Friday, January 11, 2008

Intriguing study of consensus: How much does what other people think matter to YOU?

Read this if you must vote any time soon:
In a new paper published in the Journal of Consumer Research, Watts and Dodds debunk the idea that influential people drive races one way or the other. The decisive factor, they show in a series of mathematical models, is not the presence of influential people but people who are easily influenced. Random, insignificant events are vastly magnified by networks of such malleable people influencing one another, and this tilts the race one way or another. Blind chance plays a big role.

I disagree with the authors of the study in one respect: The habits built up over a lifetime - in terms of whose judgment we respect - are not merely a matter of blind chance. Many, many choices go into creating such habits as well.

It is not, for example, a matter of blind chance that I do not own a china bust of Elvis Presley (and probably don't know anyone who does), but have somehow managed to acquire both an icon of Christos Pantokrator and a fossil fish.

Also: Here's a new film on religion and politics in the United States. I haven't seen it but the trailer looks interesting.