My Philosophy

Apr 29, 2024

At the heart of all my intellectual pursuits is a singular question: How can we help people achieve their values, especially when they are uncertain about what they value, how to achieve those values, or how to find motivation?

This question drew me to Behavioral Economics with its focus on behavior change and rationality.  I learned how to utilize those principles to improve decision-making, and change behavior. But over the years I've grown uncomfortable with this framework. It has increasingly seemed too simple to address the nuanced complexity of human behavior and rationality. In particular, I have grappled with three main issues: the oversimplification of rationality as merely avoiding "cognitive biases," the inadequacy of "nudging" as a standalone method for real behavioral change, and the challenge posed by human variance and context sensitivity, which constantly undermines the grab-bag list of of "effects" that defines the field.

In response to these challenges, I have embraced Naturalistic Decision-Making (NDM) which is the field of human expertise. In other words, rather than studying the errors of undergrads in a lab, NDM studies humans who are the top of their field to better understand how they make decisions. By studying NDM and related ideas, I have come to understand a better way to think about these three issues. 

  1. Rationality is the art of framing problems into small tractable worlds, and so is primarily about expert sense-making rather than decision-making. 1 2

  2. Behavior Change is about transforming behavioral problems into tractable strategies, and so we need to understand it in the same way we understand expert sense-making in other domains. 3 4

  3. Human variance and context sensitivity are infinite, and thus will constantly undermine psychology, leading to a perpetual generalization crisis. We need a better paradigm for understanding psychological phenomena. 5 6

Almost everything I write and think about relates back to these issues in one way or another, and it also defines my approach to my work. I want to help clients make sense of their target audience so they can create strategies and training that help them to actualize their values. I believe that by deeply understanding humans in context, including their strengths and weaknesses, difficult problems become tractable. In other words, humans are not hopeless, helpless, or totally irrational. By understanding human potential, the "wicked" problems of human behavior can be transformed into actionable strategies.

If you are interested in collaborating in a professional or academic capacity, please reach out. I would love to collaborate. 

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