Along Came "The One"


I am a huge advocate of a demanding vetting process when it comes to selecting a car, a house, candidates for public office, or a spouse. There would be less lemons, separations, annullments, and divorces if people would put a little more effort in this process. Or in the case of presidential candidates, less protests, less impeachment attempts, less bickering, less coup attempts, and more opportunities for greater prosperity.

What would you do if you were picking a spot for your residence? Would you choose it by just looking at the exterior? Of course, you wouldn’t. You will walk through it many  times, inspect the rooms, fixtures, lights, have an appraiser come in. You will also look at the neighborhood and check whether its is safe and secure? You will also check the facilities – is there a common recreation area like courts, playgrounds, pools, work-out rooms. You will also check the location whether it is far or near your work. And you will check if you can afford it. You do the same thing when choosing a car. You review its features – efficiency, mileage, safety ratings, warranty, handling. You ask feedback from your mechanic, your friends and family.

Unfortunately, some of of us (presumably, a lot) do not take the same rule of thought to the selection process when choosing a spouse – or for that matter, a presidential candidate.

Shouldn’t the process be more demanding than the procedures we use for selecting a house or a car? Shouldn’t we ensure that our future spouse or candidate is an excellent fit for us and the relationship built together can weather the storms of life?

Each person will have many things to consider, some will have less to consider. Others probably have lists which can be short or long, but the list that I know best is my list. So here it goes. You will easily recognize the items in my list as you may have come across the items sometime in your life, one time or another.

Due Diligence – Find Out Who They REALLY Are

Just like hunting for a house or a car, the only way to find out if you are getting a lemon is if you inspect and do your due diligence in great detail to find out who the candidate REALLY is. Look beyond the headlines, all the media projection might make the candidate look good, when in reality, the candidate is actually a can of worms. When the superficialities are removed and you finally meet the REAL candidate, you may not like them. So, get to know THAT candidate before you vote for them, or in the case of a spouse – before you get married to him or her.

The easiest way to know who a candidate REALLY is, (next to actually knowing and spedning time with the candidate) is to invest time in reading about the candidate, asking friends and family who might know the candidate, even his enemies – as it gives you an idea of how such candidate is seen under the most unflattering of lights.

The election will not be until May 10, 2010 – there is no need to rush into making a choice. Take your time – get to REALLY know the candidates some more.

“Chemistry” – Should Be Someone You Like

Have you ever been in a relationship you don’t like? Sucks doesn’t it? If you vote for a person, shouldn’t you at the very least like the candidate first?

A lot of people vote for candidates they don’t like because they feel the overall person is good. Or to feel “safe”, to be “protected” from a worse candidate who might win if they vote for the candidate they like, thus they choose the second best candidate or even the next to worst candidate as long as its not the worst candidate – they resort to a phenomenon known as satisficing.

Satisficing (a portmanteau of “satisfy” and “suffice”) is a decision-making strategy that attempts to meet criteria for adequacy, rather than to identify an optimal solution. A satisficing strategy may often be (near) optimal if the costs of the decision-making process itself, such as the cost of obtaining complete information, are considered in the outcome calculus.The word satisfice was coined by Herbert Simon. He pointed out that human beings lack the cognitive resources to maximize: we usually do not know the relevant probabilities of outcomes, we can rarely evaluate all outcomes with sufficient precision, and our memories are weak and unreliable. A more realistic approach to rationality takes into account these limitations: This is called bounded rationality.Satisficing in Groups

Satisficing occurs in consensus building when the group looks towards a solution everyone can agree on even if it may not be the best.

Satisficing in Economics

In economics, satisficing is a behavior which attempts to achieve at least some minimum level of a particular variable, but which does not necessarily maximize its value. The most common application of the concept in economics is in the behavioural theory of the firm, which, unlike traditional accounts, postulates that producers treat profit not as a goal to be maximized, but as a constraint. Under these theories, a critical level of profit must be achieved by firms; thereafter, priority is attached to the attainment of other goals.

Satisficing in Social Cognition

As an example of satisficing, in the field of social cognition, Jon Krosnick proposed a theory of statistical survey satisficing which says that optimal question answering by a survey respondent involves a great deal of cognitive work and that some people would use satisficing to reduce that burden. Some people may shortcut their cognitive processes in two ways:

  • Weak satisficing: Respondent executes all cognitive steps involved in optimizing, but less completely and with bias.
  • Strong satisficing: Respondent offers responses that will seem reasonable to the interviewer without any memory search or information integration.

Likelihood to satisfice is linked to respondent ability, respondent motivation and task difficulty

Regarding survey answers, satisficing manifests in:

  • choosing explicitly offered no-opinion response option
  • choosing socially desirable responses
  • non-differentiation when a battery of questions asks for ratings of multiple objects on the same response scale
  • acquiescence response bias, which is the tendency to agree with any assertion, regardless of its content

Satisficing in Decision Making

In decision making, satisficing explains the tendency to select the first option that meets a given need or select the option that seems to address most needs rather than the “optimal” solution.

