Sunday, March 30, 2008

Benefits from ignorance

There seems to be more to the saying "No news is good news" than one would first imagine. In a recent paper titled "Influence through ignorance" two researchers named Isabelle Brocas and Juan D. Carrillo suggest that peoples decisions can be influenced simply by controlling the availability of further information. When no new information becomes available current views will hold, even though absence of recent information should signal caution. The decision maker wishing to influence (or sales man?) can then, when he has the suitable data to verify his view, simply stop investigations generating more data. If generating the data is expensive, complex or in some other way highly regulated, the chances are good that the decision maker/sales man will get away with it.

I guess this can also help explain some reasons why some poorly suitable IT systems are obtained by customers. Since NDA:s (non disclosure agreements) ensure that information is not freely passed on to the public only the message from the vendor is publicly available, and it is most certainly not in the vendors own interest to make negative information available for potential customers. On the buyer side all information can be argued to be valuable, since it gives the rational buyer more sound picture of the product to base the decision on. Some buyers will choose to disregard all information and just go for the decision, like a predator attacking a prey, but nothing can help them. We others can perhaps better try to estimate what the "silence" or "no news" being given us means with this model in mind.

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