this in reverse. I just talked about objectification. Objectification happens when your brain thinks about a person as if they were an object, right? So I'll give you another example of that, from the book. this is a true story,for from a person who was working as a barista in a coffee shop during the pandemic.
And so this the one, there's one customer in the coffee shop, one customer comes in and the customer's not wearing a mask. And the barista points to the sign on the wall, says, please wear a mask and says, excuse me, would you mind putting on a mask? And the customer [00:12:00] says, why? There's nobody here. So the customer clearly was seeing the barista is like a part of the coffee making machinery.
They weren't a person. They were just like part of the machinery. So your brain can do that at times and it can do the reverse.
take an object and think about it as if it's a person. And when we love things, that's part of what's going on as a precondition for us to love things.
And what that means Is that if you want people to love something, one of the steps in there has to be get their brain to think about it as if it was a person.
Shawn Buttner: That's really profound. ha
Aaron Ahuvia: Yeah, I think so too. And it's a totally different way of looking at it.
Uh,in, in marketing, people want customers to love their products all the time. [00:13:00] And a lot of business people are really frustrated because they're like, I make this product. It's really good. I put it out there. I spend money on advertising and people seem to value it.
They buy it a certain amount. But they don't love it, right? And my response to that is twofold. It is, part of it is, most of the time they're not going to love it. Because most of the time, seeing it as an object, you don't love objects really.
Shawn Buttner: Hm hmm. Heh heh. Mmhmm. Heh heh.
Aaron Ahuvia: you
can value objects, you can think they're important because they help you, but you don't love them.
And if you're wondering, what's the difference between valuing something and loving something, just think of this example. Matt, think about all the money you have in the world. You probably value that very highly because it's important to you. It's an important resource that you have. But if somebody came to you and said, I'll trade you all of the money you [00:14:00] have in the world for a sum that's 20 percent larger than that,
You'd be like, of course, yeah, why not? 20 percent, go for it, right? of a typical parent who loves their child. Someone walks up to them and says, your child is really cute, but I'll trade you your child for a different child that's 20 percent cuter than your child. The parent would call the police.
love is different. love involves, you do value things, and we do value people. this person helps me. This money helps me. I value both of those things. We love people. We, we see them as individuals and we care about them. The money, I don't care about the money. I just care about what the money can do for me.
it's very different.
I tell people, look, if people aren't loving your products, you've got two main choices. One is just to say that's okay. And a lot of brands do that. They say, look, people aren't gonna love my stuff. They're not gonna love the competition. I'm, people are gonna see it as an object.
That's all right. I'm, now, I, now that I get that, I'm [00:15:00] gonna see what do I need to do to win an economic competition? As an object competing against other objects. So that's one answer. The other answer is no, I want people to love this thing. And people do that too. There's lots of brands that people do love. we can talk about those too. So if that's going to happen, one of the things, not the only thing, but one of the things I got to do is humanize this brand in some way, personify it, get people to see the brand as a person. Cause that's what will allow them to form this relationship.
Shawn Buttner: That's... Okay, that's pretty profound too, my immediate question is, like, how do you go about, then, if you're Nike, and I think it's a brand that people really love, and so I have a couple of questions here, the first one being, like, how would you humanize, how did they, or how would somebody humanize an object, or, a brand,
Aaron Ahuvia: So Nike is a great example because. [00:16:00] People I don't remember which streaming service is on perhaps more than one. there's a movie out now called air
Excellent movie. It's just, it's just a really fun, interesting movie. this whole issue set aside, it's about, the creation of the Air Jordan shoe by Nike.
And it's a very dramatic, interesting story, even if you're not like, don't think of it as like a business movie. it's a sort of a human story.
But one of the main points that they make in that is Wow, we really need to get Michael Jordan to endorse this shoe, because a shoe is just an object until a person steps into it.
