Brett Whysel – work-in-progress

In my Managerial Decision-Making course I have some readings from Scarcity, by Sendhil Mullainathan, and a mini-lecture. In brief, intense/chronic scarcity can impair decision-making by making us more myopic and obsessed over that which is scarce. This can reduce planning, strategic, and empathetic thinking. Scarcity can apply to money, calories, social connection, and more.

I have found that students may watch my short video lecture (or not) but focus not on the cognitive effects of scarcity, but on the issue of scarcity itself. Instead of questioning how scarcity can challenge their decision-making and what they can do about that, they focus on the easier question of how to make a decision when there is not a lot of money on hand.

I am hoping that a creative work (“X”), such as a poem, short-story, comic/manga, anime, movie clip, artwork, excerpt from literature, song, music video, etc. might engage students better with the topic so they can understand it. Perhaps when a fictional character faces scarcity, the topic will not feel so personal and we can avoid the contradiction of the student as subject and object.

Here’s a rough draft of an assignment that I hope students will find relevant and engaging:


  • 1.   Explain the cognitive effects of scarcity (poverty) (& racism)
  • 2.   Diagnose decision-making challenges resulting from scarcity
  • 3.   Apply appropriate tools and techniques to improve decision-making under scarcity and uncertainty
  • 4.   Use the provided creative work (or the students’ lived experience?) to achieve the above


  • 1.   Read X
  • 2.   Identify evidence of tunneling, focus dividend, bandwidth tax, liquidity trap, and resulting decision-making errors.
  • 3.   Offer advice for preventing such errors (or explain how the character did)

Status: I am working with a BMCC library to identify an appropriate X.

Request: Please share any ideas for X




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