Flipism

Flipism

Flipism is an imaginary philosophy, originally published in the Walt Disney cartoon Flip Decision by Carl Barks. In flipism, all decisions are made by flipping a coin. This can be seen as a normative decision theory, although it does not fulfill the criteria of rationality. Flipism can be seen as a sarcastic metaphor about how rational decision-making is overwhelmed by anchoring to religious methods.

In the story, Donald Duck meets professor Batty who persuades Donald to make decisions based on flipping a coin. The basic idea is to let flipism chart the course at every crossroad of life. "Life is but a gamble! Let flipism chart your ramble!" Donald soon gets into trouble when following this advice. He drives a one way road to the wrong direction and gets $50 fine. The reason for the fine is not the bad driving but letting the coin do the thinking. However, in the end, flipism shows surprising efficiency in guiding some decisions.

Flipism in decision-making

Flipism is a normative decision theory in a sense that it prescribes how decisions should be made. In the cartoon, flipism shows remarkable ability to make right conclusions without any information - but only once in a while. Of course, in real life flipping a coin would only lead to random decisions. However, there is an article about benefits of some randomness in the decision-making process in certain conditions. Commitment to a non-trivial mixed strategy can be beneficial for the informed party in a potential conflict under asymmetric information, as it allows the player to manipulate his opponent’s beliefs in an optimal fashion. Such a strategy also makes the player less inclined to enter into conflict when it is avoidable.

Another way of seeing the utility of flipism in decision-making can be called revealed preferences. In the traditional form, revealed preferences mean that the preferences of consumers can be revealed by their purchasing habits. With flipism, the preferences can be revealed to the decision-maker herself. Decisions with conflicting preferences are especially difficult even in situations where there is only one decision-maker and no uncertainty. The decision options may be either all appealing or all unpleasant, and therefore the decision-maker is unable to choose. Flipism, i.e., flipping a coin can be used to find a solution. However, the decision-maker should not decide based on the coin but instead observe her own feelings about the outcome; whether it was relieving or agonizing. In this way, flipism removes the mental block related to the act of decision-making, and the post-decision preferences can be revealed before the decision is actually made.

Trivia

  • Flipism has also inspired other arts: in the 1970's and 1980's, there was a record company named Flippist Records in Minneapolis, MN.
  • The story Flip Decision has been a subject of a linguistic research about translations from English to Finnish, and from English to the Helsinki dialect.

See also

References

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