Forced Decisions

I’ve been taking this course with Dan Ariely from Duke about the nature of how we make decisions and the latent biases inherent in those. It’s excellent- I’m trying to keep up with it, but my life is such right now that I may not be able to do that. Either way, I’m learning tons right now.

One of the points more recently made was over the nature of decisions. Much of what we do (or don’t do) in terms of change is based on an ingrained tendency to keep the status quo. We don’t like change. We resist and avoid it to a very large degree, though we are blind to much of this behavior.

There’s an interesting work around: force a choice. Provide a t-shaped decision fork, where it is impossible to continue on without change. This forces us into a situation where we must consciously choose the direction and choice we make. This explains, by the way, why educators don’t change their techniques or methods when presented with opportunities (and support). If we want to see meaningful change, we must consider the tendency for all of use to maintain the current state- and create situations that do no allow this. An example:

Let’s say you have aging desktop computers in classrooms, and you want teachers to adopt the more mobile solution of laptops. If you offer laptops to the teachers, a number will choose to take them, but the bulk will insist that they also continue to use and keep the desktop in the classroom. Instead, if we stipulate that the desktop computer will be removed from their room and disposed of, and that they must choose between two available models of laptops, you provide a t-shaped decision fork, and the change must be addressed. The status quo becomes an unacceptable choice, and thus the decision becomes the reasonable option.

I’m sure this is relevant to the way teacher adopt (or don’t adopt) technology into their classrooms. It’s something, however, I see precious little thought being put into, and I think that needs to change.