Information Flows and Networks II

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Ignorance Vs. Overload

Neither homo economicus nor homo computicus suffer from cognitive overload. Each can incorporate additional data seamlessly into her knowledge base, no matter how much of it has already been absorbed. As a result, they always operate by the principle of "more is better" with respect to new information, soaking it up like infinitely thirsty informational sponges.

Homo sapiens, on the other hand, is routinely plagued by a variety of cognitive shortcomings. Throughout our everyday lives, we forget information as often as we obtain it, as a result of our notoriously imperfect memory and data-processing power. Consequently, sometimes we actually suffer from extra information - a condition unheard of by the idealized organizational units considered up till now.

Observations from social and cognitive psychology to this effect were summarized as follows by Bulkley and Van Alstyne:

Hypothesis 9c: Optimal information gathering balances the costs of overload against the costs of ignorance.

In the subsequent slides, we present one view of the machinery underlying these kinds of tradeoffs in human behavior.

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