Shawn Buttner: it's that connection of the shoe to Michael Jordan
Aaron Ahuvia: enters consumers minds. And then they start thinking about the shoe as human. So why is that? why don't they think of Michael Jordan as human in the shoe is [00:17:00] just a thing. that seems to be the way your brain works, that if an object is in your mind, closely connected to a person, then your brain starts.
treating it as a person. So the metaphor I use about this is there's a sorting mechanism, unconscious sorting mechanism in your brain. It sorts out people from objects and thinks about them differently. You can think about that mechanism as if it's a bouncer at a nightclub,
Shawn Buttner: Okay.
Aaron Ahuvia: the bouncer is saying, you're a person, you get to come in.
I think about you like a person, you're not a person. You're You stay out, I think about you like an object. So they're doing that sort of bouncer sorting mechanism. if a celebrity comes to the bouncer at a nightclub, the bouncer will let the celebrity in. But you know what? The bouncer will also let in the celebrity's entourage.
All those other people who aren't celebrities but are with the celebrity, they get to go in too. And in this metaphor, Michael Jordan is the celebrity and the shoe is part of his [00:18:00] entourage. It's connected to him. And so when the balance of your brain says, okay, I'm treating you like a person, the shoe gets treated like a forgets to come into, it comes along for the ride.
Because it's got that kind of close connection, and we do that all the time in our personal
so for example, suppose you're dating somebody and they give you a gift of vase.
and you're really madly in love with this person. You love that vase. You put that vase on the mantle piece and every time you walk by, you look at it and think, oh, what a lovely va.
Shawn Buttner: Terrific, right? And then you break up with that person and you're really angry and you're really bitter and you walk by that vase, you look at it, what a horrible vase! I'm getting rid of
Aaron Ahuvia: that thing, right? Get that thing out of here! So why did you turn on the vase? your brain is connected that object to the person and you could always tell when that happens because the value you place in the object is totally connected to the [00:19:00] value you place in the person.
And when you love the person, you love the object. And when you don't love the person anymore, you don't love the object anymore. And they float up and down together. And so that happens in our personal life. Every time we get a gift from somebody, we associate it with that person in that way. Now, it's often, it might not always be enough.
there are definitely times that we've gotten gifts where I really love the person, I don't really love this gift, right? That happens, but a lot of our feelings of a person does rub off on the gift. It might not determine everything, but it does rub off and it influences and we have that kind of association, with it. So that, that's one of the three ways that people's brains start thinking about objects is if they're a person is that they associate the object with some other person.
Shawn Buttner: Okay.
Super fascinating. how does identity factor into this relationship because [00:20:00] you take a look at like Nike, take a look at Apple earbuds or, it's a kind of like a social status thing, but my guess is that the underlying thing is it's relating to people somehow right of either I'm part of your tribe because we hit like the same things.
And I think you've, in my research, for this, Interview, like that was part of something you talked about. Could you talk about that a little bit more?
sure. so identity is the most central. So I mentioned a moment ago, there are three ways that your brain starts thinking about objects in human ways. one is the object that's associated with some other person, like you associate the object with the person who gave you the gift. The biggest, most common way is that you make the object part of your own identity. And since it's part of your identity. You in your person, your brain thinks about it in these human ways as if it's a person.[00:21:00]
Aaron Ahuvia: why would you make an object part of your identity? our identity is pretty flexible. Like when I first started hearing about this research, I had the rather naive idea that, no, my body is me, right? That's just my body is me. Other things aren't me. They may be, I may like them, but they're not me. Just my body is me. What I've learned through this, research, not just my own, but a great deal of psychological research has, this is a topic that's a lot of work done, in this area. Is that what your brain, the reason you see your body as you is that your brain has this list of things that are you and your body is a number one on that list. And that's why you see it as you, but your body is just one of several things that can be on that list. And it's not just a yes or no [00:22:00] list. It's a more or less list So there's some things that are very much you like your body and there's some things that are A kind of you like maybe your shoes, right?
