Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Breaking cognitive barriers to a sustainable future

As humans, our decision-making process is biased towards maintaining the status quo, even if an alternative choice has substantial long-term benefits. This cognitive myopia and present bias, when applied to decisions that affect sustainability, could be threatening our future.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.


  1. 1

    Thaler, R. H. & Sunstein, C. R. Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness (Yale Univ. Press, 2008).

    Google Scholar 

  2. 2

    Weber, E. U. & Johnson, E. J. in Global Cooperation and the Human Factor in International Relations (eds Messner, D . & Weinlich, S. ) 139–154 (Routledge, 2015).

    Google Scholar 

  3. 3

    Meier, S. & Sprenger, C. Am. Econ. J. 2, 193–210 (2010).

    Google Scholar 

  4. 4

    Samuelson, W. & Zeckhauser, R. J. Risk Uncertainty 1, 7–59 (1988).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5

    Johnson, E. J. & Goldstein, D. Science 302, 1338–1339 (2003).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6

    Weber, E. U. et al. Psychol. Sci. 18, 516–523 (2007).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. 7

    Weber, E. U. Climatic Change 77, 103–120 (2006).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. 8

    Atreya, A. & Ferreira, S. Risk Anal. 35, 828–848 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. 9

    Thaler, R. H. & Sunstein, C. R. Am. Econ. Rev. 93, 175–179 (2003).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. 10

    Sunstein, C. R. & Reisch, L. A. Harvard Environ. Law Rev. (2013).

Download references

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Elke U. Weber.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Weber, E. Breaking cognitive barriers to a sustainable future. Nat Hum Behav 1, 0013 (2017).

Download citation

Further reading


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing