Thursday, 8 March 2012

Macca In A Muckle: Paul McCartney Gets Stuck On The Eurostar

Sir Paul McCartney was among passengers travelling between Paris and London who got stuck when the Eurostar broke down this week, as heavy snow in France caused problems with the overhead cables.  His six hour delay was big news, splashed across most of the newspapers.

Behavioural economists would note that this was a pretty vivid and salient episode, likely to create a lasting impression of Eurostar. This could then feed an availability heuristic: Eurostar is prone to breakdowns (it isn’t the first time this has happened). Such a heuristic could trump the actual data about the reliability of Eurostar, but it’s the heuristic that drives decisions, not the data. When similar things happen on the roads, and people get stuck in their car for hours, the same thing doesn’t happen: people don’t decide not to drive again.

Less vivid and less salient, hence no heuristic to be available for future decisions. As well as the behavioural economics, there’s a more cheering message from this episode: not just that Macca seems to have been pretty equable throughout (he understands that “these things can happen”), but that he chooses to use public transport, and not a private jet. When Macca lived in Hove during his marriage to Heather Mills, he was often spotted taking the train to London. Whatever you think of the music, Macca’s willingness to mix it on public transport has to be a plus.

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