The human animal does find itself in rather an existential sticky-wicket. We, like all life on this earth, are the product of billions of years of evolutionary processes. We are essentially a meat packet (even the vegans amongst us), with our core biology acting as puppet master, and yet we really have the feeling of making active, subjective choices, and perhaps we do. Regardless of one's view on determinism or free will, the world on a day-to-day basis does present itself as one where decisions have to be made. The trick then is to know how to think through our options, with clarity, understanding somewhat of our predilections and biases. Below are curated some thinkers sharing their take on something we'll refer to here as choice architecture.
Thinking about Thinking
Wait But Why
The Thinking Ladder
"Clear self-awareness helps you keep an eye on the Primitive Mind and stay aware of your own cognitive pitfalls—because you know that your brain was designed for survival, not truth, and it’s wise to be wary of your own intuition."
Thinking, Fast and Slow
'The often-used phrase “pay attention” is apt: you dispose of a limited budget of attention that you can allocate to activities, and if you try to go beyond your budget, you will fail. It is the mark of effortful activities that they interfere with each other, which is why it is difficult or impossible to conduct several at once.'
How to Live on Twenty-Four Hours a Day
"You have to live on this twenty-four hours of daily time. Out of it you have to spin health, pleasure, money, content, respect, and the evolution of your immortal soul. Its right use, its most effective use, is a matter of the highest urgency and of the most thrilling actuality."
full essay here
'The Psychology of Human Misjudgment'
by Charlie Munger
The Coin Toss
Steve Levitt, 'Heads or Tails: The Impact of a Coin Toss on Major Life Decisions and Subsequent Happiness'
'Little is known about whether people make good choices when facing important decisions. This paper reports on a large-scale randomized field experiment in which research subjects having difficulty making a decision flipped a coin to help determine their choice. For important decisions (e.g. quitting a job or ending a relationship), those who make a change (regardless of the outcome of the coin toss) report being substantially happier two months and six months later. This correlation, however, need not reflect a causal impact. To assess causality, I use the outcome of a coin toss. Individuals who are told by the coin toss to make a change are much more likely to make a change and are happier six months later than those who were told by the coin to maintain the status quo. The results of this paper suggest that people may be excessively cautious when facing life-changing choices.'
Read on, here
Unconscious Thought Theory
Ap Dijksterhuis and Loran F. Nordgren, 'A Theory of Unconscious Thought'
'Bettman et al. (1998) used a nice metaphor to characterize the development of preferences: ‘‘Consumer preference formation may be more like architecture, building some defensible set of values, rather than like archaeology, uncovering values that are already there’’ (p. 188). Although this metaphor does not per- fectly match our conception of top-down conscious thought and bottom-up unconscious thought, the gist is certainly the same. In these terms, conscious thought is more like an architect, whereas unconscious thought behaves more like an archaeolo- gist. For this principle, we discuss conscious thought and un- conscious thought separately.'
Click on for the full paper