Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Our love of variety

This research by Dan Ariely and a team in Rome is off topic (or at least I hope it is), but fascinating nonetheless: capuchin monkeys, it seems, choose variety for variety’s sake. And so do we: people eat 43% more M&Ms when there are ten colors in the bowl instead of seven. The authors of the study may push the limits of credulity when they suggest that variety-seeking “contributed to the rise of bartering and then abstract money in human society.” But I’m the first to confess that this year when it comes to my vegetable garden I’m one of the most variety-seeking monkeys around. Gone are the green beans that, a hundred quart freezer bags later, I knew I couldn’t eat for at least another twenty years. And after last year’s disastrous growing season I decided it was time rethink the rationale for the garden. Why grow only the ordinary? Of course tomatoes will still with any luck be the premier crop. But in addition to such staples as lettuce and peas I opted to buy some seeds that would stretch both my gardening skills and either reacquaint my palate with some old-time favorites that aren’t so commonplace or, in one case, try something I’ve never eaten in my life. Here are the new additions: celeriac, kohlrabi, radicchio, Kamo eggplant, cardoon, Parisian pickling cucumbers, Belgian endives, broccoli raab, cannellini beans, and chickpeas. I now know why Belgian endives are so expensive; I’ll either have gorgeous salads come wintertime and many hours of work later or a big fat nothing. I really hope the cardoon prospers because I haven’t a clue what it tastes like. This is a clear case of variety for variety’s sake. And I consider exploration into the unknown tremendous fun!


  1. Brenda,

    On variety, some conflicting research.

    As for your vegetable garden, if you really want to move out of the ordinary, you may want to try growing the miracle fruit - possibly indoors :(

    I've noticed you have reviewed many books on options lately, is that what you trade mostly?

    Love your blog, please keep it up. Best trading,


  2. Jorge,

    Thanks for referencing the paradox of choice video. It would be interesting to know when variety entices us to gorge ourselves and when we're paralyzed by too much choice. Perhaps it has to do with the complexity of the decision-making process. Perhaps it's a matter of whether we're limited in our choice. If I'm trying to choose among many styles of jeans I have to weigh several variables and I'm not going to leave the store with twelve pairs. If I'm tempted by multiple colored M&Ms I'm not exactly stretching my brain nor am I limited to a single choice (what's it going to be, the purple one or the green one?). I can eat the whole bowlful. And then, alas, I might have to go back to the jeans store with another set of measurements to plug into the decision-making process.

    The miracle fruit does sound extraordinary, but there's nothing around here that simulates the tropics--certainly not indoors. I laughed when I read that Steve Cohen keeps the SAC trader floor at 68 degrees so that his traders will stay alert. Trust me, there's no dozing on the trading floor an hour north of SAC!

    I am primarily a futures trader, but I find options fascinating. Looking at stocks and futures from the perspective of the options trader can sometimes provide an edge.

    Thanks for your continuing support. There are days that I really need it!