The participation decision -- it only matters to the methodologist!

I'm reading a book, Kluge, about the working of the human mind. The author takes an evolutionary perspective to explain the odd ways in which the brain functions. Newer functions were grafted onto older functions. The whole thing doesn't work very smoothly for certain situations, particularly modern social life.

In one example, he cites experimental evidence (I believe, using vignettes) that says people will drive across town to save $25 on a$100 purchase, but won't drive across town to save $25 on a$1,000 purchase. It's the same savings, but different relative amounts.

I tend to think that the decision to participate in surveys is not very important to anyone but the methodologist. And that's why it seems so random to us -- for example, our models predicting whether anyone will respond are so relatively poor. This book reminded me that decisions that aren't very important end up being run through mental processes that don't always produce rational outcomes. Maybe the decision to participate just appears to be more random than it actually is because the processes underlying the decision are less than rational, but still understandable.

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