Class 20 (03/26/2018): Decision-Making: Human Nature and Facing Threats

Class slides


Decisions made by humans are normally based on incomplete knowledge and impacted by assumptions, biases, and preferences. Cognitive biases are part of human nature and the degree to which these biases impact decisions from individual to global levels depend on the past experience of an individual, the community and cultural preferences, and the value systems accepted by individuals and communities. Being aware of the impact of biases on decisions is of fundamental importance for the discussion of threats, mitigation, and adaptation. Humans seldom make decisions based on rational considerations. In fact, most decisions are based on what Kahneman (2011) calls "fats thinking."

The way how threats are encountered and risks are managed, understood, ignored in different cultures and how natural laws are integrated in risk assessments depends on the cultural biases, the preception of reality, and the social, economic and ethical rules accepted by the community. It also depends on how these threads and risks are related and competeing with the core values of the community. Environmental risks resulting from the fact that we have crossed global boundaries, have changed land use and eliminated a large part of the wildlife are competing with the goals of material wellbeing that is central to modern civilization.

Reading List

Cognitive biases

Lee and Lebowitz, 2015.

Kahneman et al., 2011.

Rosenzweig, 2016.

Kahneman, 2011.

Stattford, 2016.

Kolbert, 2017.

View: “How Not to Be Ignorant About the World” by Hans and Ola Rosling


Kirchhoff et al., 2013.

Berger et al., 2011.

Casti, 2012.

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