Edinburgh Fringe 2019
Fascinating facts about our ability to act irrationally without knowing it. Fifty minutes that educates as it entertains you.
Bernard Ross is on a mission to improve our decision making, concerned as he is over the bewildering number of choices faced by the average Fringe attendee every day. And he’s not just referring to the 4,275 shows we could go and see.
He’s also looking to help us find better ways of executing the astonishing 35,000 choices we each face every day. True, many of these choices are made automatically – they’d need to be or our brains would need to be the size of a small planet – but Ross believes that, with a better understanding of the inherent bias we all carry around with us, we could and should be able to make more rational choices.
How many of us join and gym, pay by direct debit monthly yet hardly use the facility? Why do most of us seek out restaurants where there is a queue to get in and get served, rather than opting for that equally fine purveyor of comestibles where the waiters are hanging around looking for someone to wait on? And how many of us buy that turbo-charged electronic gizmo and then only use about 5% of its functionality? Answer, we’re herd animals and like to follow the crowd.
Similarly, we all use patterns to help us short circuit the decision making process, we use assumptions without knowing it, we prefer the familiar and we pay attention to the direction that others want us to go in.
If these seem familiar conundrums and paradigms, then this is a show that will both entertain and educate. Ross is a mine of information and a whirlwind of a presenter. Moving and sounding something like Professor Calculus in Herge’s Adventures of Tin Tin, his patter delivers facts and one-liners like water pouring over a large waterfall. Never afraid to veer off-piste from what I am assuming was a carefully crafted script, he responded with alacrity to the many interjections from an audience that wanted to learn – both about the topic under discussion (decision making) and whether they as individuals were more or less irrational than the mythical average man in the street.
Two things make this a show to recommend; the content – varied, interesting, never “dumbed down” and lots of it; and Ross himself – engaging, enthusiastic, very knowledgeable and capable of creating a natural rapport with what was quite a chirpy audience.
Perhaps using some form of voice amplification might counter Ross’s tendency to throw away one-liners almost sotto voce – my hearing is pretty sharp but I noted several parts of the audience struggling to hear what he was saying at times – but that’s a small (and, I hope, constructive) point to pick up on what was an informative, entertaining and thought provoking show.
And Ross has helped my decision making processes – never again will I go into any international brand of coffee shop without thinking very, very carefully about what I really want to order, rather than falling into the trap of ordering what they, through clever branding and in-store manipulation, want me to.