Cognitive Habits and Public Health

When people make decisions about health—their own or the public’s—they’re not thinking rationally, and that’s a very good thing.

The standard model of decision-making in economics and elsewhere claims that people have stable preferences and perfect information about the world, and that they rationally choose actions that maximize the match between the world and their preferences.  If people choose a cookie as an afternoon snack over an apple, it’s only because cookies are the best of all possible options.

Of course the world doesn’t work this way.

A huge literature in psychology, sociology, and (at last) economics now recognizes that the rational choice model is bunk.  So what’s the alternative?  Multi-Level Theory is the idea that people have cognitive habits — reliable ways of thinking — that provide easy paths to the best actions for themselves.  But these cognitive habits can be influenced by others, who may or may not have their best interests in mind.  The video below explains multi-level theory in way that may be intuitive.



A video explanation of multi-level theory
Multi-Level Theory explained in under 4 minutes.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *