Monday, July 18, 2011

40k Theory: Making Rational Decisions

Thanks to evolution, our brains are hardwired to find the pain of loss more intensely than we feel the pleasure of gain.  There are very sound reasons that this is so, and people who have abnormalities in this area often become addicts or gamblers.

Additionally, humans for other various evolutionary reasons, generally think in the short term.  We are capable of long term thoughts and plannings, but when we are forced into making split second decisions, we tend to make choices based on short term thinking.

Hay guys, what's going on in this brain?
Couple these two concepts together and you can see the source of a lot of the irrational behavior in the world around you.  Have you ever seen a car swerve into on-coming traffic to avoid hitting a bird or squirrel or rabbit?  That is a perfect example of short term thinking fueled by loss aversion.  If you could slow down time and make a rational, calculated decision you would realize the pain of loss/guilt you would get from hitting the squirrel is nothing compared to the danger and potential loss of hitting another car head on!  

We can also see this thinking in the stock market or in casinos, termed 'chasing your losses.'  You take a poor position on a stock, and it drops heavily.  Rather than realizing its a disaster and cutting your losses, you either hold on, or double down.  This rarely ever pays off and, in the end you lose more/everything.  
Warhammer rewards people who can shirk these aspects of human nature.  Think about the following...

1.  Offense is greater than defense.  Minis die by the bucketful.  Normal, loss averse human nature, would make people play defensively and try to minimize casualties.  Unfortunately, these is not the path to success.  You win in 40k by out-killing your opponent, not by competing to see who can absorb the most fire power.

2.  The goals/objectives of the game are known from the outset and we can/should begin planning for turn 5 before the game starts.  Since human nature encourages short term thinking, it is very easy for a player to get into a situation where they lose sight of long term goals and they react to their opponent on a turn by turn basis.

Think about new players.  They tend to have pet units that they are afraid to lose, and they generally play turn by turn.  It's much easier to beat a new player in an objective mission rather than a kill point mission by that very reason.  Most players, through simple experience, learn these lessons subconsciously and improve their play.  But if these lessons are learned subconsciously (rather than through a conscious effort to be rational and make long term, gain conscious decisions) the irrational thinking can creep back in and negatively impact your play.  A close game at the top table of a tournament can get the adrenaline pumping, and it's in situations like that which create the situations where you can fall back into the mistakes of human nature.  

End of the day, no matter how stressful your game of 40k is, don't play too quickly/reactive.  You should stop and refocus anytime you feel yourself slipping into irrational thinking.

How does this jive with my article about always trusting your gut?  At first it might seem contradictory, but the lesson to take is to become experienced enough so that your gut instincts ARE trustworthy.  Make your gut decisions also be rational decisions based on long term goals and gain-based choices and you're there. 

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