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Behavioural economics.

On trying to understand why we are so difficult to understand.

I’ve been enjoying reading and interacting with some of Dan Ariely‘s work. Ariely is a professor at Duke University, and author of Predictably Irrational.

Traditional economics looks to identify trends from which (rational) consumer behaviour can be predicted. Behavioural economics, which includes the science of cognitive psychology, seeks to identify trends based on our often irrational behaviour when it comes to making value judgments and decisions. Perhaps behavioural economics is more realistic in the way it deals with imperfect and illogical human beings. Hence the thought-provoking title of the book.

I suspect that behavioural economics is especially important at times like ours, where new technology disrupts and even shakes the foundations of traditional economics, as markets, business models, distribution channels, ideas of production and consumption, and consumer behaviour, all change and morph as we progress through the information revolution.

As I think about the people I meet, work and interact with on a regular basis, their experience of and engagement with new technology sits somewhere on an incredibly broad spectrum. Surely this has to make traditional models of economics difficult to work with, when society finds itself so fragmented in its experience of the technology that is shaping it beyond what would have been recognisable only 10-20 years ago.

And so I think behavioural economics has a lot to offer in helping us understand human behaviour; when all around us traditional models are challenged, what can we understand about underlying motivations to help us shape the environment is such a way as to meet the various needs of those around us, and develop technology appropriately, as a means to serve.

All the more reason to continue dipping my toe into issues of sociology and cognitive psychology, and bringing the bible to bear on what is revealed to be eternally true about human nature.

Side thought: does traditional science look for order and logic, where psychology looks to understand disorder and imperfection (realism)?

Changing education paradigms.

As I continue to ponder how the university environment is likely to change in the next 5-10 years, in response to the wider changes in technology and culture, I found this video on changing education paradigms incredibly helpful. It takes a look at how we arrived at the education system we have in place today, and asks some interesting questions as it considers some of the flaws of this model. And as a learning tool, I also appreciate the visual interest and creativity given in the way the talk has been animated. Much food for thought.