Re: poly: Why Oldies Stations?

From: Carl Feynman <>
Date: Fri Apr 03 1998 - 12:58:51 PST

Here's a model that I believe explains this process. Suppose there are a
number of possible items in a certain category to choose from (items of
clothing, dishes, types of music). Any particular item will benefit me a
certain amount each time I indulge in it. The utility of each item is
fixed, but I can't know its utility until I try it. The utilities of the
items are drawn from a fixed distribution. Every time I go to indulge
myself in an item of a certain category, I face the choice of picking one
that I don't know about, or picking the best known choice so far. Let's
assume that I have only a known finite number of times left to enjoy this
particular category. Under these assumptions, the rational thing to do is
to stop experimenting after some fraction of one's lifespan, and then stick
with what one knows is best.

Does this suffice to explain the phenomenon?

This assumes that one can learn the probability distribution of item
utilities, which I believe is reasonable, since, depending on the category,
the distribution is either culturally well-understood, or amenable to
extensive experimentation.

The model could be extended to include a one-time cost of trying something
for the first time. If this cost is positive, the conclusion is the same.
If the cost is negative ("neophilia") then indefinite experimentation may
be the optimal strategy. Note that indefinite experimentation is the
general behavior in the area of movies, where seeing a particular movie for
the first time is musch more fun than seeing it any subsequent time,
because of the pleasure of surprise.

At 11:07 AM 4/3/98 -0800, Robin wrote:

>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.

But the cost to learn to understand and appreciate a new kind of music is
enormous. I find Jazz and Bluegrass unpleasant, grating and virtually
unlistenable. I am sure that if I listened to them for years, I could
learn to like them just as much as I like industrial and electronic music,
which is mostly what I listen to, having spent years getting to like them
in my teens and twenties. But why should I make the effort? I already
have a radio station; who needs more than one?

Received on Fri Apr 3 21:03:56 1998

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Tue Mar 07 2006 - 14:45:30 PST