OPINION9 February 2023

Rory Sutherland: Don’t neglect the old

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Behavioural science Impact Opinion Trends

The new and the shiny can distort our appreciation of more traditional approaches, Rory Sutherland writes in his latest Impact column.

Kindle and reading glasses on top of a book

I got it wrong. But then Daniel Kahneman got it wrong too, so I’m in good company. Both of us, on first seeing an Amazon Kindle, felt like some watcher of the skies when a new planet swims into his ken, or like stout Cortez... well, to put it more prosaically, we thought it would replace printed books completely.

This has not happened, and indeed shows no signs of ever happening. Why? Perhaps more importantly, what might the biases have been that lay behind our over-optimism?

I suspect one of them is plain old neophilia. We like new, shiny things – or we simply pay more attention to them and, consequently, rate them more important than they really are. But then something else happens; a trick of the mind. We start to pay far more attention to the specific ways in which the new is better than the old, to a point where ...