The Pringles Paradox

I’m sitting in my hotel room, and on the table beside me is a small tube of Pringles crisps. They’re Paprika flavour, not my favourite, but they’re Pringles, and I like them. A lot.

So I have to make a decision – do I eat them or not? I run through the pro’s and cons:

Pro’s: Tasty
Cons: Nutritionally poor, fattening, costly (I haven’t checked if they’re complementary or chargeable, I don’t want to know)

So on the face of it the decision is quite clear, I shouldn’t eat them, esp when you factor in that I am due to head out for a meal shortly.

But humans aren’t rational/machines that run purely on logic, we also have to factor in emotion. In my case my emotional desire to eat them trumps the downsides, I am prepared to jeopardise my health and finances in order to satisfy my desire for taste and so I eat them.

But I eat them in a very mindful way, I don’t just scoff them.  I enjoy the tasty hit from each bite, but it is immediately counterbalanced by a monotonically increasing sense of guilt (another human emotion). The tasty hit dissipates quickly, driving me on to eat another to repeat the sensation, and then another. These highs are short lived, but the lows (guilt) stay longer, accumulating bite by bite.

I’m midway through the tube, I’ve started so I’ll finish. It’s like a fever, I cant stop, I need more, I finish the tube.

If my happiness was X before I ate the crisps, it’s now X-Y. I’m definitely sadder as well as being financially worse off than before I ate the damned things. But I’m 52, I knew that, I’ve been here many times before, yet I still do it.

I now know the correct approach would have been to forego the crisps and at least retain my happiness level of X, nay X+Y, for surely I would have felt more righteous after resisting such temptation?

Instead I now carry a guilt into my evening that won’t leave, and as I wander the streets of Den Haag with colleagues, searching out a restaurant, I feel like I’ve wasted an opportunity. I might as well get drunk and eat animal flesh.

X-Y-Z.  That’s Pringles for you.


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