7/7/07 Weddings

From Time.com:  "Superstitious Americans…have gone to great lengths to secure the triple sevens as their wedding date, hoping the lucky numbers will make them lucky in love…It may well be the most popular wedding day in history."

Since the demand for weddings on this date was high, the price for 7/7/07 weddings should also have been high compared to other dates.  Thus, only couples willing to pay a superstitious premium got married on 7/7/07.  This could provide a great research opportunity.  Are superstitious couples, for example, more likely to get divorced?  Do they make as intelligent financial decisions as other couples do?

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  • LemmusLemmus

    I’m surprised that only “superstition” is given as a reason for getting married on this day in every article I read on the phenomenon. Likelier explanation: Easy to remember. Testable hypothesis: It was overwhelmingly the husbands who pushed for getting married on 07-07-07.

  • LemmusLemmus

    On a second thought, if that’s your motivation, you might as well get married on 06-06-07. Maybe my above post is just plain wrong? On the other hand, if people making marriage date decisions are as stupid as I was when writing my original comment…

  • Luke G.

    It was a memorable date that fell conveniently on a Saturday. I think that sums up most of it.

    The number of weddings on that day is pretty funny. I was invited to two weddings on that exact same day.

  • http://profile.typekey.com/sentience/ Eliezer Yudkowsky

    You’d have to do a small separate study to verify that couples who got married on this day were in fact more likely to be superstitious, but once you’d done that, it does indeed sound like a fine testing opportunity.

  • http://elasticresonance.wordpress.com nerdbound

    If you use 7/13/07 as well (Friday the 13th), maybe you can have some less superstitious than average people too, who have nearly the exact same age and other characteristics.

  • dearieme

    LL, surely 7/7/7 has an advantage when it comes to remembering your silver wedding anniversary?

  • LemmusLemmus

    dearieme,

    silver wedding is 25 years, so that won’t help. Besides, I would guess people tend to forget their “nonspecial” anniversaries.

  • _Felix

    Being able to write 7/7/07 on a wedding invitation looks kind of stylish, and when arranging weddings people are well known to pay large amounts of money for trivial little things that look kind of stylish.

    Even if it does indicate superstition, what hypothesis would you use the resulting group of superstitious people to test? It’s not controversial that superstitious people make bad decisions; and I’m not sure what an increased divorce rate would indicate – to me a willingness to split up when things go wrong looks like rationality.

    It would be interesting to know if the superstitious are unhappier people, I suppose, since “it makes me happy” is a common justification for believing something unreasonable. What’s more interesting, though, is how and why you argue against superstition in those cases where superstition *is* making a person happier.

  • David

    So how much of a discount would you have gotten on a wedding on D-Day last year?

  • Hopefully Anonymous

    _Felix, I’m interested in the general idea that our brains may have hard-wired biases that served functional purposes, but now get in the way of some more optimized behavior, such that we pay a mental cost situationally violating the wiring when we’re aware of some optimized behavior that would be better.

    Examples would include having sex with a condom rather than spending that same period of time polishing up one’s abilities at mathematical modeling, treating oneself to fried chicken occasionally, etc. It might still be worthwile to look at how we can minimize deoptimized behavior that we’re hard-wired to be biologically rewarded for engaging in, even when it’s not in our empirically determined interest for larger goals such as maximizing one’s personal odds of persistence.

  • _Felix

    Hopefully Anonymous:

    Like many people nowadays, I live in a house. This is the environment in which I spend most of my time. It has a temperature, ambient noise, gravity and light. I regularly adjust all these things in order that they can be the least annoying and the most conducive to whatever I’m doing or thinking about. (Well, alright, I can’t do much about the gravity, but I can sit on soft things.)

    I think that even an artificial intelligence, with a body of some kind and the full set of human senses, living in a house, would want to keep adjusting those variables to suit its preferences. I mean to say that there’s no hard-wired bias causing those behaviours (of putting on music, turning on lights, opening windows, and so forth).

    There is another environment I live in, which is my brain. Like my house, it has these environmental variables – chemical ones – which I didn’t particularly ask for, but since they’re there I have to put a certain amount of time into adjusting them optimally. This results in the occasional burst of masturbation, eating, tea-drinking, or other biological stuff an android wouldn’t care about.

    There are slight risks associated with these behaviours. There are also slight risks associated with things like turning on a gas heater or opening a window. Even an android (a sensitive one) would rationally choose to take those risks to some extent, because feeling comfortable has a value (it removes irritations and helps you think, or work).

    This comfort is worth risking your life over (to some very slight extent).

    So, yes, in a manner of speaking, these are hard-wired biases. (I usually run a mile when I see “hard-wired” in proximity to “brain”, but I have nobly done my best to humour you here.)

    I don’t really think they should be called biases; I think they are rational choices, given the fact that we live in brains. I’m not entirely clear what a bias is yet, but I’m fairly sure that a rational choice or opinion doesn’t count as a bias. So I’d say that the biological urge to eat or have sex, or other compulsions to do with comfort, are not biases. (They may be habits, but one can rationally edit one’s habits. They are also things we commonly get irrational about, but that’s very different from biology and is heavily cultural.)

    One way to minimise these suboptimal behaviours would be to find less risky substitutes that are equally satisfying; the only other way I can think of is to cease living in soft wet vulnerable brains. (I very much look forward to the day technology lets us do that.)

    So that’s what I think about that … what does this have to do with weddings, by the way?

  • Hopefully Anonymous

    _Felix,
    Great answer. Because I’m open to the possibility that some of what we more traditionally consider to be biases, such as the cognitive biases listed on wikipedia, may also have hardwired components in our brains that developed for functional reasons, and that we may also pay certain mental energy costs if we don’t indulge them. I know combining hardwired & brain is messy and looks like a mixed metaphor or some such thing, but I’ll stick with it since it doesn’t seem to be getting in the way of our communication. The relation to the 7/7 wedding post is tangential at best.

  • Douglas Knight

    developed for functional reasons

    Surely that is the common belief, that biases are the cost of heuristics? Obviously, that is what the “heuristics and biases” crowd believes.