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Symposium 2015

Virtual Library File - ‘Small Miracles’—Behavioral Insights to Improve Development Policy: The World Development Report 2015

The Challenge

Most human thinking is automatic, not deliberative. It is based on what effortlessly comes to mind. Human thinking is also socially conditioned.  Beliefs about what others are doing and expecting sha ...

Most human thinking is automatic, not deliberative. It is based on what effortlessly comes to mind. Human thinking is also socially conditioned.  Beliefs about what others are doing and expecting shape an individual’s own preferences. And humans don’t face situations as “tabula rasa,” but instead interpret situations against the backdrop of their own understandings shaped by culture and existing social patterns.

Three principles of thinking that are rooted in evidence from across the social and natural sciences have to be considered to develop smart policy recommendations. Human thinking is a dual process—automatic as well as deliberative; it is conditioned by social context and the salience of social identities; and it is shaped by mental models that are socially constructed. The policy implication, following from these principles of thinking, is not limiting the focus on correcting distorted incentives and fixing problems of information (the implication of traditional economic models), but on improving the quality of individuals’ judgement and decisions.