Once I take into consideration My Favourite Issues, I uncover that they arrive from completely different components of “me.”
Right here’s what I imply.
What’s your favourite ice cream?
What’s your favourite music album?
What’s your favourite sweater?
For me: Chocolate, Steely Dan’s Aja, and a black cashmere V-neck pullover from Barney’s.
They’re all “my” favorites, however I believe their “favoriteness” stems from completely different components of “me.”
Right here’s what I imply.
If you happen to requested 100 folks these three questions, what number of would give the identical solutions as me?
Chocolate ice cream? America’s #1 favourite. About 17% favor it to some other taste. Good probability at the least 15 folks would say chocolate is their favourite. All hundred of us (presumably) share the identical neurophysiological bodily gear. That gear has been formed by billions of years of evolution to not solely expertise the bodily pleasures of candy meals, but additionally the emotional response that accompanies that pleasure. Let’s name it enjoyment— pleasure for brief. We (virtually) all share that a part of “me” that enjoys sweets. That’s what makes ice cream so well-liked.
How concerning the album? We already know that there’s going to be a a lot wider selection right here than in ice lotions. The probabilities of even 2 of that 100 others selecting a Steely Dan album, to not point out Aja, are very distant. I share that a part of “me” with a a lot smaller fraction of my contemporaries. The pleasure I expertise comes from a way more restricted spacetime context (let’s name it “cultural”) than ice cream’s. Apart from the neurophysiological results of Steely Dan’s music, I’ve to take its (personal-cultural) context in my life under consideration when contemplating its favor.
Aja was launched in 1977, so it couldn’t have been my favourite sooner than that. Earlier than then, I in all probability would have mentioned The Beatles’ Rubber Soul, though I can’t make certain. When did Aja change into my favourite? Laborious to say, precisely. I used to be in graduate college when the album got here out. Its complicated melodies, wealthy harmonies, and enigmatic lyrics, sung by Donald Fagen and different distinctive voices, grabbed me rapidly. I performed it quite a bit, each when alone, and for anybody I may. I believed it was the epitome of cool, subtle musicianship.
Cool? Refined? Not phrases I’d use to explain chocolate ice cream. “Cool” and “subtle” are social judgments that I’m imagining others making about my Aja favoritism, as a result of they’re judgments I make of others who really feel the identical as I do. Being regarded as “cool” or “subtle” are very completely different emotional reactions from the enjoyment I get from ice cream.
To be sincere, I’m not sure that another person didn’t inform me about Aja or play it for me the primary time I heard it. The truth is, I could have chosen it as a result of it was that particular person’s favourite. Typically, our favorites change into favorites as a result of they’re favorites of somebody we all know, or look as much as (“all of the cool persons are listening to Steely Dan…”), and even (consciously or not) emulate/imitate. We’re generally a bit sheepish about admitting that. For some motive, we wish to suppose we make issues our favorites solely on our personal, with out being influenced by others. It’s why “leaping on the bandwagon” is such a pejorative time period. So the “me” that favors Aja is a extra deeply socially contextual (cultural) half than the one which prefers ice cream.
The sweater? Of these 100, I’d be keen to guess that not a single one would say their favourite is identical as mine. After all, many individuals may select a cashmere sweater as their favourite. Its tactile qualities are broadly skilled as pleasurable. As well as, persons are more likely to make (largely unconscious) judgments about others who put on cashmere sweaters. So, a cashmere sweater presents social indicators, like Aja does. However there’s a distinction. Social indicators are notably “sturdy” for favourite garments. The issues we put on in public are (deliberately or not) sturdy statements about who we’re: “that is ‘me,’ an individual who chooses to put on this sweater.”
However, in contrast to chocolate ice cream, the pleasure we derive from every sweater is exclusive. Each sweater turns into a favourite factor in a distinctive context; a really particular spacetime second. Whereas the social pleasure we derive from sporting the sweater will not be insignificant, the deeper supply of delight we’re more likely to expertise is from the sweater’s biographical integration: the when/the place/how/who of buying it. When did I purchase it? Was it a present? From whom?
This sweater grew to become a favourite of mine within the mid-90s. Earlier than then, I had others (vertically-wide-striped wool knit cardigans have been an enormous deal within the Bronx once I was rising up), however they have been nothing just like the Barney’s cashmere V-neck. It was the most costly sweater I’d ever purchased; it’d nonetheless be! Earlier than I purchased it, I may by no means afford a sweater like this one, and didn’t respect the sensual expertise of nice cashmere. And it was from Barney’s, not a spot the place I’d ever shopped prior to now! The sweater was a private emblem, a marker of a transition to a brand new interval in my life. No different particular person will ever expertise the distinctive pleasure I expertise when sporting this sweater, regardless of the place it goes after I’m gone. My emotional attachment to it as an object can’t be in contrast with my attachment to ice cream or Aja. Nor can it’s replicated.
Aja and the sweater are social objects. Their choice as favorites was “influenced” by broader cultural forces (music types; style), which undoubtedly performed a task in me discovering them fascinating. The “messages” they convey about “me” are far more particular (“private”) than the chocolate ice cream’s. Their that means (to me and to others) may be very completely different.
Every object tells a barely completely different story about barely completely different sides of “me” at varied factors in spacetime. Transferring from the overall, incarnate, embodied (timeless?), pleasure of ice cream to the extra cultural-contextual (mark of an period?) pleasure of the album, to the sweater’s distinctive biographical (moment-in-time?) pleasure is a journey into deeper, extra private dimensions of “me.”
In a means, our favorites present completely different pleasures, in several methods, to completely different components of “me”:
Ice cream—>the components of “me” I share with billions (embodied/perpetually)
Aja—>the components of “me” I share with thousands and thousands (tradition/bygone period)
Sweater—>the components of “me” I share with nobody else (particular person historical past/distinctive psychological moments)
What about your favorites? What are you able to study your components of “me” when you concentrate on them? What concerning the new ones you established at the moment?
Tom Guarriello is a psychologist, marketing consultant, and founding school member of the Masters in Branding program at New York’s Faculty of Visible Arts. He’s spent over a decade instructing psychology-based programs like The That means of Branded Objects, in addition to main Honors and Thesis tasks. He’s spearheaded two podcasts, BrandBox and RoboPsych, the accompanying podcast for his eponymous web site on the psychology of human-robot interplay. This essay was initially posted on Guarriello’s Substack, My Favourite Issues.