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October 16, 2012

What I Got Wrong In My Bazillion "Preference Cascade" Predictions

As you might know, I've been pushing the idea of a preference cascade in Romney's favor for a long time. Stace McCain was just talking about it.

When asked if I still believed in it, I've said, prior to Romney's debate bounce, that while I still believed it, it was getting harder and harder to believe it without supporting evidence.

But that's because I missed something.

A preference cascade occurs when a substantial number of people are falsifying their preferences -- not just in public declarations, but also, more importantly, to themselves. They accept a Narrative promoted by a ubiquitous taste-maker that sets the terms of discussion and also attaches either a social credit to preferences in line with its own, or a social demerit to preferences contrary to its preferences.

Swamped by this ubiquitous, always chattering, always nagging Narrative -- pushed by the media, of course -- many people succumb to the bandwagon effect, and begin not so much accepting the Narrative as surrendering it to it.

Humans have a strong inclination to prefer the path of least resistance. And if you think about it, that's a pretty smart play. Humans generally take the easiest path when they're walking -- they don't go wildly out of their way to find hills to climb. If there's a nice, easy, level paved road, they take it.

And that's not crazy or "weak." That's just common sense.

The media is a superhighway of spin determined to make voting Democratic the path of least resistance for a majority of American voters.

At any rate, the preference cascade theory suggests that people will continue falsifying their preferences, overwhelmed by the reinforcement of what the media is saying (and thereby, what most of their social contacts are saying), until and unless something occurs to powerfully jolt the Narrative. When that happens, people feel a license to question the media's preferences which they have surrendered to, and ultimately reject these media preferences in favor of their own, real preferences.

So that's what I kept forgetting. I kept talking about the Preference Cascade just happening.

But they don't "just happen." There is an event which triggers the cascade. Like shaking a beaker of supersaturated salts will suddenly cause a precipitate to fall. But you need that shake. Otherwise, the liquid remains as it was.

Without the jolt, people will simply continuing doing what they'd done before -- surrendering to an easy Narrative, accepting the path of least resistance, as defined by their Media Narrative Manufacturers.

So there was, I think, a preference cascade potential. But that potential only became real during the debate.

If Romney had not given what could well be the most dominating debate performance in the entire modern age of politics (since TV, in 1960), it seems very possible -- possibly likely -- that none of this would have happened.

The Debate Mattered. Among those voting for Romney (a number the debate increased overall, of course), a dramatic shift from those "just voting against Obama" to those affirmatively voting for Romney.

One thing I'm happy to be right about: Doing homework? It pays off.

Doing homework, taking your responsibilities seriously and working hard to accomplish them... these are moral virtues, too.

One of these days I might try this.

digg this
posted by Ace at 03:48 PM

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