How Much Is Your Blanket Worth?

It’s mind-boggling what passes for science in some fields and what kind of pseudo-scientific studies get published and picked up by the media:

Researchers from the University of New Hampshire and Yale University wanted to understand more concretely how people gauge the monetary value of their belongings in relation to how loved and secure they feel. So researchers asked 185 study participants, average age 35, to complete a couple of exercises. First, they asked half the group to recall a time when they felt supported and cared for; the other half were asked to think about a fun experience, such as eating at a really great restaurant. Then, both groups were asked to put a money value on the blankets currently on their beds. The group who recalled a good dining experience valued their blankets at $173.30 on average, but the group who had thought about an experience of being loved valued their bedspreads at a paltry $33.38.

I know exactly how much the blanket on my bed costs because I paid for it. And that amount doesn’t change irrespective of which experiences I recall. I’m also kind of puzzled by the mention of the “paltry $33.38”. My blanket costs less than that, and I’m now asking myself what kind of a spoiled rich brat wrote this article.

What is really funny, though, is the way the scholar who conducted this study explains its usefulness:

“These findings seem particularly relevant to understanding why people may hang onto goods that are no longer useful. They also may be relevant to understanding why family members often fight over items from estates that they feel are rightfully theirs and to which they are already attached. Inherited items may be especially valued because the associated death threatens a person’s sense of personal security,” Lemay said.

Is there really anybody who doesn’t know the answers to these very simple questions? It is sad to see how much money is wasted on conducting so-called studies that demonstrate what already is painfully obvious.


5 thoughts on “How Much Is Your Blanket Worth?”

  1. When the UK government is going on about how it’s ‘fair’ that they remove all funding from arts and humanities subjects in universities but not from sciences, because science is more useful and important or whatever, I want to throw studies like this at them. Everyone seems to think that if you study science you’re going to end up discovering the cure for cancer. Nope. You’ll probably end up telling me how much value people place on their blankets.


    1. “Everyone seems to think that if you study science you’re going to end up discovering the cure for cancer. Nope. You’ll probably end up telling me how much value people place on their blankets.”

      -Thank you for making me laugh with this great comment! 🙂


  2. Well, not all science is good science, and sometimes shitty stuff does get funded…

    However, I have to say that sometimes it is a good to test ideas with “obvious” explanations. What if you get a result that is not obvious, and people have to completely rethink why certain systems behave the way they do? This does not happen infrequently in science.

    Though the above study is “social science”, which is not quite the same thing… Let’s just hope that actual publication has some broader picture in mind that is much more compelling, which the media is failing to report…


  3. Ah! Pseudoscience – one of my favourite topics. This week’s top of the list is a cross cultural study of romantic love published in the Cross Cultural Research journal entitled “Cross-Cultural Analysis of Models of Romantic Love Among U.S. Residents, Russians and Lithuanians“ by Andrey Korotayev, PhD,Janina de Munck, MBA and Darya Khaltourina.

    Here’s the link.

    And here’s the abstract verbatim:

    Our goal was to detect and describe a common “core” structure of romantic love and to also discover and explain variations due to cultural or gender differences between three national cultures: the United States, Russia, and Lithuania. Our sample consisted of 262 American males, 362 American females, 166 Russian males, 130 females, 102 Lithuanian males, and 135 Lithuanian females—a total of 1,157 people. Our analysis was derived from (a) a 14-item questionnaire; (b) freelist responses to the question “What do you associate with romantic love?” and (c) interview and focus group data. The questionnaire was devised by employing well-known quotations about romantic love that cover a range of feelings and perceptions of love. Our results showed that there is no overall consensus but there was cross-cultural consensus on five variables: intrusive thinking, happiness; passion; altruism; and improve well-being of partner. In the freelist portion, we also found some significant similarities—particularly the desire to be together was ranked first across all three cultures. However key cultural differences were found. Friendship and comfort love were critical features of romantic love for the U.S. sample, but nonexistent for the Lithuanian and Russian samples. Conversely, the latter two samples saw love as “unreal,” “temporary,” and “a fairytale.” These cultural differences were explored through interviews and shown to serve as different cultural frames used to interpret similar emotional complexes. We suggest that the differences do not affect the evolutionary functions of romantic love and are adaptations to different types of social organizations. The etic-emic approach used in this cross-cultural research provides for a more nuanced, ethnographically sound, and cross-culturally valid description and analysis of the form and function of romantic love cross culturally than does either approach by itself.

    I have technical issues with their methodology since they use a 14 question forced choice Likert scale which is the same method used in the infamous “debt improves student self esteem“ paper about which you posted a while back and I have a problem with self referential free floating data sets.

    One of the Russian piropos which they give as an example in the text is that a woman is so lovely that the man will stop drinking beer every evening. According to the paper, nothing says I love you to a Russian male more than a verbal willingness to reduce their alcohol intake. Is this an East European version of an Argentine piropo like “Si la belleza fuera delito, yo te hubiera dado cadena perpetua”?


    1. Hilarious! It is even funnier than you think it is because one of the author’s is called “Khaltourina”. In Russian, “khaltura” means “a poorly performed task” or “shoddy work”. 🙂

      As for the Russian piropo about the beer, I have never heard anything like this in my entire life.

      This is a very sad instance of pseudo-science.


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