Choice Architecture September 18, 2018
There is a theory put forth by behavioral economics that choice is not something we make but rather based strongly on environmental conditions. It states that what we think of as choices made solely within us, by us are actually shaped, rather strongly, by our environment.
We then, the theory postulates, “make up stories” about why we made those particular decisions. And we are very very good at writing this dialogue, so much so we believe we are the sole author.
These architects are shaping our choices. That said, many behavioral scientists stress that there is no neutral choice architecture and that people maintain autonomy and freedom of choice despite manipulations of choice architecture.
The thoughtful design of choice architecture as a means to improve consumer decision-making by minimizing biases and errors that arise as the result of what is called “bounded rationality” is one of the aims of this model. Bounded rationality is the idea that when individuals make decisions, their rationality is limited by the malleability of the decision problem, the cognitive limitations of their minds, and the time available to make the decision.
I am not a behavioral scientist nor a policy maker, though clearly I understand the need for these disciplines, among others, to put forth a premise that seeks to assist individuals in finding a satisfactory solution rather than an optimal one. Who among us has not stood on the cereal isle and faced “choice overload?” But I disagree with my perceived understanding that we must somehow settle for satisfactory as optimal may not ever present itself. Of course this may be a matter of semantics, I acknowledge that. Still optimal arises in reference to choice availability; not only to what is being presented but to what we are present to as well as our skill at response. Both can be refined, deepened and expanded.
I bristle at the notion that I must be manipulated for my own good. Of course there are those who think this because well, I just don’t know any better, especially about policy making, and those that simply want me to buy their products. Either way, my sense of self is greatly insulted.
What shapes decisions at the deepest level is the question the theory of meditation asks? Not only what shapes our decisions but our very thoughts?
Because we don’t know our own mind as it were, we have a difficult time resisting these outside forces. We can of course restrict and shape our external environment to some extent but not always.
We can do something about our inner environment. Always. This too is a choice. One that will have an impact on all subsequent choices.
The karma mala grips us tight with the false supposition that we are the sole agents of all our actions. But we are not. We can see this on the surface when we speak of those who shape our environment and give subtle psychological cues that effect our response to stimuli. These are very powerful because they go deep. To what we might say is unconscious. Leading then to what may be described as unconscious choice that we convince ourselves was made consciously.
Becoming more conscious then is not just a choice made, though it is that, it is also the opportunity to know who we are and in that knowing, to have some real effect as to what takes shape on the surface.
Going deep in meditation is a profound gift that has an impact on those subtle spaces where thoughts are formed and coalesced in two ways:
It clears debris, the clutter that prevents us from seeing what choice might be present; thus we are less at the mercy of habitual patterns of response.
And in doing so, space is created that permits an increase of light to see more expansively; to allow options to enter, combinations of options, that might otherwise not be seen.
We are not the sole agent, there is a powerful full force we seek to align with; one that fuels our every thought word and deed. Of course there is something for us to do, we must act.
Are we acting from the most expanded highest perspective we can? Are you taking full advantage?
Yoga refines the entire body-mind structure on absolutely every level. Asana, movement to bring strength and flexibility to the mind-body; pranayama to move the breath more deeply and freely and most potently meditation, that permits awareness to go deep behind the structures of what we think of as our cognitive self. In doing so, we render that space of mind and ego ever clear.
Don’t be what Daniel Kahneman terms a “lazy thinker” associating your immediate thought, feeling, reaction to a plausible dialogue; if so you will never get to a level of critical thinking of a clearer, deeper sort. This has ramifications for every single choice we make including personal and political.
Whose choice is it anyway?