What am saying is, while a candidate may be adequate, it doesn’t mean they are the optimal or the best candidate.

Shared Values – Values Should be Similar

When you vote for a candidate (or when you decide to get married) you are saying you are willing to work with the candidate (or to become one). This will be tough if your values are fundamentally different, possibly even on opposite ends. The monarchist or fascist will clash with the democrat;  pro-labor will clash with pro-management; pro-land reform will clash with anti-land reform; protectionists will clash with free market advocates, so on and so forth.

You don’t want to be miserable, disturbed, and unsettled on the core issues. The trivial issues may vary, but you should be in agreement with regards to the central issues that move you.

Looking in the Same Direction – Life Plans Should be Similar

If one person’s life plan is to live in the suburbs while the other wants to live in downtown or the beach or the forest for that matter, a major conflict will be in the offing because your visions don’t align at all. Thus, it is important to see whether your vision of life matches that of the candidate. For short, you ask what is your candidates “life plan” – what is your candidates platform? Does it have substance? Are his goals measurable and time-bound? Is it achievable?

Are the candidate’s plans relevant to your life’s plan? Does your candidate even have a credible plan at all? If a plan is lacking, you need to seriusly rethink your choice. What if your future spouse turned out to be the Batman or the Ghost Rider or the Joker. Good or bad, do their life plans blend with your plan?  Do you want to go somewhere or do you want to go nowhere. Is that somewhere you have in mind, the same somewhere your candidate has in mind.

If you don’t know your candidates platform, well, this ties into the previous points, you better know. Remember, the platform may look adequate, but it may not be the best – so, take your time, and get to know not just the candidate, know the platform as well.

Monster-In Laws – Able to Get Along With Their “Families”

A lot of people overlook this point, but it is significant as well. Voting for a candidate also means, you marry the “family”, too – Kamaganak Inc., Kabits/Thugs and Company, Mistahs Inc, Cronies et al, and all the vested interests that come with the candidate.

If you don’t like your potential “in-laws”, do think twice about voting for the candidate, because you will inherit that candidate’s “family” (and all their drama) as well.

For the Mathematically-Gifted – Apply Decision Theory

For the mathematically-gifted, if you you want to go further, Larry Kahn, an MIT alumni has an article on Decision Theory and Selecting a Spouse. In this article, he provides the  different ways by which people seek and interpret  information. Larry provides a short description of the five theories he discusses below:

Image Theory – This theory has three parts (images). The value image consists of the decision maker’s principles; what’s right or wrong, any organizational rules or principles that must be followed, etc. The second image is the trajectory image, the goals that the decision maker wants to achieve. The third image is the strategic image, which are the plans adopted to achieve the goals, including making decisions, evaluating, and modifying approaches based on results. Decisions can be made by screening out candidates because they don’t pass a minimum level, or by doing some sort of combined comparison to rank the candidates in preference order.Recognition Primed Decision Making (RPD) – This model describes how experts make decisions under stressful situations, perhaps due to time pressure or rapidly changing environments. The decision maker uses their expertise and experience to quickly asses the situation and to come up with an acceptable course of action. They then “play out” the course of action to see whether it is feasible or requires modification. If the first choice doesn’t work, they will go back, select another option, and do the evaluation again. A good example is a firefighting captain who arrives on the scene of a burning building. He will quickly recognize what to do and act accordingly, but the situation may change rapidly and he will have to stay on top of the situation, perhaps changing priorities on the fly. One aspect of RPD is that the expert can quickly rule out unimportant information or unusable solutions, almost on a subconscious level, whereas a novice would need much more time to explicitly think through all possibilities.

Explanation Based Model – There are two parts to this model: The coherent story and the choices. The theory says that the decision maker will attempt to create a full story from some incomplete raw facts and then match this story against possible choice options to come up with a solution. For example, a jury will try to formulate a full explanation of a defendant’s behavior from the evidence, general knowledge about similar events, and knowledge about story structures in general. With their completed story, they will then try to match that with the choices (verdict categories). If a match is found, they can make a decision, otherwise the process would have to be repeated with additional inputs.

Lens Model – The lens model is a part of Social Judgment Theory. It tries to analytically build a model of how well a person’s judgments match up with the environment they are trying to predict. The interface between the two are the cues that represent the environment. An example is a trader trying to predict what the market will do so that they can pick good stocks. Some of the cues might be unemployment rate, price/earnings ratio of the stock, inflation rate, etc. The trader observes the cues and makes a judgment on how to interpret them, then selects stocks. The lens model takes a large number of these trial cases and comes up with equations for how well the trader does, plus other models for how well the cues are judged or how well they represent the environment. Even with perfect information, most task success rates are nowhere near 100%. This is due to many factors, including errors in judgment, insufficient or unrecognized cues, or important cue patterns that are hard to determine.

