behavioral economics fast thinking

One of the keys to wellness is how we frame our messages about health. That’s because many of our lifestyle choices are dictated by the “fast thinking” part of our brain.

In his book “Thinking, Fast and Slow,” psychologist Daniel Kahneman suggests that two separate cognitive systems control our judgment and choices. He describes them as fast and slow thinking. Fast thinking tends to be automatic, emotional and impulsive. Slow thinking is more considered, deliberate and rational.

Advertisers know which part of our brain to target – that’s why they’ve been winning our hearts, minds and stomachs for years. The colorful campaigns and cartoon characters synonymous with fast food chains and breakfast cereals are everyday examples of how the food industry adeptly targets fast thinking.

On the other hand, public health organizations typically appeal to slow thinking. Look no further than the back of the cereal box to the black and white label densely packed with nutritional information and warnings. There’s a vast expanse of squinting, reading and understanding of tiny print between making a healthy decision or not.

The framing of health messages can have a significant impact on people’s lifestyle choices. With millions of people managing lifestyle-related illnesses like obesity, diabetes and heart disease, it’s time to take a serious look at what we can do to help make messages about health resonate more strongly.

Fortunately, many employers are taking steps to address this need with workplace wellness programs. These initiatives not only demonstrate their commitment to the health of their employees but also contribute to a more productive workplace – reducing the types of stress that can cause unhealthy behaviors and lead to absenteeism and presenteeism.

To give these efforts a boost, workforce messages about diet, physical activity and wellness should be framed around fun, teamwork, and personal achievement. And taking a cue from the ad industry, we could also stand to introduce some more humor, energy, games and instant rewards to target fast thinking with wellness programs.

If you’re considering how you can give your team’s wellness a shot in the arm, don’t dwell on it too long – think fast.

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