Thursday, February 28, 2008

Irrational Irrationality Quiz

This "door game" (they're trying to sell a book, so viral marketing alert) gave me an interesting result: based on the little finger-wagging homily at the game's end, it assumed I behaved in a specific way, a way it labeled as irrational, but I actually didn't behave the way it wanted to criticize. I behaved rationally according to the terms of the game, and got no credit for it. Now I'm just confused and angry, and would demand my money back if they had charged me any. It almost makes me wish they had.

--- Spoiler alert! ---

The text quoted below in smallish red type is the finger-wagging homily in question, and the homily and my discussion after it will spoil your experience of this game if you read it before playing:

You switched 3 times less when the doors were shrinking.
More frequent switching when the doors are shrinking is most likely a reflection of an irrational tendency to keep your options open.
This tendency cost you points in the game, but it could have much larger implications in life...
Jeepers. I switched less -- not at all, in fact -- the second time around even though the other doors were shrinking. I just let them shrink and felt no compunctions about it. In fact, the smaller they got, the whinier and less appealing they seemed to me, so I was pleased to see them dwindle to nothingness. And by not switching I lost no points. Sweet!

While I never turn away a chance to be labeled rational, I am not convinced in the claims of what is rational and what is irrational in this exercise. I doubt that even a very focused, strongly analytical player would be able to draw valid, predictive conclusions about the game's behavior in the course of a single round of 50 clicks. And that's all the preparation one gets for round two, and round two includes an entirely new variable that a player could reasonably expect to impugn the reliability of any patterns culled from playing round one.

Whatever. I see what they're getting at, and no doubt it is fleshed out more fully in the book they're trying to sell.

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