Posts Tagged ‘Behavioral economics’

A homeless man conducts a survey

May 4, 2013


Click on Homeless man’s A/B test of generosity based on faith for the result.

Not that this proves anything.

Hat tip to Marginal Revolution.

The psychology of honesty

July 1, 2012

Dan Ariely, professor of behavioral economics at Duke University, wrote an article in the Wall Street Journal about studies he and some other professors did on the subject of honesty.

They found that most people are mostly honest most of the time, but can be tempted to be a little bit dishonest depending on the risks, the rewards and what everybody else is doing.  No surprises there.  What I did find surprising was the following.

We took a group of 450 participants, split them into two groups and set them loose on our usual matrix task.  We asked half of them to recall the Ten Commandments and the other half to recall 10 books that they had read in high school.  Among the group who recalled the 10 books, we saw the typical widespread but moderate cheating.  But in the group that was asked to recall the Ten Commandments, we observed no cheating whatsoever.  We reran the experiment, reminding students of their schools’ honor codes instead of the Ten Commandments, and we got the same result.

We even reran the experiment on a group of self-declared atheists, asking them to swear on a Bible, and got the same no-cheating results yet again.

This experiment has obvious implications for the real world. While ethics lectures and training seem to have little to no effect on people, reminders of morality—right at the point where people are making a decision—appear to have an outsize effect on behavior.

Click on Why People Lie for the whole article.

Why little things mean a lot

March 26, 2011

Click on How advertising creates intangible value for another Rory Sutherland video.

Click on TED for more videos like this and background on the TED lectures.

How advertising creates intangible value

February 19, 2011

In this shrewd and witty talk, British advertising man Rory Sutherland argued that advertising performs a valuable service in influencing people to pay top dollar for products without any particular value that can be measured objectively.

He said that if intangible value increases human happiness, it is just as real as so-called objective value. He went on to say that it is better to generate intangible value through advertising than to try to increase objective value through human labor and consumption of natural resources.

Sutherland presented interesting facts, interesting stories and interesting ideas.  But if I had been present for his talk, I would have asked:  Why do we need advertising agencies to give things intangible value?  Why can’t we add intangible value for ourselves through our own creativity and imagination?

Click on TED for more videos like this.

Hat tip to Ezra Klein.