Friday 20 March 2015

The Paradox of Choice - Why more is less by Barry Schwartz

Recently I have been reading this book (Amazon link).

My understanding of what he is saying is that in our consumer society, we are dazzled (my word) by the alternative choices that are available to us.

If you go into your local supermarket and want salad dressing you can have oil and vinegar or french dressing or Caesar dressing or ... not only do you have tens of different sorts, you also have different manufacturers offerings and then the supermarkets offerings (economy, normal and luxury) and then different quantities for the same type. That is for just one item on your shopping list!

Schwartz suggests that there are several types of shopper and their experiences are different:
  • Maximisers 
    • Make more comparisons;
    • Take longer to choose;
    • Have 'buyer remorse' after purchase;
    • Are less positive about their buying decision;
  • Satisfiers
    •  If it is good enough, buy it.
    • Rationale - it might be cheaper else where, but it might be out of stock and I then have to come back here any way and purchase it.

He has done a lot of research identifying which type a particular purchaser is, based on their response to a number of statements which they score. The types are similar to a glass half empty or a glass half full purchaser!

Obviously in the UK there are organisations (such as Which?) which help us to make our choices in a more rational manner. They do this in an impartial way as they are not supported by retailers or manufacturers. They have best value items and they are not afraid to slate items which are of a poor quality or reliability or worst value of the items tested. Another useful organisation is Money Saving Expert. This does not 'test' items but advises by newsletter of good deals in a large variety of sectors. They also have forums for customers to 'complain about' or 'praise' a particular supplier. They also have a useful sub site which alerts you to the fact that you may be able to save a threshold set amount of money on your energy bills by switching suppliers. In addition there is a forum for people to comment on each of these suppliers.

I read somewhere that once I have chosen the washing machine of my choice and I go to a price comparison website, most people do not chose the cheapest one, because of suspicions that it is too good to be true. In fact the article was suggesting that retailers try not to be the cheapest! (Google results for price comparison psychology).

The other problem is that often while you have put in the model number of the machine of your choice (to ensure that you do not get distracted by offers on other machines), there may need to be VAT added or there is a delivery charge (often this is not clear until you reach checkout), while the slightly more expensive supplier has free delivery and fixing or has a longer guarantee period or they will take away the old one free. 

Are you a Maximiser or Satisfier?

Friday 10 June 2011

Further UK Lotto Triple Analysis

I now have an update and have added a file Lottery.doc up to and including UK Lotto Draw number 1613 drawn on Wednesday 8th June.

This shows that the number combination 2, 23, 40 has now occurred 10 times with 10, 34, 48 having now appeared 9 times.

While watching the numbers flick through I noticed that there were a number of triples which have never occurred. I will do some analysis and see how many.

Saturday 3 July 2010

Analysing the UK Lotto Results

On our web site we have set up a program for you to download to analyse the triples appearing in the UK Lotto since it started.

The triple which has appeared most frequently from the start (No 1) on Saturday 19th November 1994 to the draw (No 1514) on Wednesday 30th June 2010 is 2, 23, 40 - it has appeared 9 times.

The program and instructions are available on our web site

We have used the statistics from the excellent Merseyworld Lotto site:

We will be modifying the program to identify the quadruples and the quintuples but this analysis takes so what longer!

As a possible extension, it might be interesting to identify triples which have never occurred.

Sunday 14 March 2010

Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics

Some while ago I was a Lecturer in Management and Computer Studies. For some of these courses I taught Statistics. My first lecture was 'How to lie with Statistics'. I was interested in showing my students that it is very easy to mislead people with statistics using a number of different techniques for all sorts of reasons.

Recently I have started to read The Skeptical Environmentalist by Bjørn Lomborg (this is the link to Wikipedia entry for the book and this is the link to the book at Amazon UK).

The early chapters are a scathing attack on world environmental bodies using misleading at best and sometimes deliberately dishonest statistics to bolster their cases that the world is in an environmentally 'sick' state. These statistics would have made a fascinating case study in my first lecture.

During my lecturing, I also used the book by Darrell Huff entitled How to Lie with Statistics (this is the link to Amazon UK). This is where I got the idea for the first lecture!

Where did the original quotation "Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics" come from? Both Disraeli and Mark Twain are attributed but read this link for a full exposition.

That reminds me of when I was a little lad at school. I was asked to explain the comparative forms of ill. My problem was that illest did not sound right, so in my young mind I said "ill, iller, dead"! I know that this produced some hilarity in my teachers, who reminded me of it later in my schooling!

Sunday 28 February 2010

Ten Ideas that need development

These are 10 ideas which might make some money:

  1. A mobile download idea
  2. Making Gray Squirrels infertile
  3. Recycling software licences
  4. An e-mail address directory (like a telephone directory)
  5. Reduce lighting on motorways
  6. Making cheaper solar panels
  7. Thermo-plugs
  8. Overcoming boredom on planes
  9. Supplying Ethnic cookery books
  10. Can crushing
Since producing this list I have had an additional idea associated with item 4. We have telephone directories for landlines and there are a whole host of Directory enquiry services both on the internet and by phone. Why is there not a directory for mobiles?

Thursday 25 February 2010

Is IT ageist?

My experience is that IT is ageist.

Why do I say this?

Two reasons:
  • Staff are expected to learn about the new programming languages and new analysis techniques even if they are managers
  • During redundancy exercises which involve scoring often technical skills are used to determine an overall score in a redundancy pool of all staff below senior managers