Heuristics

Tyler Cowen “offers confirmation”:http://www.marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2004/01/how_good_is_cho.html that a wealth of choice can over­whelm action. It’s a com­mon expe­ri­ence: prob­a­bly every­one has their own heuris­tics to guide choice—or to enable at least some action in the face of daunt­ing variety.Information and atten­tion are cost­ly. Short­cuts match price to reward. The ‘null’ heuris­tic is to excer­cise no choice (‘indiscretion&#8217)and to leave ever­thing to ‘chance’ or ‘fate’ or ‘the uni­verse’. This is Hamlet’s choice: bq. Our indis­cre­tion some­times serves us well When our deep plots do pall; and that should learn us,
There’s a divin­i­ty that shapes our ends, Rough-hew them how we will I’ve had more than one female friend who has con­sid­ered this not mere­ly an Heuris­tic but a sort of mys­ti­cal guide: leave all choic­es ‘to the Uni­verse’. Pub­lic lot­tery investors—particularly those who allow the agent to use a com­put­er pro­gram to print a ‘ran­dom’ selec­tion of num­bers on the ticket—are devo­tees of the null heuris­tic. My own heuris­tics are not much more defen­si­ble on ratio­nal grounds. Here are a cou­ple.

Wine lists
You’ve prob­a­bly had the expe­ri­ence of being in a group and asked, or expect­ed, to choose the wine and the smirk­ing bas­tard at your elbow presents you with a wine list half as long as the tele­phone book. My solu­tion is a cas­cade: choose the col­or or vari­ety (shi­raz, caber­net, pino, chardon­nay, ries­ling etc) then select the *sec­ond least expen­sive* on the list. Nev­er fails to please. Or, more cor­rect­ly, I’ve nev­er _known_ it to fail to please (which is not, of course, the same thing).
Choos­ing the right lane
You’re stuck in traf­fic. Should you stay or move? Which lane to pick? Allow a space to open up between you and the car ahead. If no car from the lane(s) beside you tries to fill the space then get out in either direc­tion as soon as pos­si­ble. Oth­e­wise move to the side oppo­site the side from which the space was filled. No idea if this works reli­ably even after years of obser­va­tion. But it gives me some­thing to do to pass the time.

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