And there's some and then there's all You know infinite number of things in the universe that aren't you at all, but it's this great Station of stuff and things move on and off of that list
Shawn Buttner: and you can see that for example It's a little bit flexible if you're in america, suppose you're an American,
Aaron Ahuvia: I'm this is listening to who's listening. I'm an american I'm in america
Shawn Buttner: heh.
Aaron Ahuvia: One of my friends comes to me and starts bad mouthing America, my response is usually, damn straight, here's other things that are wrong with America. But,I, but I travel a lot, and so now imagine I'm in somewhere other than America, and someone comes to me and starts bad mouthing America, all of a sudden my response is to defend America,
Shawn Buttner: Whereas I would never do that when I'm at home, I don't feel the same way when I'm at home. What's going on there? in the context of being in a foreign country for [00:23:00] me, America becomes a part of who I become salient to my identity. I think of myself as an American. And so when this person starts saying bad things about America, I feel like I myself am being insulted.
Aaron Ahuvia: And that triggers this response to want to, defend the country. But when I'm in America talking to somebody else as an American, and they start saying bad things about America. That's not a salient, relevant part of my identity at that moment. I, I think, I'm not really thinking about it that way.
I don't personally feel insulted. He's another American, she's another American, we're both here. it's our right as Americans to complain. we can both criticize what we don't like.
Aaron Ahuvia: a little bit flexible what goes on and off that list.
Whenever you fall in love with a person or an object or an activity, the core psychological process that is going on is that this person or object or activity is moving in your brain from [00:24:00] something that's seen as out there in the world.
to something that's seen as part of who you are. And we see objects and other things as part of who we are, and we see other people as part of who we are. Our sense of identity is much more flexible than I used to think it is. And this, there's again, reams of scientific, data on how this works. In fact, one more thing that you might find interesting that I was really interested.
They've done a lot of research where they look Using brain scans
Aaron Ahuvia: going on in someone's brain when they think about a person that they love and when they think about an object that they love. And there are some differences, but there's things that are pretty similar. But the part of the brain that is always the most active, when you think about a person, not you, somebody else that you love, or an object that you love, the part of your brain that's most active is the [00:25:00] part of your brain that thinks about your own identity.
Shawn Buttner: even when you're, and it's not true if you think about somebody you don't love, you're not thinking about your own identity then. That's a, when you think about a person that you do love, you think about them just as if you're thinking about yourself. And you can, here's a, one more example to give you a little more of this.
Aaron Ahuvia: That I like a lot. if see somebody else do something wrong, we often are quick to blame them, for what they did. They did, they're a stupid person or careless or whatever it is, right? When you do something wrong, your immediate impulse is to come up with an excuse for it wasn't my fault, right?
This, something else was happening, etc.
Shawn Buttner: Low blood sugar.
Aaron Ahuvia: If you love a person, without thinking about it, you will instantly come up with an excuse about why they did that wrong thing. Because your brain treats them as if they were you, because part of a love relationship is they become part of your identity.
And so you extend that to them. And [00:26:00] similarly, if you love an object, and it does something wrong, you're much more likely to be forgiving. of it, and make up an excuse for why it did this thing, rather than, blame the object for whatever went wrong, because again, you've put it as, you've made it part of your own identity.
Shawn Buttner: that again is super fascinating
since this podcast, we're talking about meaningful pursuits and purpose. How do you bridge the gap between...
love for people and things.
and maybe a different way to rephrase this is there any research that you know about or data on people that feel like they're living purposeful, meaningful lives and the things that they love?
Aaron Ahuvia: Some, there is some, and I think there is a lot of connection there. It hasn't, some of what I'm going to say is from research, some is from my informal observation,[00:27:00]
uh, on love and meaning, Are almost the same thing. They're not exactly the same thing, but they're really overlapping to a large extent. What meaning means, in this sense, in the sense you're using a meaningful life, it's a synonym for important.
