What if you always get the same outcome?

by on January 30, 2008 at 5:48 am in Science | Permalink

Imagine a matching game.  Imagine also that you always get the same outcome.  It might be a happy relationship, a sad relationship, a repeating pattern of dysfunctionality, lots of affairs with librarians, or whatever.

In many models, an unusual similarity of outcomes means that we let partners choose us, rather than choosing partners ourselves more actively.  The other side of the matching process is doing the work.

How can this be?  The intuition is that "you searching for hidden matches in the rough" is a process that will have higher variance in outcomes than "lots of hidden matches in the rough searching for you." 

If you don’t observe that much variance in your outcomes (e.g., lots of librarians), it means one of two things.  Maybe you are choosing the non-varying quality very directly and very intentionally, such as having a fetish.  That possibility aside, maybe it is a sign that you’re not really choosing but rather being chosen and thus you live in a world of thick search processes and low variance outcomes.  Imagine a man who will take whatever comes his way, and spends lots of time in libraries.

If there are recurring outcomes of this kind in your life or relationships, perhaps you are being chosen, whether you know it or not.

TomG January 30, 2008 at 6:08 am

Into the realm of psychology for sure – and brilliantly-put, to me. By sticking to the same actions and their underlying set
of assumptions, while all along being ineffective to achieving its aim, is in reality a choice not to act at all (in terms
of being the active agent to reaching that said aim). This analysis can go further into so many other facets of peoples’
behaviour, but this fundamental observation is quite cogent.

burger flipper January 30, 2008 at 7:39 am

Most of the men that spend a lot of time in (public) libraries likely would take what came their way, though most librarians do seem to resist them. Against this background, an intelligent, kempt fella who seemed purposeful would be a peacock feather in the heap of down.
This is the type of question thats inspiration is more intriguing than the question itself.

Mike January 30, 2008 at 9:23 am

I agree. Abusive relationships are probably the most classic example of this.

Bernard Yomtov January 30, 2008 at 10:06 am

I can see this is in some cases. But take your first example – lots of happy relationships. Isn’t another explanation that you are a good chooser? Imagine someone with many good friendships, or or who has made several successful job changes. It seems to me that this is not a person who is passively chosen but rather one who chooses wisely.

Philo January 30, 2008 at 11:04 am

“The intuition is that ‘you searching for hidden matches in the rough” is a process that will have higher variance in outcomes than “lots of hidden matches in the rough searching for you’.” Could you say something to get me to share this intuition? *Prima facie*, if I am choosing my constant objective will produce a certain uniformity; if the other parties are choosing there is no comparable source of uniformity.

Pup, MD January 30, 2008 at 11:26 am

Usually, Tyler’s posts don’t sound like clips from Richard Linklater’s “Slacker.”

Robert Olson January 30, 2008 at 1:05 pm

I also have a recurring pattern:
I only seem to date women!

Jacqueline January 30, 2008 at 3:52 pm

“lots of affairs with librarians”

I thought you said you were going to keep your sexual fantasies on your *other* secret blog.

Rex Rhino January 30, 2008 at 4:46 pm

Suppose I go back to the period in my life when I was having a Big Mac, fries, and a Coke every day for lunch.

Certainly, this meal — being an inanimate object incapable of “choice” — wasn’t choosing me. I was clearly choosing it, albeit stupidly. I was not devoting much attention to the choice, but was devoting more attention than the meal itself was.

The McDonalds food doesn’t choose you, of course. but can McDonalds itself choose you? I am sure the McDonalds chain devotes way more time and effort in getting you to choose the food than you do selecting the food.

McDonalds can’t force you to purchase food of course, I am not saying that… But McDonalds can influence local zoning and city planning, health inspections, etc in order to make it hard for other resteraunts to open in the area. McDonalds also tend to be extremly car-friendly, making it a lot quicker and easier to purchase food there, than at say the local Thai establishment. McDonalds tends to have huge signs that you can see from a kilometer away, vs. a small healthy place that might be hidden away. They advertise and create more awareness of the product than other places.

While McDonalds food might be passive, McDonalds as a total product/institution (including food, service, location, advertisement, political manipulation, etc.) is most definitly not passive.

ZBicyclist January 31, 2008 at 9:56 pm

Big-Mac fetish? Not in any of the usual definitions of fetish:

# any object, natural or otherwise, that is believed to contain “power.” A fetish is usually something that is carried on one’s person, such as a small stone from a sacred place, a “medicine pouch” that protects one who is on a journey, or a weapon (usually a sword) that is believed to be uniquely …
staff.jccc.net/thoare/glossary.htm

[unless “carried on one’s person” refers to the extra body fat I gained during this period]

# A sexual fixation on a concept, object, or body part. A person with a fetish feels a compulsive need to use the object in order to obtain sexual gratification, and cannot achieve pleasure without it. …
http://www.ifsha.org/glossary.htm

# An object used to represent and create a bond with the spirit world. Common fetish objects include dolls, stones, animal teeth and claws.
http://www.paranormal-encyclopedia.com/f/

# A condition in which arousal and/or sexual gratification is attained through inanimate objects (shoes, pantyhose) or non-sexual body parts (feet, hair). …
allpsych.com/dictionary/dictionary2.html

————

As to whether McDonald’s (rather than the sandwich itself) was choosing me — they were clearly aiming several millions worth of ads at me yearly, but so was everybody else. This is lunch in downtown Chicago, with literally dozens of choices either closer or not much further.

The parsimonious explanation is that I just liked the food and decided to continue the habit. More like being married to the sandwich than having a fetish about it.

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