Are any of our decisions truly our own?

As I'm working my way through Nudge and learning about the various ways we are influenced, and can be influenced in our decision making, I can feel myself falling down into one of those feedback-loop rabbit holes: are any of our decisions really our own?

The first section of Nudge is entirely dedication to the irrationality of humans. We are all subject to biases, temptations, and herd mentality. Even having an awareness of our blind spots doesn't necessarily mean that we'll be able to put everything aside and make our choice in a vacuum. The examples used by Thaler and Sunstein are compelling--changes in marketing tactics or the simple re-framing of a question can have huge effects on our final outcome (seriously--some of the studies they cite suggest that a newly phrased question or phrase can have an actionable impact of upwards of 30%).

So, as I tend to do whenever reading decision-making studies, I now have fallen into the familiar spiral of wondering whether it's possible to truly make an independent assessment and choice, or whether we are all doomed to always be influenced by the choice architects and nudges around us. While I'm still at the beginning of Nudge and have quite a ways to go, my intuition is that the true answer is somewhere in between. Of course, we can't just flip a switch and remove ourselves from our current environment, turning into perfect decision making robots (or "Econs" as Thaler/Sunstein have deemed). But that isn't to say we have no agency at all--we are, after all, the ones who must follow through with the actions of our decision, and while we may be nudged in an overall general direction, often I believe our implementations can be entirely unique on a completely individual level. Just in the way that no two lives will ever run the exact same course, I believe both decision making and implementation can have equally unique factors and consequences.

But, full disclosure: I am barely a quarter of the way through the book and will likely have a more nuanced perspective in as short as a week. For I too am malleable and likely to be nudged into a different opinion depending on the information I'm presented with. More updates on this topic to come.   

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