Michele Belot – Behavioural Economics and Health Behaviours

Prof. Michele Belot (now at the European University Institute).

The last century has seen a dramatic increase in “lifestyle” diseases, such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer and diabetes. The rapid change we have experienced in modern technologies and availability of food has led to substantial changes in our lifestyle. We spend most of our days indoors, with little exercise and eating food coming from all parts of the world and processed in various ways. These changes have happened fast, and arguably perhaps too fast for us to adapt, such that most developed countries are now facing a major public health crisis. The lecture recorded below in 2014 aims to describe how Behavioural Economics can help design appropriate policy interventions to achieve behavioural change.

Click on the picture to start the video.


Walter Mischel – The Marshmallow Test

Prof. Walter Mischel led the famous Stanford marshmallow experiment in the late 1960s and early 1970s. A child is given a marshmallow and a choice: eat it now or wait and get two later. This simple, elegant and funny test for self-control has sparked decades of discussion. In fact, Mischel found that the ability to delay gratification in this task predicts later success in life. Moreover, in his book The Marshmallow Test: Mastering Self-Control Renowned, Mischel argues that willpower can be learned and shows how to apply it to a variety of endeavors.

Click on the picture to start the video.



Sendhil Mullainathan – Psychology of Scarcity

Prof. Sendhil Mullainathan (Chicago Booth) tries to answer the following questions: why poverty persist? Why do successful people get things done at the last minute?

His research summarized in his book “Scarcity” shows how scarcity creates its own mindset. Understanding this mindset sheds light on our personal problems as well as the broader social problem of poverty and what we can do about it.

Click on the picture to start the video.

Sendhil Mullainathan

Data visualization

Here a list of useful resources on data visualization mainly for economists.

Please note this list is preliminary. I plan to update this list when I will find something useful. Please, let me know if you have additional material and links I should publish here.

1) Data visualization for economists. An interview with Jonathan Schwabish. And here his guide.

Reference: Schwabish, Jonathan A. 2014. “An Economist’s Guide to Visualizing Data.” Journal of Economic Perspectives, 28 (1): 209-34.

2) And here a collection of data visualizations selected by the American Economic Association.

3) Almost everything you wanted to know about making tables and figures.

4) Dos and don’ts on data visualization

Dan Meyer – Be less helpful

In 2010, Dan Meyer, an high school math teacher, presented a TED talk titled “Math class needs a makeover.” In this funny and critical examination of a typical high school math lesson, Dan outlines his atypical teaching technique. Moreover, he claims that we need different textbook where math problems contain far less helpful information to foster a strong grounding in math reasoning. I definitely agree with him. Schools seems to prepare kids to find “the solution” without being able to describe a problem, formulate an hypothesis and develop a plan of actions.

More generally, I think his motto “be less helpful” should guide our profession of teachers, in high school but also in higher education. We tend to provide our students with all the information to pass the exam. In our mind we think we are doing that for our students, but actually we are doing it for ourselves. We want to minimize the time we spend discussing with students and answering their (boring) questions. We want to pass them our knowledge and avoid any confrontation and misunderstanding. Just read my slides! You can find all the answers you need there! But, maybe, like that we are harming our students.

In my own teaching I try to provide a clear map of what they have to achieve during the course but at the same time I let students free to find out their path to knowledge. They are alone, they can get help only from their classmates. I am sue they complain about my teaching style and they may think I am just a lazy and disorganized teacher that does not prepare well his lectures. Of course, this is not true: I invest a lot of time to prepare every single lecture and I reflect constantly how to improve “my show”. During the learning process, lecture by lecture, students develop skills and use them in practice to solve those problems I pose. They work in teams, they re-define the problem, they discuss what they are supposed to do using the material I asked them to read, they draft a possible answer, get some feedbacks and, often, start the process again. Only after experimenting, failing, and struggling, students will acquire those competencies listed in the syllabus.