Fehr-Duda, H. & E. FehrSustainability: Game human nature

Recommended reading

Helga Fehr-Duda & Ernst Fehr

Release date:
February 2016

Nature, Volume 530, pages 413-415

This comment suggests that finding ways to adapt natural tendencies and nudge collective action is central to the well-being of future generations. Hundreds of studies in behavioral economics and other social sciences, conducted over the past few decades, have established that people often make choices that take into account the well-being of others. This contradicts an assumption held over centuries that people exclusively pursue their own material wellbeing. It also offers hope for the prospect of developing public goods that will benefit future generations. However, another body of evidence, gathered over the past two or three decades, indicates that people display an array of other tendencies, such as giving excessive weight to current benefits over future ones. These could hamper policies and initiatives aimed at building or sustaining public goods. The message emerging is that sustainable development will require the design of policies and schemes that specifically take advantage of some of our natural tendencies, and mitigate others.

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