Re: poly: Why Oldies Stations?

From: Perry E. Metzger <>
Date: Fri Apr 03 1998 - 11:30:26 PST

Robin Hanson writes:
> Perry writes:
> >> >> 3) People invest in integrating this stuff into their lives, ...
> >> >4) People have trouble changing their habits, ...
> >> I'm not sure there is a distinction here. ...
> >I brush my teeth before I shave in the morning, out of habit. There is
> >no real function to doing so before shaving vs. after shaving,
> >however. None the less, I would have difficulty shifting the order --
> Let's say that people make cognitive investments when they create
> habits. Habits are packages of behavior that one chooses to invoke or not
> as a package. Creating packages economizes on thinking, as one need only
> think about when the package as a whole is a good idea. But it makes
> choices less modular, and raises the cost of changing stuff inside a package.

No disagreement, but I find the term "investment" somewhat
inaccurate. No real effort is expended to form the habit of brushing
your teeth before shaving -- its more just a rut that's been worn into
the road. The term COULD be used, but I think it produces the wrong
notion of what I'm talking about -- "cognitive ruts".

As you note, they serve a valuable purpose. They often save our lives,
in fact. That does not mean that they don't cause certain ruts at
times, however.

> I'm not sure how far we can get by saying older people don't listen to
> new fangled radio stations because they're in the habit of listening to
> old. The cognitive cost to change radio stations doesn't seem very high.

Heh. Here I have some direct evidence.

In NYC, there were once three classical music stations. My parents
listened only to one of them -- not because it was better, but because
that was their habit. I, the brash kid, started forcing them into the
habit of switching between them when I was around 10 or 12. It was
really just an old habit. "Ah, I want some music. I guess I'll turn on
WQXR." Why not turn on WNYC or WNCN? No good reason.

(Actually, I think there WAS a good reason that station instead of
WNYC or WNCN ended up being the favorite. The radio was an old one,
where one had to turn the dial to change stations. WNYC was at
93.9Mhz, WQXR at 96.3, and WNCN at 104.3. If you were switching
between them regularly, one would tend to hit WQXR more often because
it was between the other two on the dial, so you necessarily had to go
past it -- to put it another way, when you changed station from WNYC,
you always hit WQXR next, and when you changed station from WNCN, you
always hit WQXR next.)

My father actually rather liked Jazz, too, but rarely if ever tuned in
Jazz stations. Why? Habit, so far as I could tell, and nothing more.

Received on Fri Apr 3 19:38:14 1998

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