Modelling the choices we make

It’s a scary concept when you think about it, but advertisers and others are spending a lot of time and money to understand how we make choices.

It’s scary for two reasons.  The first is related to the evolution of predators and prey.  Every ecosystem continually evolves as the prey learn to evade the predator in new ways and the predators learn new ways of capturing the prey.  So the advertisers are seeking new ways to influence us as we build up immunity to older tricks.

The scary part here is that advertisers are spending millions of dollars to get better at influencing while most of us only spend a little effort becomming better at making decisions.

The other that I find scary is the concept that we might be able to be broken down to a mathematical formula.  I like to think of myself as a spontaneous (sometimes deliberate) decision maker, not a series of factors to graph that make me predictable.

So I went along to a talk with the Ultimo Science festival to hear what scientists think about how we make choices.

I learned a little bit about how we make choices.  For example, we can be predictable statistically, but there is still an error rate.  So whether you call me an individual with a high error rate, or you call me highly individualistic, I am happy – at least I am not a deterministic model on a graph.

More interestingly, I found out there is a whole centre at the University Of Technology in Sydney that is dedicated to studying the choices we make.

This must be an unexploited resource for anyone on projects, anyone in change management, or anyone hoping to out evolve the advertising predators to continue to make choices on self interest rather than cool ads.

I will let you know if I find out more, or you can choose to research them further and let me know how you go –


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