Aaron Ahuvia: at
a deep level, right?
This is something that I feel is fundamentally important at some deeper level, and that's why it gives me.
that we think are fundamentally important at a deeper level are the things that we love and vice versa and the people that we love. What makes something really deeply important to us is a connection either to our own identity or a connection to a person that we love. Much of the time, one of the mistakes people make is they think that our relationships with objects that we love are sort of [00:28:00] person thing. They think that they're just like a relationship between us and the object. Whereas much of the time they're person, thing, person. The object is important to us because it connects us to some other person. and we find the presence of that person Meaningful in our life their love for us and our love for them and here I use love
I think in the psychologically accurate way in our culture, maybe it's cause we was like a little homophobic, a little less homophobic than now than we used to be. But people would be like, Oh, I don't, my same sex friends, I don't love them.
But yes, you do. That's at a psychological level. you love your community, you love your, the people around you. It's not necessarily sexual love, but it's love. And that's what makes community work and make friendship work and make family.
it's the connection to those people that you really care about and love that leads to most of us loving the [00:29:00] objects that we love.
And so take an example of a sports fan. The sports fan loves sports and maybe the sports fan loves, her television set. I've heard this a lot from people. Why does she love her television set? Because her friends come over and they watch sports together on the television set. It really isn't about the television set.
It's about The way the television set allows her to form these good relationships with the people and that, in terms of happiness, I think, is a very important key that the people who are really able to derive happiness from the objects in their life are the people who use them effectively to create meaningful relationships with other people.
So the object becomes a way of connecting with other people and the people who
tend to have more [00:30:00] problems in terms of their psychological well being, are people who you might say use the object as a way of avoiding other people, or the object comes as a, as something that separates them from other people. Now, I don't usually think The object is to blame in those cases. I think we have a really strong innate desire to form relationships with other people. And I think that if that's working and you're succeeding in that, people really prefer that to dealing with objects. I don't think there's been a lot of cases where people have had nice strong relationships with other people in a loving community and have said, no, I'm going to skip all that.
I really want to just go with my stamp collection now.
Shawn Buttner: Hahaha
Aaron Ahuvia: most of the time when that's happening. it's either that the stamp collection is helping them connect with other people,
other community of stamp collectors, or if it's not, they're lonely first [00:31:00] and they turn to the stamp collection because they don't have the social relationships.
Shawn Buttner: It can become a problem because you get this sort of momentum effect. So maybe the thing that got the ball rolling was you didn't have the social relationships, you got bored and lonely, you started playing video games or stamps or whatever it is, right? And that kept you from being quite so bored. It didn't solve your loneliness problem, but it took your mind off the loneliness and helped solve your boredom problem a little. The problem is that once you get into that mode, you would think that the lonelier someone got, the more they would be motivated to go seek out other people. But the weird thing about loneliness is when people get into it, they actually develop, it becomes hard for them to go and see other people. I think maybe an analogy would be something with exercise. I've noticed for myself that I've gone [00:32:00] through periods when I've exercised very regularly and I've been in good shape. and when I'm in really good shape and I go without exercise for a couple of days, my body's like anxious, go out there, get some more exercise. But if I don't, if I sit on my butt for three weeks, all of a sudden this physiological change happens, and then instead of wanting to go exercise, I just want to keep in my chair. I'm like, I don't want to go. Exercise starts to feel really bad as a thought, and I really resist. And I think it's the same with loneliness.
Aaron Ahuvia: if you're, if you've got such relationships, you're in a good place, you get a little bit lonely, you've got this urge, oh, I need to go and call my friends and get out there and do this. But if you get lonely enough, if it becomes built into you in the same way that you're, health wise, you need to go exercise, that's the best thing for you.
But something in you resists that and doesn't want to do it. when you get really lonely for a long time, it's the same thing.
