Boy fakes his own kidnapping to avoid dentist. A hero emerges in the process.

A 12-year old boy in France faked his own kidnapping to avoid a dentist appointment, appearing in a town 100 miles from his own after claiming to have escaped his captors and sending police into a month-long search for his kidnappers. 

The boy is reportedly terrified of the dentist.


Obviously, this was not a good thing. The boy wasted hundreds of man hours and thousands of dollars on a wild goose chase. He scared the hell out of his parents. He risked the safety of others by occupying law enforcement officer’s time attention on something ultimately meaningless.

Also, it’s important to go to the dentist regularly and face your fears.

Still, I love this kid so much. The guts, the creativity, and the sheer audacity required to fake your own kidnapping at the age of 12 is astounding.

This boy is my new hero.

A unicorn and the tendency towards loss aversion result in cleaner teeth and a new idea in behavior management.

The pre-gifting of the stuffed unicorn as a reward for the excellent behavior that we expected from my daughter during her recent dentist appointment was a stroke of genius on my wife’s part because of the nature of loss aversion.

In economics, loss aversion refers to people's tendency to strongly prefer avoiding losses to acquiring gains. Studies suggest that losses are twice as powerful, psychologically, as gains. The unexpected loss of $100 is significantly more painful than the joy of suddenly finding $100.

This tendency has been demonstrated again and again across cultures in a  wide range of contexts. 

But how often do we ever take advantage of this tendency?

As a teacher and parent, I normally establish an expectation and an associated reward, and only when that expectation is met does the child receive the reward.

Complete your chores and receive your allowance.

Write an essay that meets my requirements and receive an A+.

Work hard all week and behave well and you can eat lunch in the classroom on Friday.

But my wife flipped that paradigm in an effort to get my daughter to sit in the dentist chair and allow the dentist to do her work. She pre-rewarded Clara with a toy and the knowledge that if she did not behave well, the toy would be taken away.

She utilized Clara’s tendency toward loss aversion to change a behavior, and it worked beautifully. Clara refused the fluoride and balked at the flossing, but she sat more patiently than ever before.

image  image 

Could parents and teachers do this more often when attempting to change the behavior of children?

Here is your allowance. You’ll need to pay me back at the end of the week if you don’t finish all of your chores.

I’ve entered an A+ in my grade book for the essay that I am assigning to you. If you complete the essay on time and meet all of my expectations, that A+ will remain.

I’ve planned for you to eat lunch in the classroom on Friday unless your effort or behavior cause you to lose this privilege.

Should parents and teachers be utilizing loss aversion more often?

Could employers find ways of utilizing loss aversion to improve employee performance and production?

I think so. With four months left in the school year and a lifetime of parenting ahead of me, let the experimenting begin.

If Dennis is a dentist, what is a Dicks?

You may have heard about this research, which seems to suggest that your name can influence your future career choice.

If your name is Dennis, you are more likely to become a dentist.


This works with other names, too. Lauras and Larrys are also more likely to become lawyers, for example.


The effect is attributed to something called implicit egotism.

“People prefer people, places, and things that they associate (unconsciously) with the self. Peoples positive automatic associations about themselves may influence their feelings about almost anything that people associate with the self.”

I plan on using this odd human tendency as the basis of a novel someday.

But here is the $10,000 question:

If these findings are correct, what does this mean for someone like me with the last name Dicks?

Or even worse, someone like my uncle Harry Dicks, or my great uncle, Harry Dicks, or my father, Les Dicks?