Sometime in the autumn of 1621, a group of English Pilgrims who had crossed the Atlantic Ocean and created a colony called New Plymouth celebrated their first harvest.
They hosted a group of about 90 Wampanoags, their Algonquian-speaking neighbors. Together, migrants and Natives feasted for three days on corn, venison and fowl.
In their bountiful yield, the Pilgrims likely saw a divine hand at work.
As Gov. William Bradford wrote in 1623, “Instead of famine now God gave them plenty, and the face of things was changed, to the rejoicing of the hearts of many, for which they blessed God.”
But my recent research on the ways Europeans understood the Western Hemisphere shows that – despite the Pilgrims’ version of events – their survival largely hinged on two unrelated developments: an epidemic that swept through the region and a repository of advice from earlier explorers.
A ‘desolate wilderness’ or ‘Paradise of all parts’?
Bradford’s “Of Plymouth Plantation,” which he began to write in 1630 and finished two decades later, traces the history of the Pilgrims from their persecution in England to their new home along the shores of modern Boston Harbor.
William Bradford’s writings depicted a harrowing, desolate environment.
Bradford and other Pilgrims believed in predestination. Every event in their lives marked a stage in the unfolding of a divine plan, which often echoed the experiences of the ancient Israelites.
Throughout his account, Bradford probed Scripture for signs. He wrote that the Puritans arrived in “a hideous and desolate wilderness, full of wild beasts and wild men.” They were surrounded by forests “full of woods and thickets,” and they lacked the kind of view Moses had on Mount Pisgah, after successfully leading the Israelites to Canaan.
Drawing on chapter 26 of the Book of Deuteronomy, Bradford declared that the English “were ready to perish in this wilderness,” but God had heard their cries and helped them. Bradford paraphrased from Psalm 107 when he wrote that the settlers should “praise the Lord” who had “delivered them from the hand of the oppressor.”
If you were reading Bradford’s version of events, you might think that the survival of the Pilgrims’ settlements was often in danger. But the situation on the ground wasn’t as dire as Bradford claimed.
Earlier European visitors had described pleasant shorelines and prosperous indigenous communities. In 1605, the French explorer Samuel de Champlain sailed past the site the Pilgrims would later colonize and noted that there were “a great many cabins and gardens.” He even provided a drawing of the region, which depicted small Native towns surrounded by fields.
About a decade later Captain John Smith, who coined the term “New England,” wrote that the Massachusetts, a nearby indigenous group, inhabited what he described as “the Paradise of all those parts.”
‘A wonderful plague’
Champlain and Smith understood that any Europeans who wanted to establish communities in this region would need either to compete with Natives or find ways to extract resources with their support.
But after Champlain and Smith visited, a terrible illness spread through the region. Modern scholars have argued that indigenous communities were devastated by leptospirosis, a disease caused by Old World bacteria that had likely reached New England through the feces of rats that arrived on European ships.
The absence of accurate statistics makes it impossible to know the ultimate toll, but perhaps up to 90 percent of the regional population perished between 1617 to 1619.
To the English, divine intervention had paved the way.
“By God’s visitation, reigned a wonderful plague,” King James’ patent for the region noted in 1620, “that had led to the utter Destruction, Devastacion, and Depopulation of that whole territory.”
The epidemic benefited the Pilgrims, who arrived soon thereafter: The best land had fewer residents and there was less competition for local resources, while the Natives who had survived proved eager trading partners.
The wisdom of those who came before
Just as important, the Pilgrims understood what to do with the land.
By the time that these English planned their communities, knowledge of the Atlantic coast of North America was widely available.
Those hoping to create new settlements had read accounts of earlier European migrants who had established European-style villages near the water, notably along the shores of Chesapeake Bay, where the English had founded Jamestown in 1607.
These first English migrants to Jamestown endured terrible disease and arrived during a period of drought and colder-than-normal winters. The migrants to Roanoke on the outer banks of Carolina, where the English had gone in the 1580s, disappeared. And a brief effort to settle the coast of Maine in 1607 and 1608 failed because of an unusually bitter winter.
Many of these migrants died or gave up. But none disappeared without record, and their stories circulated in books printed in London. Every English effort before 1620 had produced accounts useful to would-be colonizers.
The most famous account, by the English mathematician Thomas Harriot, enumerated the commodities that the English could extract from America’s fields and forests in a report he first published in 1588.
