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The importance of novelty

Marco Louters Auteur

Marco Louters

January 9, 2022 | 7 minute read

Questlog Blog Business - Dit is waarom we nieuwe dingen willen proberen
Marco Louters Auteur

Marco Louters

January 9, 2022 | 7 minute read

Why do we want to try new things? Because it is fun. It brings a little variety to life; a bit of discovery. Many people enjoy exploring a new city or trying a new restaurant.

As a business owner, who wants to attract new customers, it is good to know the underlying psychology. What is going on in the mind when a customers enters your restaurant or leisure business for the first time?

As human beings, we have an interest in novelty. It activates our brains, increases our ability to learn, makes us more satisfied with life, more open to other ways of thinking, and more.

The old familiar is at a certain point so… familiar. It is less interesting. We tend to get bored with it. We have become used to it.

The categories in which we seek novelty, and to what extent, however, differs enormously from person to person.

The one is constantly looking for new outdoor activities, while another experiments with different hair colours, and yet another is constantly working on a new interior. Not everyone finds it equally important to try out a new lunchroom, for example.

Much research is still ongoing in the underlying psychology. However, by now we are familiar with a number of fun effects and other findings, such as the Coolidge Effect and Goldilocks Effect.

1. The Coolidge Effect

How president Coolidge went down in history as a psychological effect… ๐Ÿ”๐Ÿ“

His name was Calvin Coolidge. He was the 30th president of the United States. And today, he is the story behind the importance of novelty.

Slide through the image.

Calvin Coolidge Effect en het verhaal erachter

The Coolidge Effect is in fact a biological phenomenon among animals, in which males show renewed sexual interest when a new female is introduced. Even when the male had previously stopped mating with earlier sexual partners, whom are still available.

The Coolidge joke is often made to demonstrate the importance of variety. “Variety is the very spice of life,” according to the famous quote by English poet William Cowper (1731 – 1800), “that gives it all it’s flavour.

Although life would of course be a lot easier if we always chose the same thing, it is obvious that almost everyone would hate such a life. And something like ‘innovation’ would definitely not exist…

2. The Goldilocks Effect

What if we step into a new restaurant? ๐Ÿฃ

The Goldilocks Effect is essentially about just the right amount. Too much is not good. Too little is not good either.

The term comes from an old British fairy tale called Goldilocks and the Three Bears, in which a young girl named Goldilocks tastes three different bowls of porridge. She finds that she prefers the porridge that is neither too hot nor too cold, but just the right temperature.

This is also an important concept when it comes to novelty.

Too new can create feelings of distaste, fear and insecurity. In a culture shock, there is too much newness; too many things that are different. On the other hand, things that are often the same start to bore us.

Would you want to eat your favourite dish every day for the rest of your life?

When a customer walks into a new restaurant for the very first time, the Goldilocks Effect plays in the background. Stepping into a new restaurant is like stepping over an obstacle. For some, this is just a small step, but for others a bigger one.

Questlog Blog Business - Comfort zone en nieuwe dingen proberen

Stepping into a new restaurant is like stepping over an obstacle.

It requires higher alertness and raises questions that need to be answered. Most of these are unconscious. What is the culture here? Can I just take a seat? What type of people come here? Do I belong here? Do I feel comfortable here? These questions often no longer need to be answered in the old familiar.

But then again, the familiar is eventually also so familiar.

In the familiar, the activity level in the brain drops. In similar situations, you know exactly what to look for. It is no longer necessary to analyse every angle. The whole process of trial and error is skipped. Your brain creates a mental rule: if this, then that.

Novelty often elicits a negative reaction at first ๐Ÿ˜จ

You return from a long day at work. Once home, you discover that your partner has replaced all of the chairs at the dining table. The beautiful, familiar, solid, dark brown seats have been replaced with new orange ones.

“Hey honey, I came across these beautiful chairs in the sale. Look how elegant this looks!”

What is your first reaction?

The familiar setting has changed. You have to adapt. You have to cope with the new. Are these things all right? Is this really an improvement? And that orange…

On the one hand, curiosity is piqued, but newness can also be frightening. It takes a while to know whether this is okay and can be fine for the future.

A few weeks later, these chairs probably feel as familiar as the old dark brown ones. Slowly, we start to like them. At some point, we don’t even notice them anymore.

Novetly often provokes a negative reaction at first. After all, novelty requires work; brain activity.

Is the new simple or complex? ๐Ÿ™†โ€โ™€๏ธ

Relatively simple things catch on quicker, but also get boring quicker. More complex things take longer to warm up to, but also remain attractive for longer periods of time.

How often you come into contact with it also has an effect on this. As the author of Invisible Influence, Jonah Berger, mentions as an example: “Hearing the same song ten times in a row becomes very tiring, but if you hear it once a week for then weeks, it won’t be so tiring.

The more time there is between interactions, the more novel the experience seems, and the more we like it.

3. Novelty increases learning capacity

And why it’s better to play ๐ŸŽฎ games than watch ๐ŸŽž๏ธ series

Novelty in locations and surroundings also has a positive influence on our learning ability.

Not surprisingly so, because with everything we discussed before, we know that the brain becomes more active in these kinds of situations. Unknown territory requires more mental resources.

A new environment not only affects learning about the new terrain, but learning ability in general, according to neuropsychologist Judith Schomaker. Discovering new environments stimulates our brain to learn and remember.

She studied this by having test subjects, with VR glasses, explore a virtual world. In the process, they had to remember words.

The test subjects who had a completly new world in front of them the second time were able to remember more words than those who stepped back into the familiar virtual location.

It even turns out that animals, which were frequently exposed to new environments in their early years, learn better for the rest of their lives than their counterparts who remained in the same environment.

And since virtual worlds also have this effect, it is better to play games than to watch series. Also for animals.

4. Happy, satisfied, and more open

Pineapple ice cream ๐Ÿจ

We are constantly looking for novelty; in our own way and within our own interests.

That is just us being human. The constant search for the new is a fixed part of our psychology. We also need this drive to keep our brains active.

Social media channels, such as Instagram and TikTok, fulfil this need extremely well. Just by scrolling we continuously get to see new things.

But by actually trying new things, we also get useful information. You may think that pineapple is your favourite ice cream flavour, but if you have never tried anything else, it is hard to be sure.

Trying new things and going to new places makes us discover more about ourselves, but also makes us more satisfied in life.

What’s more, doing new activities with a relation partner makes people more satisfied in their relationship.

Changes are also more likely to attract attention. Changes in the workplace increase productivity. New things keep us from getting into a rut.

Last but not least, exploring new things can also make us more open as a person, to other cultures and ways of thinking.

All in all, get out of that door and try something new! Or, as a restaurant owner, temporarily change the table layout. Or try pineapple flavoured ice cream.

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