Gut Feelings: A Review

Gut Feelings: Short Cuts to Better Decision Making

I promised to post a review of this a very long time ago now. In truth I finished reading it a long time ago I’ve just been far too busy to blog anything until now.

I bought this book as a follow-up to Blink as I wanted to know more about subconcious decision making and instinct. On that front I am not at all disappointed.

Gut Feelings demonstrates alot of the ways that we make decisions subconciously and presents data resulting from many case studies around the world pitting logic and reason against intuition. The Conclusions are very convincing and I finished the book happier in the knowledge that I could apply what I had just learnt not just to my work (more on that in a moment) but to my everyday life.

One of the key principles demonstrated in the book that really stuck with me is the “One Good Reason” heuristic.

The theory is that the majority of decisions are made by focussing on the most important elements one at a time. Once you find a solution or product that matches that element you stop looking. If there is a conflict between 2 or more products you move on to the next most important element until you end up with just one.

On analysing my life I did relise that I do make most of my decisions using this heuristic. Logic and reason would suggest that I weigh all the variables equally and use some highly complex formula to come up with the correct result.

Fact is though that system only works for hindsight when all of the relevent variables are available. With limited knowledge in a highly unpredictable world the simpler “One Reason” heuristic has been proven to operate at much better than chance (Even when predicting the stock market).

This has made me less worried about writing lists and comparing them in order to make my decisions. I’m much happier with decisions I’ve made on instinct than ones I’ve poured over for days. I trust my subconcious alot more than I used to.

As far as how this can be applied to Games Design though I think this is a must-read for anybody working with Artificial Inteligence.

While designing Wheelmans OnFoot enemy AI we developed lots of very complex formulas to weight cover locations and targets. These formulas would get more and more complex as more and more exceptions and edge cases were found. In the end they were largely useless and the AI still behaved erratically.

Looking back at it I think applying a decision tree that only looks at one element at a time would produce much more predictable and sensible results. An added bonus is that such a heuristic is far faster and inherently more optimised than a complex formula that tries to account for all possible variables at the same time.

For more general Games Design I think understanding the different heuristics we use often can help you understand how your players will try to solve a problem and generally play your game. 80% of people playing your game will be operating entirely subconciously and be unaware of any complex decision making process (Heck I manage to play Civilization 4 that way – I suck at it but that isn’t the point).

Recognising how the subconcious is evaluating your game, world and the systems that make it up will help you evaluate the player experience and play to the strengths of the subconcious.

In conclusion: Buy this book. If you’ve read Blink then you can probably skip alot of the early parts as they mostly just give you a grounding in the topics that book covers. I would also say that there is no reason to buy Blink in order to read this book as it is incredibly easy to read and is written in a very entertaining and conversational tone.

I rate this book: Yes out of ten.

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4 Comments

  1. Posted June 10, 2009 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    Man! I haven’t got through reading the last books you recommended yet.

  2. Nodachi
    Posted July 6, 2009 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    Yes out of ten ^^ Incredibly short review though :p

  3. Posted July 7, 2009 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    hey man i feel this book is of great importance will check out this book for sure!! thanks for sharing your experience with us.

  4. Posted May 19, 2010 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

    hey man i feel this book is of great importance will check out this book for sure!! thanks for sharing your experience with us.

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