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Doctors, economist, write prescription for protecting people from themselves
Date:11/27/2007

he authors explain that this is an example of a present-biased preference: the tendency of individuals to place disproportionately greater weight on the costs and benefits of their choices in the present than in the future. The cost of giving up food one enjoys is immediate, while the benefits are realized in the future. Without a mechanism to enforce self-control, a persons resolve often fails.

Another common decision-making bias is the tendency to favor the status quo or default option. This bias explains, for example, why the organ donation rate in the United States is so much lower than in France, where almost everyone is an organ donor: In the United States, a person must sign-up to be an organ donor, but in France, a person is automatically registered as a donor unless they choose to opt out.

These biases can be exploited by making the healthiest choice the one that follows the path of least resistance. For example, fast food restaurants that now offer soda as the default choice with a combo meal can instead make a bottle of water the default option, with soda being a substitution available only on request. A cafeteria line could be arranged so that the healthiest foods appear first, with unhealthy foods requiring the most effort to select. Employers can provide chilled bottles of water within easy access of workers, while placing soda machines in out-of-the-way locations. Vending machines could be installed in workplaces with access codes that an individual must activate to buy snacks or soda on the following day. Present-biased preferences, meanwhile, can be utilized by providing patients with up-front rewards for healthier behavior. Such incentive-based approaches have been found to be effective in areas such as smoking cessation and even abstinence from drugs such as cocaine.

Weve only scratched the surface of potential applications. The possibilities for using decision errors to improve health behaviors and thereby improving the
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Contact: Jonathan Potts
jpotts@andrew.cmu.edu
412-268-6094
Carnegie Mellon University
Source:Eurekalert

Page: 1 2 3

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