Why I Didn’t Want to Ride Radiator Spring’s Racers

April 15 2018, 5:23pm

Riding Radiator Springs Racers

How many times have you heard of sports fans who never change their underwear when their team is doing well or gamblers who insist on playing only on their favorite machines?

Our brain has an interesting way of linking things we do with externalities.

We think that, because we haven't changed our team underwear, our team will continue to win; or that our slot machine will reward our patronage with a higher rate of return.

I recently had an experience that, though I knew it wasn't rational, I couldn't shake. It has to do with Radiator Springs Racers at Disney California Adventure. To preface, I'm a pretty big Disney fan so this experience was even more intriguing.

For the uninitiated, Radiator Springs Racers is a thrill ride, set in Cars Land, that has riders going through Ornament Valley meeting familiar faces including Lightning McQueen, Mater, and Luigi. Without spoiling too much, there is a race that happens within the ride (hence the ride name).

I had previously been on an attraction in Walt Disney World that used a similar ride system, Test Track. Consequently, I was excited to see how Disney California Adventure would take this system to the next level.

When I first experienced Radiator Springs Racers, after an hour wait, I was wowed. So many intricate details, sounds, and lighting effects led me to believe that, at least for a few moments, I was in the world of Cars--racing with the best of them.

Best of all, my car won the race.

I couldn't quite believe that we had won, especially since it looked like our car was lagging behind at the end. The taste of victory was satisfying though. I could have been content with never riding the ride again, but I knew there was a point in the middle of Racers where I could experience a subset of the story. I wanted to experience it.

On a second occasion, I got to experience the other part of the story... oh, and my car also won.

By this point, I was already feeling as though I didn't need to experience the attraction anymore. I had won the race twice and experienced the complete story. Every time I would go to Disney California Adventure with new people though, they would inevitably coerce me into riding Radiator Springs Racers.

For the next six times, I continued to win race after race.

By the third, I began to wonder if there was ever really any chance of losing (obviously there was). By the fifth, I began to question whether it was me that was causing a win to happen.

On my eighth ride, I very reluctantly rode Radiator Springs Racers. When starting the race, I had a deep suspicion that I would lose. A few seconds later, the race was over... my car had indeed lost. While others in the car were dejected, I was somehow quite elated over the fact that my win streak was over and they I could ride Radiator Springs Racers without concern for holding up a streak.

This experience just goes to show how strong habits can become, what superstitions can do to people, and how liberating it can be when we aren't beholden to these behaviors.

Speaking of habits, I really recommend others check out Charles Duhigg's book, The Power of Habit. It does a really good job at exploring habits, how they shape us, and what we can do to both change (less desirable) habits and use them to our advantage.

Have you ever had a situation like this? What happened to you?