The artist John White, who was on the same mission to modern Carolina, painted a watercolor depicting the wide assortment of marine life that could be harvested, another of large fish on a grill, and a third showing the fertility of fields at the town of Secotan. By the mid-1610s, actual commodities had started to arrive in England too, providing support for those who had claimed that North American colonies could be profitable. The most important of these imports was tobacco, which many Europeans considered a wonder drug capable of curing a wide range of human ailments.
These reports (and imports) encouraged many English promoters to lay plans for colonization as a way to increase their wealth. But those who thought about going to New England, especially the Pilgrims who were kindred souls of Bradford, believed that there were higher rewards to be reaped.
Bradford and the other Puritans who arrived in Massachusetts often wrote about their experience through the lens of suffering and salvation.
But the Pilgrims were better equipped to survive than they let on.
Why do Black Friday shoppers throw punches over bargains? A marketing expert explains ‘psychological ownership’
November 20, 2018
Colleen P. Kirk
Colleen P. Kirk is a Friend of The Conversation.
Assistant Professor of Marketing, New York Institute of Technology
Colleen P. Kirk does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Black Friday, the most celebrated shopping day of the year, abounds with tales of fistfights over discounted televisions or even stampedes as consumers rush to get that low-priced sweater they saw in an ad.
Many people chalk it up to bad behavior. But marketers like me have a term to describe one feeling that contributes to it: psychological ownership.
Have you ever felt as if another driver stole your parking spot? Or were supremely miffed when someone else nabbed the last red sweater that you had your eye on? And isn’t it irritating when someone else receives credit for your idea? If so, you experienced psychological ownership.
In other words, we often take ownership over a thing or service in our minds before we actually give up the cash that makes it legally ours. And retailers use this psychological technique to get us to buy more of their stuff – or spend more. It also makes us more likely to brag about our purchases, valuable word-of-mouth advertising for those brands.
While the concept itself is well-known, there’s been little research on how people actually react when someone seems to infringe on their psychological ownership. My colleagues Joann Peck and Scott Swain and I conducted several studies to find out.
That feeling that something is yours
Psychological ownership is an important concept in marketing. Sellers are motivated to elicit it because having it makes you want to buy their goods.
An example of this is potato chip maker Lay’s “Do Me a Flavor” contest, which began in 2008 and invited customers to suggest and vote on new chip flavors. By tickling customers’ sense of ownership in the product and the brand, it was a remarkable success in markets around the world.
But it doesn’t have to be a major campaign. A simple ad or invitation to touch can have the same impact.
There are three factors that foster psychological ownership:
If you can touch or control something or even imagine doing so. An example is putting something in your shopping cart – whether physical or virtual online.
If you have customized something or invested your efforts in designing it. When the server brings the food to your table and places your dish in front of someone else, you’re quick to say, “That’s mine.”
Intimate knowledge. If you grew up with a product, have always used it or have a special or unique way of using it, the odds are good you feel psychological ownership over it.
Furthermore, you can feel psychological ownership over pretty much anything that doesn’t legally belong to you, from the last chocolate truffle in a display case to the dream home you found on Zillow, and even intangible things like ideas.
Psychological ownership in action
To find out how people react when their psychologically owned property is threatened, my colleagues and I conducted a series of experiments. Each was designed to elicit or manipulate feelings of ownership in consumers and then have other people communicate, or signal, psychological ownership of the same product.
In the first one, 58 college students participated in a simulated dining study in our lab. At one point, they each poured themselves a cup of coffee from a bar and customized it with condiments like sugar, frothed milk and syrup, which helped create strong feelings of ownership of the coffee.
Later, after serving participants a piece of cake at their table, a waiter asked, “Is everything OK?” The waiter also, in half the cases, moved their coffee cup for no apparent reason.
After the “bill” came, we found that participants whose coffee cup was moved tipped the server 25 percent less. In a subsequent survey, these participants reported that they felt the server had infringed on their territory and said they’d be less likely to return to such a restaurant.
A second experiment extended this territorial feeling to something less tangible: an artistic design. As part of volunteer work for a local nonprofit, 162 university students decorated folders for children’s educational materials. They either copied a design onto the folder – which elicits low psychological ownership – or created their own design – leading to high psychological ownership. After they finished, a staff member walked up to half the participants and said, “That looks like my design!”
Later, as the staff member left the room, she “accidentally” dropped a pen, supposedly without noticing. We found that participants who designed their own folder and were told by the worker that it looked like hers were 66 percent less likely to pick up the pen and return it.
A later survey showed that these participants indeed felt that the staff member infringed on what they considered theirs. As a result, they were also less likely to donate to the nonprofit or volunteer again.
Interestingly, they reported they would be more likely to post a selfie with their folder on social media – in other words, they tried to defend their psychological ownership by communicating their own claim to ownership.
