Monday, April 19, 2010

Can we change ?

Imagine you are in a game show. The game show host asks you as a contestant to pick one of three doors to win the prize which is a new Mercedes Benz. Behind two of the three doors are goats which you do not want to win: only one door has the Mercedes. The game show hosts knows where the goats and the Mercedes are.

You pick door A. The game show hosts opens door C and shows you a goat behind it. The host then asks you if you want to change your choice to door B. You reason that your chances of getting the Mercedes was one in three before and since he has opened the door C to show you a goat, your chances are now 1 in 2 to win the Mercedes. The host maybe trying to trick you to change so you decide you will stick with door A since the probability of winning the Mercedes is the same with either door A or B.
In my experience in posing the above question to friends (which incidentally is called “The Monty Hall Paradox”), the vast majority would stick with their initial pick and would not change.
It occurred to me that having made a choice, we human beings are reluctant to change our initial guess. In fact we will try to stick to our initial choice if we surmise that the probability of success is the same either way. It seems to be hardwired into our psyche.
It is the same with supporters of football clubs: the supporters will support their club of choice regardless. It is as though loyalty is prized over all else in respect of supporters of football clubs.
I even have friends in London who will bring their young children to support Arsenal and try to ensure that their offspring will be Arsenal supporters for life as they have been. It is as though if you are from North London, it is practically frowned upon to support any other football club.
Personally, I don’t subscribe to this type of blind loyalty in sports. After all if I am a spectator, it is for the players to entertain me and not for me to commit to them. However I suppose I would miss out on all the camaraderie that goes with blind loyalty to a team.
There are similar elements at play in Malaysian politics too. The established political parties will espouse loyalty of their party members as a virtue second to none. If you are a member of a party, it is expected that you, at least, will vote for it.
It is not an unreasonable assumption under normal conditions but the last general election showed that in a number of areas, the votes obtained by a party were less than its registered members in that area. It was seen as a change in the political dynamics in Malaysia.
I believe the next general election will be determined very much by the young and new voters. It is not so much that die hard supporters of the various parties change allegiances as who the new voters will vote for as their party of choice. I don’t believe that the older voters will be a significant influence on the new voters. In fact I think most of the established parties are all trying to figure out what appeals to these new voters who are influenced by the internet age of the 21st century.
The new voters will find it increasingly difficult to swallow the various dictates of the established parties. The young will be more interested in what is politically trendy and cool, at the time that they vote, and will want to have more say in the direction the country is going. The parties that are more in tune with this new group will do well. Those who ignore them do so at their peril.
In respect of the original question of the game show, you should always change your initial choice because the probability is not the same.
If you chose door A and never changed your choice after being shown door C with a goat, your chances of winning the Mercedes is 1/3. Therefore if you changed to door B after initially picking A, having been shown C, your chance of winning is 2/3.
In the Monty Hall Paradox, we can verify that changing is beneficial because of probability. In real life, change is often much harder and takes much longer than we imagine.
The reality is that we humans tend to resist change because we would then have to admit that our initial choice was wrong.

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