Psychology

An Appreciation of Popularity

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The correlation between popularity and quality is tenuous at best. How often have excellent products died in the marketplace, while competing products of lesser quality have succeeded (I’m thinking BetamaxKodak, and TiVo, to name a few)? How often, too, have movie stars achieved enormous popular success despite possessing little in the way of acting ability (my apologies to Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone)?

Popularity isn’t just a poor analog for quality, but as a goal it is notoriously difficult to achieve. Striving for it is a fool’s errand, as the public’s approval has as much to do with luck as any other factor. Better to strive for excellence, and let The Universe figure the rest out.

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Suburbanites Seek Status Behind “Velvet Rope,” Argues Transit Activist Ross

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[By Paul Goddin for Mobility Lab]

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Why do so many Americans choose to live in the suburbs, despite the increasingly long commute times and lack of community often associated with these places?

Benjamin Ross, a Washington D.C.-based transit activist whose grass-roots lobbying efforts led to the planned Purple Line in Maryland, argues that suburbia has a persistent allure because it is a great “velvet rope” separating those of means from the rest of us.

Status-seeking, Ross says, is the psychological underpinning of suburbanization, leading Americans to seek out the cachet purported by suburbia’s bigger houses, bigger lots, and bigger SUVs. Ross makes a convincing argument to this effect in his new, meticulously-researched book, Dead End: Suburban Sprawl and the Rebirth of American Urbanism.

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