Do you ever buy one thing, say a jacket, kitchen appliance, or piece of furniture, and it just needs a few more things to complete it?
“Wow, these nice shoes need some pants, and look, there’s a perfect shirt for it too! “
Boom, a simple purchase of a pair of shoes lead to two more items.
Yes, this experience is very common, and it seems like we all experience it. There must be a scientific name for this seemingly universal experience?
Well, not quite a scientific name, but one of the first written observations of this was an essay, “Regrets for my Old Dressing Gown”, written by Denis Diderot, an 18th century French philosopher. His humble, well worn dressing gown was replaced by a much nicer new one, which led to Diderot redecorating most of his house.
Friends, this is the Diderot Effect.
My favorite highlights:
My old robe was one with the other rags that surrounded me. A straw chair, a wooden table, a rug from Bergamo, a wood plank that held up a few books, a few smoky prints without frames, hung by its corners on that tapestry.
Between these prints three or four suspended plasters formed, along with my old robe, the most harmonious indigence.
All is now discordant. No more coordination, no more unity, no more beauty.
…There was a vacant corner next to my window. This corner asked for a writing desk, which it obtained.
After he spent on unneeded luxury:
…With time all debts will be paid, remorse will be calmed and I will have pure joy. Don’t fear that the mad desire to stock up beautiful things has taken control of me.
Inspired by his new gown, Diderot replaced most of his shabby, but comfortable household décor with newer, improved items, and it caused him enough anguish to write a lengthy essay about it.
Certainly, we see this happening in our current lives. A new home needs new furniture, appliances, window treatments, etc. Or does it?
I’m sure many clothing retailers have mastered the Diderot Effect in order to increase their sales.
One, I know from experience, is the Men’s Wearhouse. I’ve popped in there to buy ONE navy blue sportcoat, and the pretty young lady will put out three coordinating shirts and ties, showing that I now have nine different combinations. It’s so easy! They are very good at this.
Do I give in to these great suggestions? Hmm, to an extent… I already have plenty of ties, but I usually grab a shirt or two.
How about you? Has the Diderot Effect cursed your household into unneeded extravagant spending? The new Tiffany lamp clashing with your 5 year old IKEA furniture?
What about the opposite of the Diderot effect? Can we flip it on its head? I think getting rid of one item can spur parting with more items? How about for you?
Just comment below and share your thoughts and experiences!