No one wants to be the person who’s stuck doing everything there is to do around the apartment, cleaning all the messes that your lazy schlub of a roommate keeps making. But while a clear division of labor can go a long way toward keeping the domestic peace — “You do the trash and the dishes, I clean the bathroom and handle the vacuuming” — it’s still not a foolproof strategy. As behavioral economist Dan Ariely recently explained in The Wall Street Journal, even when we make it clear who’s in charge of what and everyone’s taking care of their own chores the way they’re supposed to, it can be easy to grow resentful. The reason: We tend to overestimate how much work our own tasks require, and underestimate the effort the other person puts into theirs.
We discount their contributions because we understand them only superficially. We don’t see the details of the work that the other person puts in. We tell ourselves, “I take out the trash, which is a complex task that requires expertise, finesse, and an eye for detail. My spouse, on the other hand, just takes care of the bills, which is one relatively simple thing to do.”
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