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Just ‘Cuz It’s Automated Don’t Make It on Time

written by Angus Skinner 19 June 2007

Angus Skinner, MAPP, works in his beloved and beautiful Scotland as an independent management consulting professional. He is also a visiting professor at the University of Strathclyde. He has over 40 years experience of social work services across the UK. As Chief Social Work Inspector for Scotland for 15 years, Angus provided advice directly to ministers on all matters of social work service legislation, policy, and practice development. Full bio. Articles on Positive Psychology News by Angus are here.

Technology drives speed and anxiety.  We click to agree or even authorize an event or exchange, payment or information, and as soon as we click, we want the result delivered, no delay.   Often we are given comfort messages that the technology is still thinking of us, still engaged; on computers we have moving bars, dancing icons and patience hints, on phones we get musak interrupted with reassurance of how important our call is and in queues for shop or train we get digitized displays of how many people are before us and how long we might expect to wait.   Much of this is of course helpful information.  But these sensory and cognitive invasions of our waiting time may serve to deplete rather than enhance our patience, even if they prolong it.

Of course the marketeers will argue that we are not prepared to wait without constant reminders, and they have lots of figures to prove this so.   But as positive psychologists we know (from the work of people like Shwartz, Rozin, Vaillant and others) that savoring is probably a major weakness, a strength often unattended to, at least in modern Western society but probably more widely:

  • Barry Schwartz writes that people do not savor enough because they are too busy attending to so many choices.
  • Paul Rozin spoke to a MAPP class and described the benefits of savoring food as in Europe versus consuming food often mindlessly as in the US.
  • George Vaillant follows people over a lifetime of study to learn that there is very little time for savoring.

Marketeers and arbitragers exploit weaknesses.  That is their job.  They do so of course for personal financial gain but often also because they believe this will improve the future for humanity.   The message “Please wait, your call is important to us,” is meant to keep us hanging in there for our own sakes as well as for their sale.  I could have called and savored my waiting time, without interruption.   We used to wait, often happily.  “What is this life so full of care, there is no time to stand and stare?” 

If we savored more and were less interrupted in our savoring, then there might be better ways forward.  

We need to understand these issues deeply.  We face major challenges, not just in the west, over obesity (we are eating our selves to death), addiction (we are absenting ourselves from life), and in reckless divisions (class, religion and property).  Globally we seem – as both Al Gore and George Bush’s recent statements on environmental issues recognize, along with most world leaders – headed for disaster if we do not change course.  Alarms have been sounding, recognitions are welcome in themselves but come after much pressure and patience and to much of the world read essentially as “Please wait, your call is important to us”. 

Unlike the American expansion to the west – which encountered new conditions daily – these changes for the world creep over decades, devastatingly.  Perhaps positive psychology can help furnish the mentalities that may help the world forward.  Can positive psychology focus on the strengths of character that each of us can build rather than just on exploiting some particular strengths. Savoring as a strength may become be a high quality to deploy, as well as patience and persistence. Marketed computer and media messages only continue to exist when we tolerate them.  Hang up.

Authentic Happiness belongs to the people!

p.s.  The animals got there quicker.


Bryant, F. & Veroff, J. (2007) Savoring: A new model of positive experience.. Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Schwartz, B. (2004). The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less. New York: Ecco.

Vaillant, G. (2003). Aging Well: Surprising Guideposts to a Happier Life from the Landmark Harvard Study of Adult Development. New York: Little Brown.

Oooooooooooooommmmmmmm….:O)) (Lemurs waiting) courtesy of law_keven

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James 19 June 2007 - 5:27 am

Thanks for the article,

Just been watching a presentation from Barry Schwartz at http://www.ted.com, I can also recommend the Dan Gilbert talk, in fact they had a conference on happiness a few years ago and all the talks are on there.



DC 26 December 2010 - 5:33 am

Waiting-wonderful! I am new to this site. I deal with many medical product representatives; because of the economy and their life-saving gadgets, they’re hungry, insistent, even maddeningly intrusive. If rebuffed or made to wait- they trash the reputations of those in charge of the supply chain. Hmmm. socialized medicine, another advantage?


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