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The Lost Genius of Irrationality

The design of better heuristics … seems to be an extraordinary area for improving social behavior.

Rory Sutherland gave a great talk (below) at TEDxOxford, which is well worth your time. Rory explains how some rules work for individuals but not groups, the effect of naming a behavior, the origins of the word designated driver, and the “football illusion.”

Some rules work from the assumption of human agency but once you understand the extent to which our actions are actually influenced by the actions of others it completely falls down. Rory offers the example of a speed camera.

The person in the right hand lane (left hand lane in North America) should at all times go a bit faster than the person in the lane to the left of them. And so what the speed camera does is it tries to encourage everybody to drive at the same speed in both lanes, which is deeply inimitable to us instinctively because everything about us says the right lane must go a bit faster. And there are good reasons for this. If you don’t have a difference in speed between the lanes it’s impossible for people to change lanes when they need to.