Shawn Buttner: Mmhmm
Aaron Ahuvia: then the stamp collection of the video games or whatever becomes something that enables [00:33:00] you to indulge that impulse to not go and deal
people. so that's, I think, one of the ways that it really.
can backfire on people and become a problem for them.
Shawn Buttner: (Commercial Break for coaching) In everyone's journey to find meaning there's usually one moment where they make a decision to act. It's that point? When you encounter a poor product or a piece of music or something else in your life that you love. And you decide that you can do it better and you go about creating better. It's that point in your life. When you look around and wonder how did I get here?
How did my life get so boring or stressful, or just not how you imagined the end. So you decide it's time to figure out how to change that. Or it's that feeling that you could be working on something that's more fulfilling, more in service to others and more exciting. And so you decided it's time to figure out how to have more of that in your life. [00:34:00] And in each of these scenarios, there's this call to adventure, a call from your heart to change and the decision to act. So I'm Shawn Buttner and I help people heed their call from their hearts to change as a certified high performance coach.
I guide people through a science-based process to help them live. their life more aligned to their aspirations and dreams. And maybe that's you. And if it is, maybe it's your time is now to work with the coach to help you follow your call to adventure. So if so you can apply for a free one hour strategy session with me at www dot Shawn Buttner dot com slash coaching or check the link below in the comments.
In there, we will spend one hour building your high-performance plan. We'll talk about what your call to adventure is that decision that you've made or want to make, and then the plan to make it happen and realize it. And so. I've helped [00:35:00] people start businesses. I've helped people change careers. I've helped people change how they feel about their lives through this process called high-performance coaching. I know it can help you. I'd love coaching. I love that the people that are able to serve with it, and I hope that's you.
So check that link below wherever you're listening to or watching this episode of the meaningful. Revolution podcast. Enjoy the rest of the episode.
Right on! It's reminding me of, I know there's a lot of like new neuroscience that comes up, and I'm not qualified to cite it, but the talk about these dopamine hits, and you're getting dopamine from doing this activity or interacting with this object, and if your brain gets trained that's where the dopamine comes from and not people that you get into, in this particular example,you have to do a lot of work to rewire that,okay,
Aaron Ahuvia: that's, I think that's true and that can happen, with people. You [00:36:00] can develop a dopamine habit. I know that it's controversial. some people call this addiction. Other people say they don't like to use the word addiction there. I don't know, but it's a powerful habit in any event.
And it can be very powerfully motivating, for people,when you get it. too caught up, I've noticed this just with myself. I was saying this to my wife last night You know that i've gotten in this habit. I went for a long time where I wasn't eating desserts after dinner
and then I got in this habit of always having something sweet
about the same time at night.
And it dawned on me, I've really got a dopamine sort of habit or addiction. That's what's really going on here. my body's
it's triggered at 7 30. I'm like, I want that dopamine hit, give me a cookie, or more than one cookie, or more than several cookies, And, Maybe I need to just stop that because it's clearly just this [00:37:00] Neurologically wired inhabit at this point that I get this craving
Shawn Buttner: Yeah. Oh, I, also have a similar experience with, the after dinner sweets. My wife is very much into desserts. And I wasn't before I met her and now constantly like, Oh, I've done this every night for a whole week. I maybe need to switch that. that's pretty cool. So to summarize what we were just talking about.
It seems that, the things that we love are avenues towards. People and relationships and, where we find meaning, something that, thatI believe about meaningful pursuits is that you're, there's a lot of meeting and happiness and creating things that are, that people love, is a thing.
Aaron Ahuvia: Do you know, or do you have any thoughts on it? The process of creating the things that people love that then help them [00:38:00] find people to love other people. That's a long chain there. But there's a better way to say that but I think along with I there often is a connection We do create things together with other people and if people often form communities, the quilting circle, or the maker space, where there is this social aspect to what you're creating. so those are connected, but there also is a drive just to be creative, to be generative.
