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December 08, 2011

The SCOAMF and the Sunk Cost Theory

Geraghty wonders about this.

Say you buy a riding lawn mower. You did some research; you thought you were getting a good one. You paid -- I don't know, what's it cost? -- like $900 for it.

Now it turns out to be kind of crappy, and you keep seeing great reviews for the $850 model you passed over.

It's probably going to take you some time to come around to the idea you bought the wrong mower. It was a significant cost, you used your judgment and brainpower to make the right pick... and you failed at it. Your ego will attempt to mislead you into thinking you bought the right mower for as long a period of time as that remains a semi-plausible position to hold.

Obama was a big purchase, wasn't he?

I wondered about this long ago. My belief was that this natural inclination towards self-defense of the ego would spare Obama for a period.

And then, I thought, the turn would come, and Obama would be hated by many of the people currently still holding out hope.

Because my theory is that the ego will again intervene in a self-preserving manner. First the ego fights off the belief that this was a poor decision. It doesn't want to admit the brain got something so wrong.

But when that position can no longer be maintained, a new self-preserving theory is favored: "Based on the information available to me, I made the right decision. But significant information was concealed from me; ergo, I could not make the correct call based on the information as known. Obama lied to me about his intentions and his qualifications."

This new narrative has the great advantage of confessing an incorrect decision while not confessing any fault in arriving at that incorrect decision.

It also has the virtue of being pretty much true, eh? Add in the media into the pile of scapegoats-who-actually-deserve-blame.

Of course I expected that to happen a while ago.

It's possible that actually is happening, but because most of us sense the national opinion via the media, and the media of course has its own egotistical (and politically-biased) motivation to spin a narrative, we're not aware that a great majority of people actually do kind of hate Obama. (Or, actually kind of hate him, but counterfeit their beliefs when asked by pollsters, because they wrongly believe their position is minority and disfavored.)

Anecdotally, what's your sense? Among people you rate as apolitical and nonpartisan -- the sort of fence-sitters and bandwagon-jumpers you could expect to vote for Obama when that seems to be the "right thing to do," and who would be uncomfortable expressing their dissatisfaction with him unless they began to believe such a statement was socially permissible -- are you detecting any shifts here?

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posted by Ace at 02:58 PM

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