David Myers

Why We Feel Older on Our Birthday

Blog Post created by David Myers Expert on Jan 29, 2018

Category labels matter. On the color spectrum, blue transitions gradually into green. But at some point we place a dividing line between the blue wavelengths (to the left) and the greens (to the right). Once we do so, equally different wavelengths are harder to distinguish when they share the same label, such as blue, than when on opposite sides of the blue-green naming line.

 

Similarly, two locations seem closer and more at risk for the same natural disaster if labeled as in the same state, rather than being equally distant across state lines. As Nathan DeWall and I write in Psychology, 12th Edition, “Tornadoes don’t know about state lines, but people do.”

 

This curious effect of labels on our thinking came to mind when reading about a new study showing that young children think that birthday parties cause aging. We adults don’t have this magical thinking. Moreover, we rationally know that on our birthdays we are only one day older than the day before . . . exactly as the previous day we were but one day older than the day before that.

 

Yet category labels matter. So, do our birthdays make us feel just a tad older?

 

Mine does. You too?

Outcomes