Mixed Blessings

In the long run we’re dead, all right, but the long run doesn’t kick in for a while. In the interim, a majority of Americans have a cheerful outlook on life. When an ORC International survey asked adults whether they’d describe themselves as optimists or pessimists, 78 percent put themselves in the upbeat category. Seventeen percent classified themselves as pessimists, and 5 percent were undecided. The pessimists tend to regard the optimists as fools. But anecdotal evidence suggests that each cohort tends to get the life outcome it expects. So, if the optimists end up happier than the pessimists, who’s to say the former are the fools? You might suppose that optimism wilts in the face of experience. In fact, though, respondents age 35-54 are more likely than those 18-34 to term themselves optimists (82 percent vs. 73 percent).

When a mobster was shot dead some years ago at a restaurant in New York’s Little Italy, chowhounds joked that there was no need for such violence: “The food there would have killed him anyway.” Still, some restaurateurs feel they could benefit from a dash of goodfellas glamour. Zia’s Trattoria of Harrisburg, Pa., is the latest in this line. Neiman Group of Harrisburg created the ad.

While school-graduation season is long past, the air still echoes with speeches about young people “making a difference in the world.” And so they will, for good or ill. But they’ll do it in their spare time, judging from a survey by AMP Insights. People age 13-24 were asked to pick (from a short list) the chief factor that would influence them in choosing a career. Just 12 percent said they’d be guided mainly by “how much money I make.” But fewer still (7 percent) cited “making a difference in the world” as their chief motivation. Sixty-six percent said the top factor is “doing what I love.” The poll also asked respondents to identify the people they view as role models when it comes to a career. Nearly half cited a family member. Mothers were picked by 12 percent and fathers by 8 percent; 11 percent cited “my parents” en bloc. Fifteen percent named other relatives. Educators who picture themselves guiding their protégés’ lives will be chagrined to learn that “a celebrity” (15 percent) and “a professional athlete” (10 percent) both outpointed “a teacher” (6 percent).

Whatever the merits of negative ads, a new study gives reason to suspect they aren’t ideal for motivating old folks. As outlined in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, the research involved displaying a series of positive, negative and neutral images to adults in different age brackets. Later, recall of the images was tested. The researchers found that “older, but not younger, adults display better memory for positive images than negative images.” The theory is that younger people, with many years of life ahead of them, are intent on gathering all sorts of information, even if it’s unpleasant. With less of their lives in front of them, old folks are more inclined toward a kind of “emotional regulation” that maintains “positive affect.” In other words, older people may feel life is (for them) too short to waste on the negative.

In simpler times, juvenile delinquents hung around smoking cigarettes. Nowadays, you might find a few of them hanging around and misusing nicotine patches. As described on the HealthScout Web site, a study of teenagers has found that small numbers of non-smokers are misusing nicotine patches and gum. “Nearly 40 percent of former smokers said they used the products to help them quit,” reports the HealthScout article. “But surprisingly, 18 percent of those who reported having used the products—less than 1 percent of all the students—said they had never smoked.” A professor of psychiatry, quoted in the article, offers the happy thought that these kids were simply lying. You can judge for yourself whether lying to researchers is an unhealthier habit than abusing nicotine.

“Only perused on Sundays by a near-sighted reader who was scarcely paying attention.” Is that the sort of ad claim we can expect to find for books? Maybe so, given the data noted in an Ipsos BookTrends report. “About 10 percent of U.S. households bought at least one used book between April and December of last year,” spending some $400 million in the process.

The great thing about opera is that it gives pleasure to people who listen to it and to those who simply laugh at it. Both groups will enjoy an ad publicizing Enterprise Rent-A-Car’s sponsorship of an opera conference in St. Louis. We can theorize that most ads would be improved if the people in them were dressed in full Wagnerian getup. The Hughes Group of St. Louis created this one.