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Commitment and Consistency

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  • Logan, Patrick D
    I am in the middle of an interesting book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini. One chapter in particular so far seems relevant to
    Message 1 of 5 , May 31, 2006
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      I am in the middle of an interesting book, "Influence: The Psychology of
      Persuasion" by Robert Cialdini.

      One chapter in particular so far seems relevant to agile development...
      on "Commitment and Consistency". The observation at the beginning of the
      chapter describes how a person making a bet at a racetrack will almost
      always have more confidence in their bet immediately after placing the
      bet than just prior to placing the bet. This is believed to be due to
      our deep desire to be (and to appear to be) consistent with our past
      actions.

      The chapter goes on to describe various examples and ways that very
      small commitments can lead to further, larger, and even apparently
      unrelated actions. The subtitle of the chapter is "hobgoblins of the
      mind".

      An interesting section of that chapter describes various tactics the
      Chinese captors used on prisoners of war in the Korean war. For example
      they found that a prisoner who would copy a statement that was mainly
      pro-US but had some apparently minor pro-communist-China conciliatory
      remarks, even when the prisoner professed not to believe what he was
      copying, could lead to further conciliations by that prisoner.

      Among other things I think this plays into the advantages of "story"
      instead of "requirement" as labels, and generally plays into the desire
      not to specify too much of anything (requirements, design, code, etc.)
      without real feedback. There are subliminal forces at work that we
      hardly understand.

      -Patrick
    • Kevin Lawrence
      ... Best book I have read in the last 10 years. Read it three times. I have often wondered how its lessons could be applied in the workplace (and parenting).
      Message 2 of 5 , May 31, 2006
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        On 5/31/06, Logan, Patrick D <patrick.d.logan@...> wrote:
        >
        > I am in the middle of an interesting book, "Influence: The Psychology of
        > Persuasion" by Robert Cialdini.
        > An interesting section of that chapter describes various tactics the
        > Chinese captors used on prisoners of war in the Korean war. For example
        > they found that a prisoner who would copy a statement that was mainly
        > pro-US but had some apparently minor pro-communist-China conciliatory
        > remarks, even when the prisoner professed not to believe what he was
        > copying, could lead to further conciliations by that prisoner.
        >
        >
        Best book I have read in the last 10 years. Read it three times. I have
        often wondered how its lessons could be applied in the workplace (and
        parenting).

        That same episode about the korean war talks about how the chinese would
        give the writers of those essays a token reward. If the reward was too big,
        the "commitment effect" would be nullified because the POW could
        (subconsciously) claim that they only wrote what they wrote to get the
        reward. The secret was to choose a reward that was just big enough to
        justify the effort but not so big to cancel the commitent effect.

        Chapter on 'authority' has some relevance too. It describes how people shake
        off notions of responsibility in the presense of an authority figure (cf.
        the famous Milgram experiment
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milgram_experiment)

        Kevin


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      • PaulOldfield1@aol.com
        (responding to Patrick) ... I suspect this is BDUF vs. Embrace Change in another form. We all want stability in our lives, but we want to base our lives on the
        Message 3 of 5 , Jun 1, 2006
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          (responding to Patrick)

          > One chapter in particular so far seems relevant to agile development...
          > on "Commitment and Consistency". The observation at the beginning
          > of the chapter describes how a person making a bet at a racetrack
          > will almost always have more confidence in their bet immediately
          > after placing the bet than just prior to placing the bet. This is believed
          > to be due to our deep desire to be (and to appear to be) consistent
          > with our past actions.

          I suspect this is BDUF vs. Embrace Change in another form.

          We all want stability in our lives, but we want to base our lives on
          the right decisions. Where do we stop challenging our early
          beliefs? Some people never start, and of these some will react
          violently in later life to anything that appears to challenge their
          beliefs, because they have too much invested in them to change.

          Others challenge their beliefs all the time, and arrive in later life
          knowing their current beliefs have stood up to all the challenges
          so far. They embrace change.

          IME, when I made a conscious decision to admit I was wrong
          whenever that happened, I had much more control over my life
          from then on. Cultures where it is regarded as a sign of weakness
          to admit one is wrong seem to have quite different dynamics from
          ones where it is okay to admit one is wrong.

          Hmm... perhaps all agilists should be agnostic? :-)

          Paul Oldfield



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        • Logan, Patrick D
          ... It is related to that, and more. This is about deep and subliminal psychological behavior. For example, it touches on estimation of any kind. There is
          Message 4 of 5 , Jun 1, 2006
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            > I suspect this is BDUF vs. Embrace Change in another form.

            It is related to that, and more. This is about deep and subliminal
            psychological behavior.

            For example, it touches on estimation of any kind. There is another
            anecdote in the book about an experiment with estimation. Three groups
            of people were asked to estimate the lengths of lines.

            One group was asked to write their estimates down, sign them, and
            publicize their writing.

            A second group was asked to write their estimates down privately but not
            show them to anyone.

            A third group was asked just to make an estimate but not to write it
            down.

            Then the groups were given more information that would be helpful in
            their estimations.

            The results indicated, given this improved information:

            * The group with signed, publicized estimates are less likely to change
            their original estimates than the other two.

            * The group with written private estimates are the second less likely to
            change their original estimates.

            * The group with unwritten estimates are most likely to change their
            original estimates.

            -Patrick
          • PaulOldfield1@aol.com
            (responding to Patrick) ... Agreed, but this subliminal behaviour can probably be trained away, which might be a useful thing to do. ... For a
            Message 5 of 5 , Jun 2, 2006
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              (responding to Patrick)

              >> I suspect this is BDUF vs. Embrace Change in another form.
              >
              > It is related to that, and more. This is about deep and subliminal
              > psychological behavior.

              Agreed, but this 'subliminal' behaviour can probably be trained
              away, which might be a useful thing to do.

              <snip>

              > The results indicated, given this improved information:
              >
              > * The group with signed, publicized estimates are less likely to
              > change their original estimates than the other two.
              >
              > * The group with written private estimates are the second less
              > likely to change their original estimates.
              >
              > * The group with unwritten estimates are most likely to change
              > their original estimates.

              For a randomly selected sample of the population, I would
              expect such results. Suppose we pre-selected groups by
              other likely indicators of whether they embrace change;
              say Creationists vs. Darwinists, Trad programmers vs. Agile,
              etc. though. I suggest that the results would be more
              pronounced in the group we do not expect to embrace
              change than in the other group. I haven't done the experiment
              and don't intend to, but I believe without evidence that the
              effect would be less pronounced in people that embrace change;
              in people that are prepared to accept and deal with instability.

              IME I can train people to embrace change; to freely admit that
              what they said earlier has been proved wrong in the light
              of new information... provided they are in a culture that does
              not contradict the message I'm putting across, e.g. by
              punishing decisions and estimates that were wrong despite
              due diligence being applied.

              Paul Oldfield





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