For the critical thinking question: Why can’t we think long term? Well, we can of course, but short-term thinking is much more common and seems to have more influence in our behavior. People would not do things that have a long-term negative effect if we could be more rational. As your book notes, various chemicals in the brain signal pleasure, or in some cases, displeasure. For instance, the pleasure of a donut is countered in part by the displeasure of spending the money. For short-term things like the donut, it is sometimes the case that the pleasure of the donut exceeds the displeasure of spending the money and we buy the donut. In the instance of long-term thinking VS. short-term, the pleasure of spending money now, outweighs the long-term pleasure of saving it. There is a chemical, and therefore brain response, that backs up the difficulty of thinking long term. Still, we can force ourselves to do so by rational thinking that objectively reviews the cost/reward of our actions and making a rational decision to think long term. By the time I was 20, I knew the importance of saving for my future, but it actually took until I was 40 for me to overcome the short-term thinking and actually do it seriously. Simply reply to this post.
This is true and there are many more examples. For instance, it is generally harder for children to focus on their studies as compared to spending time on their smartphones or playing or chatting with their friends. It is harder for adults to exercise regularly as compared to digging into delicious food.
Given that rational thought and calculations are the only means for people to prefer long term over short term, the mechanism of incentives and disincentives works so well in real life. Take savings for instance: People will save more (long term) as opposed to spend today (short term) if the rate of interest on bank deposits or investment is higher. Insurance companies encourage healthier lifestyle by charging lower premium to non-smokers vs smokers and the list goes on.
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