Oscar Wilde Said “Be Yourself” but We Don’t Even Know What We Like

The statue of Oscar Wilde in the Merrion Square Park

We can’t even explain our own taste

Why do we like what we like? This question has been always stuck in my head. For example, I like curry but don’t want to eat it every day. On the other hand, I eat cereal every morning, though I don’t like it very much. I watch YouTube videos of social science as much as those of animals, but I would only talk about the former if asked. I know this is simply due to my silly pride to make myself look smart, though. In this way, we don’t always do or express what we like, and sometimes lie about it even to ourselves. Our taste is so complicated and mysterious that we can’t explain in most cases.

Our expressed intention is untrustworthy

If you’re interested in this mystery, I’d like to recommend this book: “You May Also Like” by Tom Vanderbilt. The book explains our taste from the viewpoint of behavioral psychology, sprinkled with many interesting cases. For example, do you rate goods or services when you purchase them? According to the book, the recommender systems of Amazon, Netflix, etc. no longer take in such information like our rating. Instead, our actual online behaviors such as web traffics and visit duration are regarded as more important and reliable factors and monitored in detail. The smart artificial intelligence seems to have already learned our expressed intention (rating) is untrustworthy to surmise our taste.

Let’s ignore our own taste that is full of cognitive biases

There’s something I have to tell you about the book. Don’t expect to solve the mystery. After swimming through the vast sea of many interesting cases in the book, the conclusion I landed up to is that our taste is too elusive to understand. I didn’t mean it negatively. It is shaped by a lot of cognitive biases, not everlasting or unchanging. In a sense, though this may sound strange, I think we don’t have to be bound even by our taste. As Albert Einstein also said, “The only source of knowledge is experience.” Why don’t you try our furniture? You may also like it!

A corporate logo, the letters of C and H are combined to look like a tree in a circle

Shungo Ijima

He is travelling around the world. His passion is to explain Japan to the world, from the unique viewpoint accumulated through his career: overseas posting, MBA holder, former official of the Ministry of Finance.