Dominance Testing – There are four major steps to making a decision. First, the decision maker simply screens out alternatives that do not meet minimum standards. After that, if there is more than one choice left, the second step is to select a promising alternative. This can be a fairly subjective choice based on preferences or initial reaction. The third step is to test for dominance. An alternative is dominant if, for all the selection criteria, the alternative has no disadvantages and at least one advantage, it is selected. Often, this is not the case, and the fourth step is entered. This is where the decision maker tries to restructure or reinterpret the information in order to make the promising alternative dominant so it can be selected. This can be good or bad, since if overdone it can mean talking yourself into making a bad decision.

It will be good to let the candidate know that he is being evaluated on a whole range of issues – past, present, and future- a process based on merit and not just based on a visceral emotional reaction.

It means you are taking the matter seriously, and you would rather vet the candidate the thoroughly if you are going to bet your life on the candidate. A candidate who does not provide you with the facts which allow you to make a rational informed decision does not deserve your attention at all.



  1. This is an excerpt of a blog post I wrote way back (last year I think it is) on when the topic that was the flavour of the month at the time in the Pinoy blogosphere was whether Arroyo was still gonna be in power after 2010:

    How big a factor is a President, really in terms of influencing the course of progress (or lack of it) in the Philippines?

    Is there some kind of evidence or at least some kind of logical construct that convincingly describes some kind of causal relationship between (A) the character or even identity of the President of the Philippines and (B) the prospects of the Philippines achieving some semblance of sustainable prosperity?

    Can we, infer from a value of A, what the probability distribution for a set of values of B might be?

    Time and again, Filipinos have seen their troubles as having their origins in whoever happens to be seated in Malacanang. From that logic flows the habitual looking to the next regime as a source of “hope” for better times. This is the simple formula that just about every “Opposition” uses to formulate its campaign pitch.

    For example, what many people claim to be a certainty can be expressed like this (using the conventions I loosely spelled out above):

    IF A = GMA and Year > 2010,
    THEN B = Disaster for the Philippines

    or, for that matter;

    IF A is NOT equal to GMA and Year > 2010,
    THEN B = Prosperity for the Philippines

    My question is this: Is there an A=>B relationship?

    Think for a minute of the implications of the answer to this question. Because, if there is none, if there is no convincing answer to this question, or if a debate about whether such a relationship between A and B exists gets drawn out over comments ad infinitum and never gets resolved convincingly, it brings to light this SIMPLE question:


    If we are not able to prove that our prospects for prosperity are a function of who is sitting in Malacanang, then why bother even wasting precious bandwidth on any discussion about whether Gloria is out to extend her term or not?

    Second, the only recent significant and fundamental change in the nature of Philippine politics happened in 1986. In that year, we saw a transition from totalitarian governance to a flawed but nevertheless democratic form of governance.

    But beyond politics what has really changed about the Philippines and its people? Is the nature of our society at the very core DIFFERENT? Is the collective psyche of Filipinos in 1972 different from that of 2008 Pinoys?

    For argument’s sake, let’s cite a handful of factors that I (in my simplistic world) think is indicative of how well positioned our society is in terms of its prospects of someday becoming a truly free, open, and prosperous society:

    – Population
    – Secularism
    – Critical thought
    – Foresight

    The above four I believe are the key indicators of our prospects for prosperity. Have these changed over the last thirty years? For a bit of perspective, count also how many presidents (and presumably how many different characters and their approaches to governance) have sat in Malacanang?

    Juxtapose that variety of politicians against the ominous constantness and unmoving consistency of those four key indicators I listed above. And be afraid. For the case for a safe bet that the Philippines will be the same Philippines in 30 years, regardless of WHO is president lies in a lucid regard for this reality.

    The issue really hasn’t changed fundamentally now that the quuestion has morphed into who will be in power after 2010. It still comes down to what exactly determines or can be used as a basis for determining the possible outcomes of whoever will be in power in the six years subsequent to 2010.

    Without an even remotely scientific or logical approach to evaluating candidates, there seems to be no way one can substantiate any real “hope” (much less even speculating on possible results) arising from whoever the hell sits in Malacanang after 2010.

    Here is the laughable slogan/quip of the moment (not quoted faithfully) surrounding Noynoy’s candidacy:

    Now that Noynoy is running, I can now have hope in the future

    The question is the same and will always be unless said “hope” can be objectively substantiated with real thinking applied:

    Hope in what exactly?

  2. uncle pinoy · ·

    The Americans voted for hope and change last November. They’re now full of hope because they’ve got nothing else. And change? Except for the US troops still being in Iraq and Afghanistan, they’ve been going through A LOT of changes.

    I agree, benign0. Even if elected the Pope as president, we will still be in the same rathole. It’s not the personality, it’s the system.

  3. […] an extensive track record of delivering brilliant results in backward feudal societies. Certainly the sort of approach that requires a bit of thinking applied simply will not fly in Philippine society — specially taking into account the full force of […]

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