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April 2, 2012 / compassioninpolitics

How can we solve the most vexing social problems of our time with regards to habit, tragedy of the commons, and the prisoners dilemma?

Short reason?
• We are both rational and emotional.
• We aren’t always good at controlling our emotional desires.
• Cultural and social influences. Unfortunately, we sometimes follow the herd or rationalize our behavior with herd behavior. For instance, there are some interesting correlations regarding groups & the behavior of groups (although my guess is the results might turn of different for behavior that is done in groups versus the behavior which is done typically alone)

How can we change this?
• Change our habits (generally baby steps)
• Change our environments (remove your choice or encourage positive choices)
• Change the incentives (ie rewards)
• Summon the willpower
• Use both type I and type 2 thinking. (say the behavior economists)
• To learn more I would suggest reading one or more of the following: Chip & Dan Heaths book Switch talks about this on the individual level (although does recommend Positive Deviance as a method to deal with it collectively). In a more societal context, the book Nudge by Thayler & Sunstein discusses it.
• My guess is there are other authors who specifically deal with tragedy of the commons issues along with prisoners dilemma situations–particularly in the context of public policy. Nudge in particular seems to provide some initial answers.

Book Resources on Changing Individual and Collective Habits:
• Switch: http://www.heathbrothers.com/
• Nudge: http://nudges.org/
• Positive Deviance: http://www.positivedeviance.org/

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