Sunday, June 17, 2007

delayance v deterrence

I was reading a PhD dissertation on military strategy (don't ask!), and the theory that the author was presenting was called delayance. The idea is that what many people consider a kind of deterrence (which is officially defined as when a country (or guerrilla group) doesn't attack because the cost of achieving the victory is greater than the value of the victory) is really delayance (which is when the risk of losing is too high right now, so the country waits/prepares until the risk goes down to an acceptable level.

The difference is subtle but important. In deterrence, you think you will win, but the cost is too high. So you don't try. In theory, unless something changes, you never try. In delayance, you can't win yet, but hopefully you will be able to win later. So you wait, expecting the change to happen.

The same thing can be said of using a system that is too complicated. The equivalent of deterrence is when I think I can figure out how to use a particular function, but the time it would take is too high so I give up. And I don't expect to try again later. This may cause my satisfaction to go down because I have recognized defeat. In delayance, I think maybe I will try later, perhaps when I have more time to read the manual. This optimism may keep my satisfaction from going down, even though most people never get around to trying again. Every time they see the function, they again think - maybe next time.

I suspect that the deterrence/delayance difference is related to locus of control. For users with an internal locus of control (who feel that they are in control of their lives), they probably feel delayance. For users with external locus of control (who blame the world for their failures and credit the world for their successes), they probably feel deterrence.

This is why it pays to keep up on other fields of study. You never know when something will light up an idea in your own work.