Why we suck at long term decisions

Great article on Nature yesterday, and I clipped some parts to pique your interest.

a little long, but def worth the read!

…Should we do everything in our power to stop global warming? To make sure terrorists don’t board aeroplanes? To keep Escherichia coli out of the food supply? These seem like simple questions with easy answers only because they describe what we will do without also describing what we won’t. When both are made explicit — should we keep hamburgers safe or aeroplanes safe? — these simple questions become vexing.

…When people play economic games, for instance, they tend to reject unfair offers from their opponents — but they are much more likely to do so when their opponent is a person than when their opponent is a computer…

It is bad to be harmed, but it is worse to be victimized. And so we worry more about shoe-bombers than influenza, despite the fact that one kills roughly 400,000 people per year and the other kills roughly none. We worry more about our children being kidnapped by strangers than about becoming obese, despite the fact that abduction is rare and diabetes is not.

So how do we tackle the big problems?

One solution is to frame problems in ways that appeal to our nature. For example, when threats are described as moral violations, apathy often turns to action. Texas highways were awash in litter until 1986, when the state adopted a slogan — ‘Don’t mess with Texas’ — that made littering an insult to the honour of every proud Texan, at which point littering decreased by 72%

read more here

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