Beyond irrational and other thoughts

Our Students Again….

Friday March 19th, we had a special session for admitted students, organized by Felicia Mebane and Sherry Rhodes. Felicia is quite a wonderful ham when given the opportunity, and Julie MacMillan, Peggy Bentley and Wizdom Hammond all did a great job of reaching out to these really bright people who’ve been admitted to the School but, in some cases, haven’t yet decided. Our student leaders were fabulous. Patsy Polston (co-chair Minority Student Caucus, ESE student) was exuberant about some of the opportunities our students have to travel (She worked on a project in India last summer.) and help solve local problems. (She and Engineers without Borders are helping to bring safe water to the Rogers Road community in Chapel Hill. Yes, Chapel Hill. Isn’t that outrageous! Surely, Chapel Hill can do better.)

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I am reading the very interesting book, Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely. (For people who want to sample his work, he is an author of an article in this month’s Harvard Business Review.) In the book, Ariely uses behavioral economics to understand things we do that don’t seem to make sense. His work has application to public health and everyday life. For example, he talks about the power of Free which often underestimates the value of our time. Someone might stand in a long line to get something for free, but getting it free may be outweighed by the opportunity cost of standing in line. We should think, Ariely says, not just about what we get but also what we give up. Draws of Free high fat foods have been among the many enemies in our fight against obesity. Offering consumers bad food at what appears to be good value usually means portion sizes that are too large and calorie dense. Ariely also says we have an irrational compulsion to keep doors open. Or put it another way, we don’t like closing doors, whether it is the one-too-many committees we have joined, because we could not say no or the two digital cameras we’re agonizing over (and spending far too much time doing). He says we ought to shut some doors, because they draw energy and commitment from the doors that should be left open. Now, think about that!

Dan Ariely will also be speaking at our School on Friday, March 26 from 10 to 10:45 a.m. in the Rosenau Auditorium (133 Rosenau Hall). Join us!


Emily Brostek, student in HBHE, pointed me to a new blog from the Interdisciplinary Health Communication certificate program at UNC-Chapel Hill called Upstream. They’ll be posting at least once every day Monday through Friday, and hope to generate some real discussions around health communication related issues! I like it a lot!

Signing Off

My sister Sara tells me not to write about the weather, but I cannot help it! It is a gorgeous day in Chapel Hill. Franklin Street is packed with people in shorts and tee shirts. Trees are flowering, the daffodils are blooming, maybe the economy is improving, and spring is here. Not a minute too soon! Happy Monday. Barbara

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