Limits of psychological ownership
Other similar experiments showed there are some limits to psychological ownership and who’s more susceptible.
One such experiment, conducted online, involved asking participants to imagine they were queuing to buy a comfy sweater for an upcoming social event and told to close their eyes and picture themselves wearing it. They were then told, at random, to imagine either that another customer reached out and touched the sweater or asked permission to do so. We found that asking first reduced the participant’s feeling of infringement and tendency to respond territorially.
In a separate experiment, we wanted to see if more narcissistic people were more likely to respond territorially when someone infringed on their “property,” in this case a delicious-looking pizza. We elicited psychological ownership of the pizza by asking participants to imagine they had traveled a long distance just to get it.
As they were standing in front of the pizza stand, a stranger came up and said either “I am not familiar with this pizza” or “I know this pizza well. I call this pizza ‘Antonio’” – the latter phrase meant to signal ownership. At the end of the survey, we measured narcissism using a common personality scale.
We found that customers who scored high on narcissism expected others to be more aware of their feelings of ownership. Thus, they were more likely to feel infringed upon and respond territorially to the stranger who signaled ownership.
How to cope
Together, these studies demonstrate we really don’t like it when others show signs of ownership of something we feel is “ours,” particularly if we believe they should know of our prior claim. Furthermore, we might retaliate when given a chance.
Consumer responses when this happens can vary from simply abandoning the location to talking badly about the business or person involved. In other words, companies that play on this feeling of psychological ownership to spur sales should bear in mind that there’s a cost as well, particularly when a product or its low price is scarce, such as on Black Friday.
So as you hunt for bargains in the coming weeks, bear in mind that psychological ownership sets in long before a cashier puts your stuff – or a fellow shopper’s – in a bag. My best advice is be polite. There’s usually enough for everyone.
Why is this line so long?
November 16, 2018
Author: Joost Vles, Adjunct Instructor of Management, University at Buffalo, The State University of New York
Disclosure statement: Joost Vles does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Partners: University at Buffalo, The State University of New York provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
Warning: After reading this article, you will never again stand in a line without thinking about how to make your wait time shorter. And as an expert in operations management, I’m here to spread the word that sometimes a longer line may actually be a good thing.
My family is used to my preaching. On a recent shopping excursion, we overheard an impatient customer blurt out, “Why is this line so long?” To which my daughter responded, with a glare in my direction, “Don’t even consider telling him about queuing theory.”
It did take considerable restraint not to answer his question. But I was just happy realizing that my daughter knows the difference between single-server and multiple-server queuing models.
Queuing theory is the mathematical science behind why the line is so long. A queue is just another word to describe a line of things waiting their turn – whether it’s people waiting to get a free ice cream cone or a new car moving through the assembly line.
Prepare to arm yourself with some queuing theory basics to help you brave the throngs while holiday shopping.
When the line reaches around the block
Of course there can be many reasons for a long line.
Maybe a retail manager is spiteful and wants to see every customer get angry. But that’s not a good business strategy and probably an unlikely reason for a long line.
Another possibility is that the manager puts more value on her costs to provide a service – in this case, staffing adequately to ring up your purchase speedily – than on your time waiting for that service. This scenario is a more likely reason, but still not a good long-term business strategy. Even though it’s easy to assume some version of this is at the root of your line-waiting woes, it’s typically not the reason.
Or perhaps you’re waiting for a service that is highly sought after by many people. In this case, the line might indicate just how smart you are to be waiting in it for your share of whatever’s at the other end. This sounds promising, but is rarely the case. It’s not often you camp out for front-row tickets or to be the first to get some new gadget.
The most likely scenario is that you’re misunderstanding how the line is designed. Seeing a line snake back and forth across the width of a store three times can be deceiving as to how long you may actually have to wait. In what may appear to be a very long line, the service rate can be so good that the line moves very quickly.
Getting to the math of the matter
This concept of system design rests on a mathematical theorem called Little’s Law. It’s named after its creator, John Dutton Conant Little, an MIT professor who specializes in operations research.
Little’s Law provides the math that a researcher like me can use to check out different system designs employed in various instances of waiting lines. It states that over time, the number of customers in a system is equal to their rate of arrival multiplied by the average time they spend in that system.
Some lines have service times that vary – like at the post office. Some have service times that are fixed – like a mechanized car wash. Unique formulas apply to each scenario to help operations managers design the best system for their business.
With the Little’s Law equation and my own stopwatch, I’ve proven over and over again that a longer line may actually be a better line. Let me explain.
