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A few years ago I had the opportunity to hear a lecture by Cass R. Sunstein, the author of “Simpler: The Future of Government” (2013) and co-author of “Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health Wealth and Happiness” (2009) with Richard H. Thaler. Sunstein, a professor of law currently teaching at Harvard Law, recently completed a stint as Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA). At OIRA, Sunstein advocated for many of the intriguing concepts described in Nudge – including the importance of simplicity and choice architecture in policy design. The talk was really about how influence can succeed by understanding how modern humans deal with the complexities of daily life.

Sunstein talked about two types of decision-making systems that we can use to assess situations and make decisions, labelled “System 1″ and “System 2″. System 1 is automatic, effortless, fast, reliant on intuition, heuristics, gut feel. System 2 is more deliberate, calculative, slow. If we are so harried in our daily lives that we don’t have time to process a logical idea or a quantitative scenario, then we can easily fall prey to alluring slogans and associations.

Which raises two questions…

– How can we fight the tendency to fall back on intuition or System 1 when it is risky or haphazard? … and …

– How can we make use of this tendency to use System 1 thinking by framing issues or presenting problems to drive people to the decisions we think best?


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