Thursday, June 28, 2012

Forrest Gump and the Inverse Power Law

"Life is a box of chocolates."
                     -- Forrest Gump

That bit of homespun wisdom from Winston Groom's engaging hero for our time needs some clarification because of the conditions of modern life.  Suffice to say, the common pleasures of the palate have done much to make the lives of humans more enjoyable.

However, many of us live in a world where there is a glut of opportunities for experiencing high- and intense-quality taste or flavors, substances that deliver in copious amounts the four basic tastes: sweet, salty, sour, and bitter.  Now we had in evolutionary history developed some specific taste receptors that allow us to detect certain chamicals (or their similitudes), but nowadays there are so available in amazingly large and potent quantities.  Gaining sweetness from wild strawberries does not deliver the sweet fructose punch that can be found so often in candy stores, the ice cream freezer, and other places.

So some of us develop weight problems.

Now I like chocolate; and I like root beer.  And a lot of other sweet things.

However, I've noticed that the impression of enjoyable changes with quantity consumed.  The first piece of chocolate: bliss.  The fifth one: not so much.  And eating more results in a corresponding less enjoyment per piece of chocolate consumed.

Consuming cola and other beverages would follow that same pattern.  There are some people who consume as many as five or six soft drinks (Cokes, etc.) per day.  The result is, they don't get the bang for their buck with this prodigious amount of cola intake.

Keeping this in mind, it might be a very adaptive strategy to spread our our pleasures, both from the economic and the hedonic-maintaining reasons.  Overindulgence can have very bad consequences.  And, yes, I'll specifically mention:

1.  Sweets
2.  Cola beverages
3.  Alcohol
4.  Sleep
5.  Television viewing
6.  Exposure to scents

You might think of others.

So maybe we should modify Forrest Gump's principle:

"Like is like a box of chocolates; better if its a small- or fun-size box."


Elvis Wearing a Bra on His Head said...

But what about sex? Isn't that the exception?

Bilbo said...

The "exposure to scents" part is of particular importance to those of us who ride public transportation and are often stuck next to people who have been marinating in eau-de-my-gawd-what-the-hell-is-that??

Grand Crapaud said...

This would apply to condiments.

Bacon is theonly exception.

bakku-shan said...

I agree with Bilbo. With scents there is both the type and the amount that can make it good or bad.

Mike said...

I read someplace that it takes 15 mintues to get used to a smell so that you don't notice it anymore.

Have you tried JellyBelly rootbeer?

Big Sky Heidi said...

With scents, a little goes a long way.

This sounds like a good principle. But it's hard with chocolate!