Imagine a situation where you have many shorter lines, each being served by its own cashier. Call it the grocery store model, or the single-server model, more officially. You can get out of there quickly only if you correctly guess which line will move the quickest. And if you’re anything like me, you’re bound to bet on the wrong line.
But a single, longer line, being served by multiple employees – think banking, the motor vehicle department or airport security – is actually faster for everyone, even though it looks much longer than what you’re used to seeing in other systems.
The main reason is that if there’s a price check, a return or some other very slow customer, that delay affects only that cashier directly dealing with the situation. The rest of the line continues to move along. The delay at one cashier gets distributed across the entire system in the multiple-server model, instead of completely stalling out just that one line, as in the single-server model we see in the grocery stores.
So even if you see a very long line, as long as it’s the only option, you should be pleased. You don’t have to guess which line to get in. Little’s Law means a single long line is the fairest way to get everyone out of there as fast as possible.
Opinion: As in 1986, President Tainted Thanksgiving
By Linda Gasparello
Thanksgiving was usually a happy time for the elegant British-American broadcaster Alistair Cooke, whose “Letter From America” series on BBC Radio 4 captivated his millions of listeners for over half a century.
Cooke summed up his talent as “associating something quite tiny with something big. In other words, just looking at the way humans behave.” Every week, in a calming and confiding tone, he would discuss topics ranging from intrigue in the corridors of power in Washington to the significance to Americans of serving cranberry sauce with turkey on Thanksgiving.
But Cooke, in his Nov. 28, 1986, broadcast, had an unhappy story to tell “on the most American of American festivals and the one least tarnished with marketing tinsel.”
Thanksgiving that year, for Cooke, was tarnished by the Iran-Contra Affair, a secret U.S. arms deal that traded missiles and other arms to free some Americans held hostage by terrorists in Lebanon, but also used funds from the arms deal to support armed conflict in Nicaragua. The deal and the ensuing political scandal threatened to bring down the presidency of Ronald Reagan.
“Really the events of the past week have come at us — come at him — with such a tumbling clatter that it would be pointless of me at this stage to try to arrange their chronology. When I first heard about the incredible — every other senator and congressman has been working the word ‘incredible’ overtime — transfer of $30 million by Israel through a Swiss bank to be passed on to the motley band of Nicaraguan democrats, mercenaries and the relics of dictator Somoza’s bully boys, whom the president insists on calling freedom fighters, I found myself verbally paralyzed — a very rare condition with me — and falling back time and again on ‘incredible,’ spoken like a tolling bell,” he said in his broadcast.
Cooke, who was admired for taking the hysteria out of heated subjects, was outspoken on “Irangate,” just as he had been in the McCarthy era, which resulted in his telephone being tapped for two years.
“Two questions come up now, the answers to which will decide if the United States is to regain any credibility with its allies, with the Arab world, not to mention with any Soviet missions they have to deal with. One is the function and the respectability of the National Security Council — an institution set up only after the Second World War, which too often has quarreled with the secretaries of state and defense and, under this administration, evaded and deceived them, and possibly the president, himself.
“The other, more pressing, grave question turns on the honesty of the president, himself. How much did he really know and sanction of these incredible goings-on? It’s the same question whose stony answer brought down President Nixon, and we shan’t know the truth until the congressional hearings get underway. They have great powers to subpoena the highest officers of the administration and get at the truth, as we saw with the (Sam) Ervin Senate committee that probed into Watergate,” he said.
Reagan was hounded by the press, and there were three investigations into the scandal — one by the Tower Commission (led by Texas Senator John Tower), which Reagan himself appointed; congressional hearings in 1987, which were televised nationally; and an eight-year investigation, launched by Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh, in which 14 people were charged, including National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane and Vice Adm. John Poindexter, his successor in that position, and Lt. Col. Oliver North of the National Security Council.
Ending his broadcast, Cooke said “the sauce that really soured our appetite” for the turkey that Thanksgiving was “the knowledge that, for the moment, the United States has no declared foreign policy that either friends or enemies can believe in.”
If Cooke were alive — he died in March 2004, less than a month after he filed his last “Letter” — he would’ve been outspoken about what amounts to President Trump’s pardoning of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. This Thanksgiving, we would’ve heard him say gently and mellifluously that in Trump’s America, the incredible is true.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Linda Gasparello is producer and co-host of “White House Chronicle” on PBS. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org. She wrote this for InsideSources.com.
Author Peter C. Mancall is Andrew W. Mellon Professor of the Humanities, University of Southern California – Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. Disclosure statement: Peter C. Mancall does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment. Partners: University of Southern California — Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.