Daily Archives: July 2, 2011

SMS me the money

I got this message on my mobile 2 days back:

Look at the month of July. You have never seen this. This year, July has 5 Fridays, 5 Saturdays and 5 Sundays. This apparently happens once every 823 years. This is called money bags. So send this on to 6 friends and money will arrive in 5 days. Based on Chinese mythology the one who does not pass this one will have money troubles for the rest of the year. It wont cost you much for that 6 text messages.

Hmmm … Given that I did not heed the advise and forward it to 6 friends, I can surely look forward to money troubles for the rest of the year. Given that it is a Chinese mythology, it will not end on Dec 31 2011, but extend into 2012 too – possibly till the Chinese New Year date in Feb 2012?

Let us assume that the person who sent me the message must have sent it to at least 6 people. Many of the 6, sent it to another 6 who too possibly sent it on to another 6. You get the drift right? The way I see it, the only ones laughing their way to the bank are the mobile service operators. One message at a time.

This got me thinking. Why is it I chose not to forward it, while others did? Is it that they really believed that bags full of money would land at their doorstep, or perhaps into their bank accounts after 5 days? Why is it that some are believers, and others are not? The human brain – the way we are wired genetically – is the answer says my friend Akash.

One possible reason is that we humans see patterns where none exist.  I kept my promise of cycling in the morning, hence I got to see the movie free in the evening.  I prayed for my child, and thus she got good marks in the test. And so on … This is most likely not a conscious thinking process. So, I send a similar message last time, and got Rs. 1000/- back from my friend that I had given up on.  Maybe this time I will get Rs. 100000/-!

Second possible reason is how our brains have been wired over 10’s of thousands of years.  Imagine two of your ancestors going into the jungle with nothing more than just a wooden stick in hand.  They hear a noise coming from the bushes ahead.  One of them does not bother about it.  The other is more cautious and takes a step back.  Unfortunately, out comes a rather large and hungry lioness, and ancestor #1 becomes a meal quite soon.  Ancestor #2’s brain gets one more reinforcement of the message – “When you see a bush shake/or hear the sound of it, BE AWARE!  This in turn got passed down the generation, till such time as our more recent ancestors did not have to think twice about the flight response!

Let us now consider the opposite effect.  It was the wind shaking the bushes.  No lioness.  No ancestor as a meal.  Good.  One more reinforcement.  And passed down the ages too.  No need to flee.

How are these related to Money bags?  The pattern association makes us see pattern between sending the message and us getting money, even if none exist.  With the cost of sending the message being so neglible and with no negative effect visible – the brain says “What is the worst case here?  I do not get any money, but the best case is I get lots of it, why take a chance to miss out on it, when the cost of the SMS is so small” – that the forwarding option comes naturally to most of us.

What is interesting in the SMS is that it refers to Chinese mythology to support the forwarding.  Wonder how the ancient Chinese do the forwarding?  On stone tablets?  So easy, na?  🙂  Once they invented paper, they must have been copying the message onto bits of paper (costly as it must have been!) and distributing it to friends.  Or maybe they invented SMS centuries back, just that the rest of the world did not know about it!

Here’s wishing all believers bags full of money pretty soon, even if I am the one to bear all the hardship for the rest of the year!  🙂

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