Friday, 18 December 2015

Risk aversion, and the cost of thinking: Part 2

Before we just looked at the cost of thinking as some of the background.

It's worth mentioning now, that this is mostly layman conjecture on a single paper, which is relatively recent. It's by no means a water-tight discussion from an expert, but rather the fevered ramblings of a pretend scientist on the internet.

That said, I hope some of this sparks a little bit of your own thoughts, or gives a little clarity to what you may be thinking about already.

Risk aversion to cognitive effort

Strictly speaking, this is a study of shifts in attention, and the perceived thinking effort that goes into it. If your attention is dragged all over the place, you tend to feel like you're being strained, or feel as though you are putting in a lot of work.

However, it does show an aversion to risky cognitive effort. It says that, given a choice between a safe, low thinking activity, and one which MAY require a high amount off thinking, people will tend to choose the simpler one.

Put simply, people don't want to find themselves in a position where they don't know how much thinking is needed.

I actually see this first hand in the classroom, particularly with students with Special Educational Needs. If they go into a lesson not knowing how much thinking they need to do, they will generally resist any attempts by you to teach them. Give them a set of criteria, and tell them directly what they will be doing at the start, and they will tend to put in effort.

This study also notes the difference between thinking effort and physical effort.

How many times have you heard the advice from solo PvPers: sometimes you just have to jump in and hope for the best. This is rationalised by these findings. Physical effort, actually getting yourself into combat, is usually rewarded with dopamine. That rush you get and the euphoria after a fight is a result of this reward.

This study tells us that there isn't as strong a link between a reward for thinking about a problem, as actually accomplishing it. Whereas that first fight you have will encourage you to do more, the thinking about the problem, even if a solution is successful, may not motivate you into more thinking time.

I'm not sure how valid a point that is, as my own experience tells me I enjoy analysis and logistical thoughts. So there is some more work that needs to be done there. But running with this idea that thinking effort is a detractor from activities, we can go on to the general risk aversion of EVE.

This means that a capsuleers risk aversion to more dangerous activities in EVE is not really down to a cost-benefit analysis of the physical cost, but rather the heavy thinking load involved in getting started.

Why do you think fitting guides and tactics advice are so popular?

Again, referring to mining. Mining as an activity is very easy to start in. You are hand held in the tutorials, and after less than an hours training, you are a successful miner. There are layers of mastery on top of that, but those layers of mastery are actually guided by ship progression. You work towards your first barge, then exhumer, then Orca. At the very beginning, you know how much thought you will put in, and where you're going.

Contrast that with PvP.

For Faction Warfare, you generally haven't got a clue where you're going, what you'll do when you get there, which ship you'll need, or what you'll do when it blows up. The preparation for entering even the most rudimentary PvP is, quite frankly, hard work.

In other words, what keeps people from entering EVE's PvP is less about risk aversion to money loss, but more about the aversion to the thinking effort needed to put in.

It's not really about losing the ship (although it does sting when you lose your shiny new faction battleship). It might be about knowing what to do afterwards, or even how to get into a situation where you can lose your ship.

Er... I mean, a competitive situation. Parking an indy about Jita's main station and shouting about the stack of PLEX in your cargo hold is a great way to lose a ship.

Next time, I'll discuss how, if you are a PvPer, can encourage people to actually come to your systems to fight.

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