And that provides a lot of meaning in people's lives as well. A sense of what I'm doing is important. I'm producing something of value. and one of the things I encourage people to think about Is there's a couple of approaches. You look at something. Let's take clothing. For example, clothing is often. Criticized people over into clothing a person's shallow and materialistic and etc. Etc That there's a lot of bad press that comes with that
One solution might be [00:39:00] to say oh, I don't care about clothing anymore I'm gonna stop that pursuit But a lot of people don't want to not care about clothing and frankly clothing is really fun and interesting And you shouldn't have to not care about clothing.
It's, it's a whole artistic realm of life, right? That you can do so one piece of advice that I have for people is maybe get more into clothing maybe love clothing more and one way to do that is to start making and designing clothing Instead of just being a passive consumer who spends all your time shopping and shopping is a creative activity That's why it's fun.
you're assembling, you're curating this collection, you're assembling these things, and that's
An aesthetic and creative activity for people and it's a social activity. People go shopping with their friends. And so you've got the social connection there, which makes it very powerful and the creative,activity.
And so that really works, but maybe find a different social group with a different creative [00:40:00] activity. So there are lots of. Groups that meet where people talk about the clothes they're making and learn skills from each other and sew together and Design together and cut together you can create a whole community around that.
It'll be so much better for your budget and it'll be better for your closet because if you're into clothing i'm willing to bet your closet is overflowing with crap you never used. that's just such a safe bet. It's really bad for the world's ecology as well. To produce all this junk and then you don't really value it.
You don't use it and then it just gets thrown away and then you feel guilty. How about...
Instead of shopping,it's a long time. You gotta, you're gonna have to go through a period where it's frustrating cause it's not an easy skill, you learn to start designing with other people, get involved designing, sewing, making stuff.
making jewelry is another great way to do this.
Shawn Buttner: And, you can have a much [00:41:00] deeper relationship. So instead of, you'll find that instead of loving clothes less, you love clothes much more than you used to. Because, you used to be like the person who listens to the radio in the car. Now you're like the musician who makes music and who really, appreciates what's going on.
Aaron Ahuvia: Now you have a much deeper reaction. And even the stuff like the fashion brands, you'll look at those and you'll be like, now I get it. Now I actually see what's happening, why this designer's a good designer. Not just because their name's on the front of this thing, but because they're actually doing interesting things.
And now I know the difference, and now it makes something interesting. adding creativity and productiveness as to your interests, I think is a nice way to stretch your budget and get a lot more out of it.
Shawn Buttner: Yeah, I love that idea. And it reminds me, I have a, so I'm a huge nerd and something that I did with my friends in high school and still do to this day is we will play Dungeons and Dragons. [00:42:00] And my buddy, I've known since kindergarten.
COVID project, essentially, and we're all locked in, was to figure out how to make dice, right?
And there's a whole sub community of people trading tips and casts and techniques, and he went super into it and, ultimately to be able to create things that he would then give to the rest of the group. and the sense of joy and excitement and really just nerding out more into he's an English teacher by nature.
He was getting into chemistry, which was super fun. But the way it lights people up, I
Shawn Buttner: when you create the things that you love, I think
definitely does enhance your love for it. and like a musician, you learn how to play guitar. Like for myself, I know how to, I can, I've been playing for a while and I didn't really like jazz and you know I like [00:43:00] blues because it sounded cool, but having an appreciation for it because you're like, oh that's really technical and how do they form those things is super important, but
yeah, Create the things you love folks.
That's the message
Aaron Ahuvia: Yeah. And it's awesome. I was just visiting, I mentioned, the, that coauthor Mara Edelman, who I did the dating service research,
Aaron Ahuvia: last weekend, I was just visiting with her at her place in California. and she retired from academics to become an artist.
She makes jewelry, tiles, paintings, all sorts of stuff, really high, really good stuff.
