Irrational

Laurie Santos looks at evolution by looking at how primates view the world. Now remember these are not our direct ancestors, but a proxy.

Often her work is asking the question, are these other primates as smart as us? For example, primates can count. They also know some simple Newtonian physics.

She's interested not only in how smart we are, but also the downsides of our abilities. Why are we irrational? Can we see seeds of our own economic biases in primates?

We're all walking around with a set of biases, per Daniel Kahneman. For example, we set different reference points - we frame decisions based on how we start; and loss aversion - the pain of loss outweighs the pleasure of gain. These biases are everywhere. 

So she tested monkeys to see if they exhibit some of the same biases that humans do. Turns out that monkeys play it safe like humans and avoid loss, too. Monkeys are often as irrational as we are, but they didn't fall for the pricing effect (when for example people say they like a wine that is more expensive). Monkeys do understand price - they respond to sales. But in her experiments they selected expensive versus cheap food at random. 

What more we can take from this remains to be seen. 

In the meantime, can we change these biases? It's difficult to shut off our intuitions. But Santos and the research shows that setting up different kinds of situations that protect us from ourselves do seem to work - these are nudges. To battle your biases you need to set up your environment to counter-act them.