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Long-Term Decision-Making: Biological and Psychological Evidence


  • Thomas Princen

    (Thomas Princen is the author of The Logic of Sufficiency (2005) and lead editor of Confronting Consumption (2002), both awarded the International Studies Association's Harold and Margaret Sprout Award for the "best book in the study of international environmental problems." His work explores issues of social and ecological sustainability with a primary focus on the drivers of overconsumption and the conditions for restrained resource use. He is an Associate Professor of Natural Resources & Environmental Policy, School of Natural Resources and Environment, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.)


A central conundrum in the need to infuse a long-term perspective into climate policy and other environmental decision-making is the widespread belief that humans are inherently short-term thinkers. An analysis of human decision-making informed by evolved adaptations-biological, psychological and cultural-suggests that humans actually have a long-term thinking capacity. In fact, the human time horizon encompasses both the immediate and the future (near and far term). And yet this very temporal duality makes people susceptible to manipulation; it carries its own politics, a politics of the short term. A "legacy politics" would extend the prevailing time horizon by identifying structural factors that build on evolved biological and cultural factors. (c) 2009 by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Suggested Citation

  • Thomas Princen, 2009. "Long-Term Decision-Making: Biological and Psychological Evidence," Global Environmental Politics, MIT Press, vol. 9(3), pages 9-19, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:tpr:glenvp:v:9:y:2009:i:3:p:9-19

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    Cited by:

    1. Tom Barnett & Michael James Bowes & Jerry White & Anwar Zaib, 2017. "Long-term Thinking in Organizations," Vision, , vol. 21(2), pages 109-128, June.

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