Thursday, February 2, 2012

"NEW: Understanding Our Need For Novelty and Change" Book Review

Something interesting happened to me last week- My cell phone died. Just stopped working, no reason at all. Of course, I ran immediately to my cell service providers store to see if there was anything they could do, and, after being told it could not be repaired and that I was not due for an upgrade for several more months, ran home to find myself an affordable back-up phone. I found one on Craigslist. I asked the seller to meet me at Sprint (so I could check the ESN) as I looked up the details of my soon-to-be NEW cell phone. I was excited... it was a cool phone! Then he called me to say he decided not to sell the phone.

Obviously, I was disappointed. I wanted this NEW phone. It wasn't the best phone out there, it wasn't the fastests or the strongest or... whatever you look for in a phone. But it was NEW!

In her boook NEW: Understanding Our Need for Novelty and Change Winifred Gallagher describes this "love of the new" as neophilia. My excitement over my new phone was, according to Gallagher, my biological reaction to something new.

This reaction was caused by dopamine, a simple organic chemical, that caused the reaction of excitement over something that wasn't the greatest, but was NEW to me. To my mind, the newness was all that mattered. It caused my anticipation for my new cell phone. My reaction was also a cultural one.  After using my same eco-friendly cell phone for four years the appeal of a 3G Android phone was exciting... finally, I can be like all of my friends!

There are upsides and downsides to this biological reaction.

Getting something new is exciting and can make us happy. The desire for newness has spurred technology and medical advances. Our desire to have the latest and greatest cell phone, computer, car, etc. has led to great inventions in these areas. Furthermore, our desire to be healthier has led to the discovery of new medications and vaccines. It has led us to discovery unexplored lands. If Christopher Columbus had not been so determined to discover new passaged to China he never would have made his way into the Caribbean and American may not have been discovered, or at least not then.

The downside is the over-reaction to NEW. It can create addictions. If you can't be happy unless you are shopping or getting something new on a regular basis, despite your financial ability or need to do so. We may find ourselves seeking out new things simply out of curiosity or boredom.

I was able to relate this book in real time as I dealt with my cell phone drama. I realized, at the end of that day, that my reactions seemed familiar. I had just finished reading NEW: Understanding Our Need For Novelty and Change and realized that Gallaghers research was pretty accurate, for me at least. I also found this book interesting as I recently started taking an anthropology class and was able to see ties from our reaction to NEW to what I was learning in class. The content was relevant both on a personal level and an intellectual one.

About The Author
Winifred Gallagher’s books include Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life, House Thinking, Just the Way You Are (a New York Times Notable Book), Working on God, and The Power of Place. She has written for numerous publications, such as Atlantic Monthly, Rolling Stone, and the New York Times.  She lives in Dubois, Wyoming.

Thanks, as always, to TLC Book Tours for including me and the blog in yet another great book tour!

1 comment:

trish said...

Very interesting that you had an experience to relate the book to!

I've found that if I'm around people that always have new things, then I want new things too! But if I'm not around people like that, then I don't feel that need so much. Makes me choose my friends carefully. :)

Thanks for being on the tour!