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You can get a kiss from any celebrity. When do you want it?


Imagine getting a kiss from any celebrity. Who would you pick?

Now how much would you be willing to pay for this kiss if it comes:

  • Immediately

  • In 1 day

  • In 3 days

  • in 1 year

  • in 10 years


Image from: "The optimism bias" Ted Talk, Dr Tali Sharot, UCL

George Lowenstein asked 30 undergraduates to find out. The graph above shows the results:

Unsurprisingly, the value of a celebrity kiss in 10 years' time is low. The wait is just too long, and unfortunately, society is not particularly encouraging to ageing celebrities. 

What's more interesting is that people didn't want the kiss too soon either. The value of an immediate kiss is low. In fact the value of a kiss by the desired celebrity is higher in 1 years' time than an immediate kiss, or a kiss in 3 hours or in a day! The sweet spot seems to lie somewhere in the middle - the peak value is after 3 days, when there's enough time for anticipation to kick in, but not having to wait too long.

So why would people not want an immediate kiss? Why would a kiss after 3 days be more valuable than after 1 day?

The answer is because of dopamine and anticipation. Dopamine has crept into popular culture, with motivational speakers and influencers and entrepreneurs all referring constantly to its effects.

The most common misrepresentation is that dopamine is related to reward - you eat chocolate, you feel good, your brain releases dopamine, you want to eat chocolate again. Now reward is merely just 1 function of dopamine and not a strong one at that. Think about it: gamblers experience dopamine spikes when they are gambling. But gamblers lose most of the time, they don't get the reward, so why are they addicted to gambling? Or think about that piece of chocolate (or whatever food you really like) - are your feelings most intense as you re craving for that food, as you anticipate getting that food, or when you actually bite into the food itself?

We know the answer for sure. With a brain scanner, the answer is obvious: dopamine spikes more in anticipation of a reward rather than during the reward itself. And this spike in dopamine is what makes us feel good when we know we are about to get something. Or when we start to anticipate the kiss. But as this experiment shows, we don't want our rewards to come immediately. Too soon and there isn't enough time for the build-up and pleasure of anticipation. Too long, and the value of the reward is discounted. So 3 days is the optimal time amount of time for participants o anticipate how good the kiss will be, and to feel really good during this anticipation. 


Find out more about dopamine here

Read the full research paper below: 

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