[EM] Seven +/- Two

Dave Ketchum davek at clarityconnect.com
Mon Sep 10 22:06:51 PDT 2001

This one makes MUCH sense to me.

One thing it says is it may not be worth while to provide for any one
voter listing more than 6 or 7 candidates in preference voting.

It also leads me to question again the scheme that lets voters say
something about ranking with >>>>>>> - I have not worked up any
enthusiasm for understanding what that is about, let alone how to
explain it to voters in a way that would let them get any good from it.

Dave Ketchum

On 10 Sep 2001 23:22:04 -0400 Buddha Buck wrote:
> A message on another list reminded me of something -- an old,
> well-established psychology paper entitled "The Magical Number Seven,
> Plus or Minus Two: Some Limits on Our Capacity for Processing
> Information" by George A. Miller (The Psychology Review, 1956, vol 63,
> pp. 81-97, republished at http://www.well.com/user/smalin/miller.html
> by permission of author, address checked 2001-09-10).
> What the article talks about is the ability of people to perceive and
> distinguish stimulae accurately.  To a very large degree, Miller noted
> that most people can easily distinguish things into about 7 plus or
> minus two groups -- we can identify 7 plus/minus two shades of grey, 7
> tones, 7 time intervals, etc.  Given multiple dimensions to
> distinguish, we can do better -- we can easily distinguish things into
> 25 partitions of a square, 30 combinations of tones on a variety of
> instruments, etc -- as long as the amount of information for each
> variable is still about 7 +/- 2.
> I believe, because of this paper, and the research along those same
> lines that has followed it, that any attempt to try to get more than
> 3-4 bits of information from the voter per candidate is likely to
> result in lots of noise and voter error.  CR, while theoretically nice
> (perhaps epecially when done on a -100 to 100 scale), may run afoul of
> too much noise if the range of cardinalities greatly exceeds seven +/-
> two.  Rankings above 5 or 6 candidates becomes difficult. And so
> forth.
> The ballot proposed by Forest (I believe) involving grading candidates
> A, B, C, D, and F (as in school grades) seems to me to have about the
> right information content to record the opinions of the voter with
> reasonable accuracy and precision.  Approval's ballot is simpler, and
> seems to provide enough information to make a good decision.
> Just something I was thinking about.
> Later,
>   Buddha

 davek at clarityconnect.com    http://www.clarityconnect.com/webpages3/davek
   Dave Ketchum     108 Halstead Ave, Owego, NY  13827-1708    607-687-5026
             Do to no one what you would not want done to you

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