The Corner

The one and only.

“a Level 7 Answer”


From a university psychologist:

One reasonable approach to a flood of responses would be to use what Herbert Simon called ’satisficing.’ Simon (who died in Feb. 2001) was a
cognitive psychologist at Carnegie Mellon, and a Nobel Prize winner in
Economics for his work on decision making (you may recall that another
cognitive psychologist, Daniel Kahneman, was co-winner of the Economics
Nobel this year). Satisficing is a combination of satisfying and
sufficing. Simon argued that humans have evolved to make decisions
quickly, because our ancestors lived in a tough neighbourhood. Instead
of considering all possible options before acting, those ancestors
considered something like a random subset of options, and chose the best
option from that subset. Statistically, the best option in that subset
should be close to the best option in the whole set of options.

So what you could do is just randomly sample n emails from the set of
N responses you get to a question. The more time you have, the closer n
is to N and the more likely you are to get the full benefit of all your
readers’ wisdom. But even when you have less time, this satisficing
strategy should help. It’s been tested for thousands of years.