And it's all over her house. not just her stuff, but stuff that inspired her that looks, it's in similar kinds of styles or other work in the same kind of media that she does work in. It's it's everywhere. And it's great to be able to. Produce that kind of an environment for yourself [00:44:00] where, again, you're surrounded.
Your world consists of things. a lot of them you've made yourself or that a friend who makes the same stuff you kind of stuff traded with you or just gave you as a gift because you're in this community with them.
it's such a warm environment to be an emotionally warm environment to be
Shawn Buttner: definitely
I know you wrote your most recent book about, that shift in your mindset on the relationship of how we love things and whatnot. Has there been anything else that's been super surprising through your research that's changed how you behave as a consumer?
You behave as a person out in the world, maybe? Yeah. Yeah. you view things.
Aaron Ahuvia: One thing relates to a topic we were just talking about, which is the dopamine hits. So I've always been something of a hedonist and really, I love [00:45:00] food and wine and music and massages and mountain biking and just anything that's exciting and fun and stimulating. I've been very big on that my whole life.
And some of this research on
has been showing that if you get a lot of pleasurable stimulation all the time, it starts to
you less happy the rest of the time.
According to these theories at least, the way this works is that when you say eat a cookie you get a hit of dopamine which creates the sort of reward sensation and then there's what's called an opponent process.
Your brain, it doesn't just let the dopamine to linger around there in your brain, [00:46:00] but it's an emotional process that actively removes the dopamine. And so that you've noticed this experientially, you eat the cookie, you enjoy it when you're eating it, but When you're done eating the cookie, the enjoyment goes away.
You don't keep enjoying it 20 minutes later. and your brain is doing this on purpose, so to speak. Evolution is doing this so that if you want that, pleasant experience, you need to eat another cookie. And your evolution wants to motivate you to eat cookies because at the time we evolved, calories were scarce, right?
They're no longer scarce, but they were then. So it was good for you to eat this kind of thing.
You start having more and more of this dopamine stimulation. That other process that removes the dopamine afterwards gets stronger and stronger. and the process that creates the dopamine gets weaker and weaker. So what's supposed to happen is you eat a cookie, you get dopamine,[00:47:00] the cleanup crew comes, removes the dopamine, you go back to normal, and you're just your normal happy self.
You've just had a cookie, everything's good. But if you eat a lot of cookies all the time, you start to produce less dopamine when you have it and the cleanup crew gets really big and starts taking away More dopamine than was produced to
so Your overall level of dopamine starts to go down Because the cleanup crew is too big and strong and it's you know Taking away from the baseline and not just the added dopamine and the more you do this the more your overall level goes down so you want to keep your Sort of fun little that kind of intense basic pleasurable stimulation you certainly you should enjoy it but My old approach, which was nothing exceeds like excess, maybe wasn't the [00:48:00] wisest, strategy and I never really understood asceticism, before, but I'm thinking maybe there's something to that, not asceticism in the,the image of the person who's whips themselves.
That's, crazy. but asceticism in someone who doesn't chase every hedonistic pleasure at every moment, there may be something to that. And I've started actually, maybe it's not whipping myself, but I have started a little bit of a aesthetic practice in that regard. There's a lot of health Research that shows that, cold exposure, if done right, is very healthy.
you don't want to get hypothermia, but, a certain amount of cold exposure stimulates your body, and it also increases your attention, immediately afterwards. I started starting the day with a cold shower, where I turned just the cold water [00:49:00] on blast, full, no hot water at all. And... It's really cold.
It's really cold. Oh
Shawn Buttner: Yeah.
Aaron Ahuvia: my god, like I'm panting. My wife says I know when you're taking one of those showers because I can hear you outside of the bathroom like huffing and puffing from the cold water. But boy does that get your heart going. And it really floods your body with very productive, positive kinds of hormones and chemicals and helps you pay attention and makes you more productive all morning.
because of that stimulation. and the research on dopamine is showing that it actually,it's a little bit painful to be in water that's that cold. And what it does is the opposite of this, effect that you have too much pleasure, too many little dopamine hits. The cleanup crew gets too super strong and the dopamine hits produce less and less.
