Breaking Through Universals to Experience Variability

Story by Spencer Peters

Malcolm Gladwell’s speech on the American pursuit to discover the perfect spaghetti sauce transcends the food industry but makes a larger argument about the nature of choice and happiness.
What message Gladwell argued for was not meant to revolve around spaghetti sauce and the specific flavor that we enjoy the most but was to express the movement from search for universals to the understanding of variability. He described this movement as “the great revolution in science of the last 10, 15 years.”
The person he accredited much credit to was to a psychophysicist named Howard Moskowitz, who helped people realize the true importance of horizontal segmentation. He helped people realize that everything exists on this horizontal plane.
He described this plane as having no hierarchy between the different types of spaghetti sauce or mustard offered in stores. There is no good or bad, perfect or imperfect. There are only different types of mustard or other foods that suit different types of people.
Through the use of variability, society can now rid itself of the preconceived notion of how things ought to be and experiment with finding happiness through the use of variety.
Gladwell described this theory as, “the Platonic dish,” where people were afraid to challenge what was thought to be the ideal way that something ought to be.  Being able to have a variety in everyday life can help find the greatest level of pleasure or happiness.