Thinking Economics

Thinking Economics

Most human behaviour can be viewed through an economic lens to identify trends, patterns, biases and misconceptions. This column assesses Nigerian behaviour by applying Economics to behaviour and behaviour to Economics.

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Action Bias: Why Buhari Became 'Baba Go Slow'

Chuba Ezekwesili

Chuba Ezekwesili

Chuba is a data analyst & the co-founder of Akanka - a global design firm.

In 3 months, the euphoria that accompanied the victory of President Buhari has largely dulled to complaints of his government’s tepidness. Why the rapid reversal? 

The same reason Buhari went from being called 'Sai Baba' to 'Baba Go slow’ is the same reason goalkeepers hardly ever just stay in the middle when a penalty kick is taken. You might ask, 'why should they stay in the middle? The player usually kicks it to the right or to the left’. 

Actually, players kick the ball to all sides of the net with roughly the same frequency. Meanwhile, goalkeepers consistently dive to the right or to the left even when they know there’s a fair chance the ball could be placed down the middle. According to Rolf Dobelli’s ‘The Art of Thinking Clearly’, this is mainly due to our bias for action. And that usually has to do with appearances. 

Appearance? Yes. We make a number of decisions based on how the outcome would look. People judge the keeper less harshly if he dives either left or right even if it is the wrong way, and are harsher on those who appear to do nothing by standing in the middle. So even if he is indeed doing something, it doesn’t look like he’s trying.

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