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How to Avoid the “Birdcage Effect” in Your Life

Recently, whilst organizing my wardrobe, I inadvertently unearthed a set of Hanfu from the depths of the closet, which I had only worn on one occasion. Given that a dear friend bestowed upon me a collection of ancient-style hair accessories, I decided to pair them with a complete ensemble of Hanfu. Consequently, antique footwear and cloaks found their way into my wardrobe. Upon beholding these items once more, a thought quickly sprang to mind: I might have succumbed to the allure of the “birdcage effect”!

The “Birdcage Effect” ranks among the top ten psychological phenomena that humans find themselves unable to escape. It entails the tendency to acquire additional items to complement one’s possessions. An intriguing anecdote underlies this renowned psychological effect, involving the psychologist James and his physicist friend Carlson. One fateful day, James wagered with Carlson that the latter would inevitably acquire a pet bird. Initially, Carlson exhibited indifference. However, when James presented Carlson with a birdcage as a birthday gift, visitors to Carlson’s abode assumed he had indeed taken up bird-keeping. Throughout this process, Carlson diligently explained the misunderstanding, yet ultimately, driven by desperation, he actually procured a pet bird.

Much like Carlson, numerous individuals have fallen prey to the clutches of the “birdcage effect.” This holds particularly true in the era of widespread online shopping, where young people, especially college students, reign as the primary proponents. The allure of novelty, coupled with the inclusive nature of university campuses, has led to an increasing number of college students becoming ardent “curators of possessions.” Moreover, the convenience of online shopping has further fueled the proliferation of the “birdcage effect.”

A few weeks ago, during a shopping excursion with friends, one among them expressed a desire to acquire a fine writing instrument to complement the exquisite notebook gifted by her sister. She hoped that by doing so, she would develop a fondness for jotting down reading notes, thereby cultivating a genuine love for literature, beyond mere perusal. In jest, I remarked that she appeared to have succumbed to the “birdcage effect.” However, she responded with a smile and stated, “Why not harness the ‘birdcage effect’ in reverse?”

Subsequently, she elaborated, “Upon beholding the beautiful notebook bestowed by my sister, a natural inclination arose within me to pen something of profound meaning within its pages. It is at this juncture that I propose to leverage the ‘birdcage effect.’ For when we possess a splendid notebook, we yearn for a smooth, effortless writing instrument. Following that, we develop a longing for a favorite tome, igniting the practice of taking meticulous reading notes.”

This marked the first occasion I encountered the notion of employing the “birdcage effect” in a reverse manner. Nevertheless, it evoked memories from my time in secondary school when, seemingly, I had opportunistically taken advantage of the “birdcage effect.” One day, whilst passing by a bookstore, I acquired a magazine. Upon perusing its pages, I stumbled upon a call for submissions, thus I embarked on writing with an insatiable itch, ultimately kindling my passion for the written word. Witnessing words flow effortlessly from my fingertips brought me immense joy. Subsequently, I procured a beautiful notebook to record my inspirations. Magazines and newspapers proliferated within my study, and my ardor for writing grew increasingly fervent.

Following that shopping excursion with my friends, I endeavored to capitalize on the “birdcage effect.” I purchased a dainty, fresh tablecloth to adorn my desk, along with an exquisite notebook to capture my inspirations. Once all was prepared, I resumed my writing endeavors.

How can we extricate ourselves from the clutches of the “birdcage effect” in various aspects of life, or even employ it to our advantage? Multiple “birdcages” inevitably manifest in our lives, yet we possess the ability to differentiate among them. Should a circumstance fail to align with reality and merely bind our consumption within a “reverse birdcage,” we must learn to curtail our losses promptly and cultivate a mindset of relinquishment. Conversely, if a “positive birdcage” serves as a catalyst for our upward growth, we can clearly delineate our objectives, shop or decorate judiciously, and motivate ourselves to progress toward our goals. In due course, we shall realize that the “birdcage effect” is far less daunting than it initially appears!