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POST's (the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology - who provide parliament with policy analysis on science and technology issues) most recent POSTnote is called "Delaying Gratification" and is clearly aimed at policy makers and civil servants interested in all things Nudge. The main thrust of its message is that people have a bias towards short-term rewards over longer-term benefits, and opens with a paragraph that says:

POST's (the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology - who provide parliament with policy analysis on science and technology issues) most recent POSTnote is called "Delaying Gratification" and is clearly aimed at policy makers and civil servants interested in all things Nudge. The main thrust of its message is that people have a bias towards short-term rewards over longer-term benefits, and opens with a paragraph that says:

Economic theories assume that people behave rationally and that their preferences will be consistent in time. Research however, suggests that people sacrifice positive long-term outcomes for immediate rewards. While most people would rather receive £100 in 18 months than £50 in 1 year, many opt for £50 today over £100 in 6 months.1 Time-inconsistent preferences are evident in everyday decisions regarding health and finances.

I'll cheerfully admit to not being an economist, but I thought that our in-built preference for rewards in the here and now is pretty standard economics, and the reason that economists generally model goods in the future at a reduced value. As Peter Singer said at the RSA last night, that's one of the reasons that Stern's refusal to do this in his report on the economics of climate change, went against the status quo.

Carry on reading the POSTnote if you like — it goes on to provide implications for policy of this bias in behaviours related to smoking, drug use, pro-environmental behaviour and saving for retirement — but for me it just reinforced my impression that most Nudge-y things simply re-package old knowledge (in this example from standard economics rather than the social sciences) for a new audience.

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