The Dumb Psychology of the “Perfect Pizza.”

Hi, people. The Doc here.

So, we’ve been asked, “Hey, Maestro and the Doc, what will your guys’s criteria be for choosing the Perfect Chicago Pizza?” Because, you know, if we have a blog about Chicago pizza, let alone if we’re going through the trouble to sample different local pizza every week for a goddamn year, it has to be about finding the PERFECT CHICAGO PIZZA, right?

To which we reply, “Guys, guys, guys. Simmer down. It’s a dumb blog about pizza. We just wanted a reason to justify getting pizza every Friday night, other than we have the impulse control of Andy Garcia’s character in ‘Godfather III.'”

Then we get asked, “There’s a Godfather III?”

(There is. It’s underrated. Despite what the Maestro will tell you.)

Anyway. Yeah, it’s just a dumb blog about pizza, not the Quest for the Holy Grail. That’s one reason why it’s not about ratings or rankings or finding Perfection in Pizza.

But there’s another, psychological reason, too. And now I will talk about it at mind-numbing length, because that’s just what I do. (Anyone who has attempted to make small talk with me at a party and ended up telling me the long version of their family histories can attest to this.)

See, hypothesizing there’s a Perfect Pizza out there advances at least two premises: 1) that there are at least two categories that exist out there in Pizza Land, “perfect” and “not perfect,” and 2) that finding the “perfect” pizza is qualitatively better, more desirable, than not.

Both of these are what we psychologists call “bullshit.”

The first premise is an example of what cognitive behavioral therapists call “black and white thinking” or “dichotomous thinking.” It’s an incredibly common cognitive distortion (cognitive therapy posits that the core reason people experience pathological depression, anxiety, or other mood problems is because they unwittingly buy into distorted patterns of thinking– that we bullshit ourselves in our thoughts, then take it out on the world around us). Black and white thinking often leads to people being miserable because their life experience isn’t fitting into that very, very circumscribed category of “perfect.”

Thing is, most people wouldn’t know “perfect” if it slapped them in the face like Rachel Dawes (Katie Holmes version, not Maggie Gyllenhaal version) slapped Bruce Wayne. The research suggests that most of the things we think would make for a more “perfect” life would not only not satisfy us, but actually make us less happy.

Thus, the quest for the Perfect Pizza would probably, in the end, make us sad. And screw that, it’s pizza, people. It EXISTS to make us happy. Rather like Netflix. Or Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey.

The second premise is an example of what cognitive behavioral therapists would call “fortune telling.” That’s a cognitive distortion in which we pretend we can see the future, without sufficient evidence for our assumptions.

Fortune telling is different from, say, making reasonable forecasts about the likely consequences of certain behaviors. For example, if I, say, go running outside with my bald head in the glaring sunshine for, say, an hour without bothering to put on, like, sunscreen, it’s highly likely I’ll end up with, say, a sunburn that feels like it’s boring into my stupid, stupid brain as I write a blog entry (purely hypothetical). But that’s an evidence-based hypothesis; I think this, because it might have happened before.

Maybe lots of times. Anyway.

The point being, fortune telling messes with our heads because it reinforces a fantasy that “someday, I’ll come across something awesome, and THEN everything will be cool.” The research suggests that people who really buy into this idea exhibit way, way more depression, anxiety, and anger problems than average (yup, anger problems– psychologists suspect this is because, when “someday” keeps failing to come, people who have bought into this idea via their “magical thinking” eventually get pissed off as they wait for that inconsiderate jerkface Gidot).

One of the reasons the Maestro and I started this dumb blog is because there is so much negative, toxic crap floating around out there. We’re not looking to reinforce anybody’s cognitive distortions– you got plenty of black and white thinking, fortune telling, magical thinking, and other cognitive distortions on your social media every time Donald Trump burps, Kim Kardashian sashays, or an 80’s pop culture icon turns out to be a flawed or malevolent human being.

We just want to eat pizza and be happy. So screw the Perfect Pizza. Let’s chow down on glorious, gooey imperfection.

(That’s what she said.)


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