Doings the dishes and smoking

One economic model deals with addiction as an information problem. The person looks at a cigarette and thinks the pleasure of the cigarette will outweigh its health costs (and financial costs) and so smokes it. What the person does not, perhaps, take into account, is the effect of this consumption on their FUTURE demand for cigarettes. So thought the person makes a rational choice regarding the current cigarette, the addictive qualities of nicotine make the current choice dictate future choices (to some degree) by increasing the desire for future cigarettes. So, the person, though they act rationally in one situation, neglect or don’t fully appreciate the disvalue of having progressively greater cravings for cigarettes (health problems, financial costs, social stigma). The person may not incorporate the information that having one smoke can transform one into a smoker.

This model has been attacked on many angles, but just note how close this to doing the dishes. At any one point, doing the dishes is almost never worth my time, and so I don’t. But the problem is that current decision effect my future willingness to wash dishes. If I don’t wash today, then things get grungier. More grunginess means that I will both a) want to wash the dishes more to get rid of the grunginess, but also b) not want to wash the dishes as much due to their increased grunginess.

So, for people who get grossed out really easily, doing the dishes promptly is very important because their aversion to doing the gross dishes will likely continue to outpace their desire to wash them in order to get rid of their grossness. Such people might never do the dishes because the importance of getting rid of the grossness always lags behind the burden of having to actually scrub the nasty things.

Other people might be different, and so their willingness to do the dishes might grow faster than their disgust at having to do them. I am such a person, so I usually wait for about four days or so, and at that point, the importance of a clean house overtakes my disgust/laziness and I do them. People with other grossness functions might last a really long time. For example, they may only realize a clean house is worthwhile when the dishes start growing mold. The health risk becomes so overwhelming that only then to they think it worthwhile to conquer the now (admittedly) very high grossness of the dishes.


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