How much record hoarding and non-adherence is driven by loss aversion?

Loss aversion is the idea that people fear losing things more than they will enjoy the gain from something new.

A Nobel prize was awarded for work in this field for a paper called “prospect theory – an analysis of decisions under risk”. What is says is that the gain we make from a purchase has to be “worth” 2.3x more than whatever we’re giving up to make that purchase (generally money) – or we won’t make the purchase.

This is problematic for records.

We are always proposing a loss of control.

We are almost never proposing a gain that will be felt by the person whose control we are taking.

I think that people respond exactly the way that the psychology research tells us they will – they hoard. They used to hoard in their office – paper under desks, in file cabinets, on desks etc. Now they hoard digitally.

While an argument could be made that the move from custodial approaches has made this less of a problem, I’m not sure that’s true.

We still see troves of records on people’s hard drives and practically anywhere else they can organise information for themselves and control placement. The volume is higher, and the challenge of figuring out what is redundant, outdated or trivial is just as low on the priority risk.

I think this behavior is a cue for us that we’re missing something. I think it’s an existential question for records – how can we present larger gains to people we need to do the record keeping?

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