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Humans want to make everything better — but sometimes different is just as good

Are humans ever satisfied? Two social psychologists, Ethan Ludwin-Peery and Adam Mastroianni, fell down a research rabbit hole accidentally answering a version of this very question. After conducting several studies, the pair found that when asked how things could be different, people tend to give one kind of answer, regardless of how the question is asked or how good life felt when they were asked. Short Wave's Scientist in Residence Regina G. Barber digs into the research—and how it might reveal a fundamental law of psychology about human satisfaction.

Humans want to make everything better — but sometimes different is just as good

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The new bacteria, named Thiomargarita magnifica, were discovered on sunken leaves in a Caribbean mangrove swamp. The bacteria, shown here next to a dime, are close to the size of human eyelashes. Tomas Tyml/Tomas Tyml/The Regents of the University of California, LBNL hide caption

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Tomas Tyml/Tomas Tyml/The Regents of the University of California, LBNL

A group of scientists have discovered a fossil of a now-extinct whale with four legs. This visual reconstruction shows Phiomicetus anubis preying on a sawfish. Robert W. Boessenecker hide caption

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Robert W. Boessenecker

A scientist says pen refill reviews on Amazon are more informative that what the current peer review system offers on scientific work costing millions of dollars. Mark Airs/Getty Images hide caption

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Mark Airs/Getty Images

Scientists Aim To Pull Peer Review Out Of The 17th Century

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Some ethicists and consumer watchdog groups worry that the newly revised federal rules governing medical research don't go far enough to protect the rights and privacy of patients. Dana Neely/Getty Images hide caption

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Dana Neely/Getty Images

Alchemist Hennig Brand looks focused, if maybe a bit drained, in this 1795 painting by Joseph Wright. The painting depicts Brand's discovery of the chemical element phosphorus. Joseph Wright of Derby/Wikimedia hide caption

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Joseph Wright of Derby/Wikimedia

Phosphorus Starts With Pee In This Tale Of Scientific Serendipity

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Researcher John Clements in the early 1980s, after he figured out that lungs need surfactants to breathe. David Powers/Courtesy of UCSF hide caption

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David Powers/Courtesy of UCSF

How A Scientist's Slick Discovery Helped Save Preemies' Lives

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