Dan Ariely – Behavioral Economics and Health

Prof. Dan Ariely (Duke) says: “In the future we are all wonderful people. In reality we are always tempted to misbehave. Temptations are the biggest barriers to health and are in fact killing us.” Ariely explains that goals and objectives don’t matter much: “Being motivated by long-term outcomes that fluctuate over time is not part of the human system. Let’s focus on the small details. Shift the focus from outcome to action.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Sendhil Mullainathan

Jean Tirole – Narratives, Imperatives and Moral Reasoning

In the video below, Prof. Jean Tirole (Toulouse), presents his new working paper Narratives, Imperatives and Moral Reasoning“, a joint work with Roland Bénabou and Armin Falk. This talk was given at the annual SIOE conference in Montreal in June 2018.

Abstract: By downplaying externalities, magnifying the cost of moral behavior, or suggesting not being pivotal, exculpatory narratives can allow individuals to maintain a positive image when in fact acting in a morally questionable way. Conversely, responsibilizing narratives can help sustain better social norms. We investigate when narratives emerge from a principal or the actor himself, how they are interpreted and transmitted by others, and when they spread virally. We then turn to how narratives compete with imperatives (general moral rules or precepts) as alternative modes of communication to persuade agents to behave in desirable ways.

A copy of their paper is available here.

Jean Tirole

Shachar Kariv – Equality vs. Efficiency

Prof. Shachar Kariv (Berkeley) gave a interesting talk at the Science of Sharing Forum on June 6, 2015. In his talk he answers one of the most fundamental question we can ask to ourselves: what is more important, equality or efficiency?

If you want to know more you can read his paper Distributional Preferences and Political Behavior, a joint work with Ray Fisman and Pam Jakiela. The paper has been published in the Journal of Public Economics (2017, Vol. 155, pp. 1-10).

Abstract: We document the relationship between distributional preferences and voting decisions in a large and diverse sample of Americans. Using a generalized dictator game, we generate individual-level measures of fair-mindedness (weight on oneself versus others) and equality-efficiency tradeoffs. Subjects’ equality-efficiency tradeoffs predict their political decisions: equality-focused subjects are more likely to have voted for Barack Obama in 2012, and to be affiliated with the Democratic Party. Our findings shed light on how American voters are motivated by their distributional preferences.