If you start off with something like that, it makes, it shrinks the cleanup crew. It keeps you, your [00:50:00] overall level of dopamine for the rest of the day is actually higher. because your body is rebalancing from this initial, experience, which while admittedly is, not super pleasant, isn't harmful or dangerous in any way to be in a cold shower.
Right on. Yeah. I have, there's a, like cryo spa. Close to where I live, which is cold air. So it get like you do like negative 150 Degrees Fahrenheit, but it's air. So Have you tried this?
Shawn Buttner: Yeah. Oh, yeah, I go regularly
Aaron Ahuvia: You go
Tell me about That That sounds insane to me. What's that
Shawn Buttner: It, it's less insane than water that's at zero degrees, or whatever, at, freezing, thirty two degrees.
for whatever reason, cold air, it's a less of a, it's still really cold, and you still get the effects. I've done ice baths and stuff like that too, because you [00:51:00] experiment with yourself sometimes. and the cold air is less of an initial shock. You'll still get as cold and you're in for three minutes.
the way that the spa works, you like cover your face and hands, extremities. but you still get that effect of the cold without that Like I will, like I have a very high pitch that'll get all the dogs barking when I do like cold showers and stuff. Because it's just not for me, but I found the cold air, even though it's super chilly, is not as
or shocking, as like cold water,
Aaron Ahuvia: Fascinating. Yeah, I know the water, and I can only imagine because the water that I use from the shower feels so cold. When I put a thermometer in there, it's not that cold. It's maybe, it's like what, 60 degrees or something like that? It just feels unbelievably cold. I know people take ice baths. I know people go into water.
That's, 33 degrees, 34 degrees, just above freezing. I can only [00:52:00] imagine what that must be like
the shower water is plenty cold for me, but I, maybe I'll try. I'll see. I'm sure it's gotta be one of those private spas. Around Ann Arbor and check one of those out.
Shawn Buttner: Yeah,I recommend it and I would say I prefer that over cold water any day. hopefully that, that helps.
with that, Professor Ahuvia. Thank you so much for the very fascinating conversation. I have tons and tons of notes that I'm going to need to review just to start mulling this over. But if people want to check out your book or follow up with you on, This particular topic would be the best way for people to get in touch with you.
We could put that in the show notes.
Aaron Ahuvia: sure. So the book, once again, is called The Things We Love, How Our Passions Connect Us and Make Us Who We Are, and the title hopefully will make a little more sense to people now, because the things we love, obviously the things we love, and then connect us is all about how they connect us to other people.
That sort of person thing, [00:53:00] person effect, and make us who we are is how But how they become part of our identity,and make us. Who we are. and that's available anywhere, find books on Amazon, and a lot of local bookstores will have that. if people are interested, I do a lot of speaking. I've got, two different types of talks that I do.
I do a lot of speaking for businesses on brand love. And, but I also do talks about, for people who are just interested in this intellectually, want to understand themselves better by understanding the things that they love. It's a really nice way of looking at yourself and developing self understanding is to look at what you love and what that says about you.
And how it relates to who you are. So I do both those kinds of talks. And if people are interested in that, they can find me at drbrandlove. com. So drbrandlove.
com And, that'd be terrific.
Shawn Buttner: Awesome. Definitely check out his book. I'm [00:54:00] excited to dig into the things that we love in the book. Professor Ahuvia, thank you again so much for being on The Meaningful Revolution.
Aaron Ahuvia: Sean, it was a lot of fun. And yeah, if there's a topic you want to discuss that it's relevant to me, let me know.
Shawn Buttner: Alright, you got it, alright, and with that we'll see you in the next episode of the Meaningful Revolution Podcast.
(Thank you ending)