Friday, 11 February 2011

There are times when I wonder what the hell slow players are thinking about. Sometimes there is nothing to think about. The answer is all too obvious. But no, for slow players there are too many options, and far too many imponderables, to consider. For them the fear of failing to arrive at the correct answer becomes overwhelming. They may be good at problem solving, but not the same can be said about their decision making. People tend to forget that problem solving is all about coming up with good alternatives, but decision making involves having to choose between them.
Slow players when asked to choose between alternatives try to eliminate those that carry the greatest risk of danger, and therefore failure. They seem totally preoccupied by this spectre of failure, being so much more sensitive ( than others ) to the possibility of loss.
When I discussed this phenomenon with Dr. John and other eminent psychologists, they were all in agreement that behaviour of slow players has much more to do with economic theory than anything else. Indeed, this phenomenon of decision paralysis evolves from Kahneman and Tversky's work on Prospect Theory, which earned them a Nobel Prize in 2002.
Prospect Theory explains both why, for instance, bridge players act when they shouldn't, and why they don't act when they should. Curiously, the more choices they have over bids, or cards to play, the more likely they are to do nothing, and the more attractive options there are, the worse the delay or paralysis.
The freedom to choose can cause serious problems. The fear of making a decision they might well come to regret is what brings about this paralysis. As C. Darwin once said " Why does man regret, even though he may endeavour to banish such regret, that he has followed the one natural impulse, rather than the others: and why does he further feel that he ought to regret his conduct ? " The answer is that for the bridge players they might well encounter the wrath of their partners, or the shame that comes with the self-awareness of acting like a moron.
The irony for slow players is that the longer they defer making a decision, the less likely they are to get over the hesitation. Moreover, as they see the rising level of impatience of those looking on, the more they feel compelled to reach the right decision, thereby justifying the time they have taken. Once they have committed so much time, effort and thought into the process, the fear of making a bum decision becomes overwhelming, and so inevitably paralysis sets in.
Can anything be done to change the ways of slow players ? Possibly, if they can be persuaded to take on a different set of values and assumptions. Postponement, passive-aggressiveness and procrastination will never engender confidence in their partners. Poor decisions made quickly and impulsively, may well be criticised, but the criticism will focus far more the rash processing of the response ( and not on the actual response itself ). Slow players need to realise that the cost of doing nothing, and the time lost, far outweighs the cost of making a decision that is "suboptimal". They also need to develop an auto-pilot system that allows them to follow certain rules and maxims, which in many instances actually make the correct decisions for them.
They need, in effect, a whole new approach to decision making, a completely new mental framework that removes the fear factor, banishes any notions of personal regret, focussing far more on the merits of each alternative rather than its risks.

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