Influence and Decision Making

Fork in the Road

I’ve been fascinated by the topic of influence and decision making for most of my life. It began to form some sort of cohesive structure when I first read Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy as a teenager. It was also heavily influenced by pondering the religious beliefs of my relatives and its impacts on the communities that formed around them. In the 80s I read the book Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind by Trout and Ries, which provided a little more insight. Then, more recently, the books The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell and especially Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman have really brought it together for me.

Humans are strange creatures. We are so unaware of our limitations that we often believe we have none. This is expressed by notions like freedom, liberty, democracy, and free markets. When examined closely in the light of our behaviors and limitations these ideas may not be what you think they are. They only describe some aspect of the very rough and rugged landscape of choices in which we make decisions. There are many barriers that we will not cross and which most of us are largely unaware of. It’s VERY interesting. A favorite hobby of mine, when sitting in a boring meeting, is to count “blind spots”. Conversation paths that people won’t follow due to the frame in which they’re thinking. It’s very entertaining.

The books above have a wealth of named concepts that describe this space. Everything from Asimov’s psychohistory to Kahneman’s System 1 and System 2. I’m hoping to capture several of these in a kind of reference for my own use and satisfaction. I’m happy to share, though. If you’d like to follow this collection as it grows then check out the Reference page on this blog and click on Psychology. Each relevant post should be available there. Also, please comment if you have the desire. There is a lot we can all learn from each other.

Now to incorporate Max Tegmark’s Our Mathematical Universe: My Quest for the Ultimate Nature of Reality into all of this. Sadly, I think my brain just melted.