Who’s On First?

While attending the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Florida last Friday, September 23, 2011, I had several undecided delegates ask me for whom I would cast my vote in the straw poll.  Not wanting to influence their votes, or be perceived as attempting to do so (for, as we say in the Navy, “perception is reality”), I thought it would be more appropriate to suggest to them a way they could determine this for themselves.

It is easy for the human mind to decide between two things (at least fairly easy).  It is sometimes harder to decide between five or ten or 20 things, or even worse, to put them in order.  So what I suggested was to reduce the problem to a series of one-on-one comparisons.  This seems daunting at first, but it really does make the problem a lot easier.  And, of course, it doesn’t just apply to politics.  It applies any time you need to choose from, or put in order, several candidates, or choices.  For example which car to buy, which college to attend, or even which running backs to start on your fantasy football team.

To demonstrate my point, I created the following video.  I have replaced the names of the candidates with generic placeholders.  I recommend that any time you do an exercise like this you put the choices in some sort of random order, perhaps by drawing them out of a hat, to avoid biasing yourself simply by the way your write them down.  And, of course, do your homework on the one-on-one comparisons.  This method only helps with the final ranking, it doesn’t help you decide whether Car A meets your needs better than Car B.

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