Up with the Wealth Gap!

The tax cut locked in a 21.5% increase in the value of U.S. stocks, the majority of which are owned by the wealthiest 2% of U.S. households. Do Americans get it?

2018 Predictions: Best if We Don't Count on Them

Empowering ordinary Americans in 2018 requires fighting overconfidence.

Born Good?

Economists, taking altruism seriously, find mixed evidence parents model it for their young children, stronger evidence that young kids are impressionable in this domain.
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Globalization and Work: Have We Learned Anything Yet?

Free trade raises GDP but has its losers as well as its winners. It’s time to exchange the “winners could compensate losers” slogan for a “winners must compensate losers” policy.

The Behavioral Side of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance

The tendency to engage in "mental accounting" can help government to target assistance where it is intended.

Views of Luck Tied to Political Orientation

Have you earned the gains you obtained by lucky choices? Do the unlucky deserve our help? Your answers might predict your politics.

A Post-Racial America?

America in 2016 offers a sign post on the path from thousands of years of separation through centuries of conflict and exploitation towards a hopeful human family reunion.

The Political Gender Gap: Do Women Care More About Fairness?

One reason women tend to prefer candidates who seem more committed to economic equality and a strong social safety net may be that women are less overconfident about the future.

Breaking the S Barrier in New Hampshire

The Great Depression brought FDR and the New Deal. Now, the Great Recession seems to have allowed the word "socialism" to come in from the cold in American politics.
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Money and Happiness

Happiness research by economists offers interesting insight, but no final resolution, to the problem of the hedonic treadmill.

Cooperation and the public good

Social scientists differ about the relative virtues of top-down verses peer-to-peer actions to secure public goods like clean water and air and safe foods and pharmaceuticals. Recent decision experiments suggest that in modern societies, both dimensions are necessary, and that they’re complementary to each other.

Does the Impulse to Gossip Have a Silver Lining for Markets?

The urge to let others know when you've been taken advantage of, and instinctively knowing that almost all of us have it, may play a big role in helping markets to function well--most recently including ones relying on online reviews such as eBay, airbnb, and trip advisor. I describe a novel laboratory experiment that demonstrates the tendency to tell in its purest form.

Evil Geniuses Need Not Apply

Novel research demonstrates that being a team player can not only be nice, it can also be smart.

Our Children's Children's Children*

On top of old worries about whether humankind will survive the next few centuries come new concerns about whether our descendants will even be human in a sense that we would recognize. The centuries ahead could be very interesting, indeed.

Democracy and the Pro-social Impulse

Governments answerable to the people can exist only due to the fact that we’re emotional, social creatures, not isolated, rational, strictly selfish individuals. A better appreciation of human nature can help us secure a democratic future.
Genes, Choice, and Human Aspiration

Genes, Choice, and Human Aspiration

To have aspirations as a society makes no sense at all if we’re each slaves to our genetic dispositions and if whatever goals human beings can individually and collectively have are nothing but reflections of the goals of our genes. But an intellectually rigorous, evolutionarily-informed view of human nature and behavior by no means implies this.

Global Environmental Dilemma as a Problem of Fairness

A clever decision experiment suggests that most people care about fairness towards those who’ll follow after us, but shows that depending on what institutions are in place, most people may not be enough.

Genes, Race and IQ again—Oh My!

Are we mature enough to discuss genes, race or ethnicity, and intelligence scientifically? Testing the boundaries of the acceptable merely to sell books makes Troublesome Inheritance an inauspicious start.

Eye of the Needle

"Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God." So, is dislike of inequality built into the human psyche? Maybe so, but with an awful lot of wiggle room.

God, Good and Primates

The human thirst for meaning is unquenchable. I tell the one about the primatologist, the bonobo and the atheist who walk into a blog.

Reputation Building and Fresh Starts

In experiments in which participants play a series of games with choice of partners, then start a new series with clean reputation, we asked: What lessons do people take from experience? We found the answer to sometimes be: cooperating pays. Understanding how trusting and cooperative orientations are nurtured may one day help us to build healthier societies.

Starting Over

Being nice pays off in the experimental decision lab (and at least sometimes, in life) when a good reputation means other nice types want you in their group. But opportunists always "defect" on the last round of play. We study what lessons people draw from such finitely repeated games by seeing what happens when they get to start over.

Not Smart Enough to Be Rich?

Have you picked up some of the chatter on international intelligence? No, I'm not talking about classified intelligence leaks here, but something you might find even more troubling. Why are average IQs lower in poorer countries?

Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due

Could boosting trust help millions in the developing world to escape poverty? How a new experiment seeks answers.

Drugs, Trust, and Government

Why do people trust entities like the FDA any more than they trust drug companies to self-police? The answer may be that it takes only a few good eggs, and we trust that our society has some.

Animal Spirits

The book by the Berkeley Nobel Prize winner and behavioral economics pioneer George Akerlof, and by noted Yale economist Robert Schiller, makes the case that understanding and responding properly to the economy’s ups and downs is impossible without considering human psychology.

Democracy and Virtue

The father of the U.S. Constitution believed that checks and balances alone would not suffice to secure the kind government required by a free society, and that at least some virtue in the citizenry is also needed. Can we find such virtue amongst us?

Economy Today: It’s Half in the Mind, You Know

An alien observer of our economy who could count up only tangibles such as the contents of our supermarkets and big-box stores would be missing at least half of the story, because at least half of what determines how well we meet even our most material of needs exists in the software of human minds

Lies and Damned Lies: Why Is Anyone Ever Trusted?

If talk were too cheap, every message would be babble. Even attempts to deceive would be inexplicable unless some statements can be given credence. Experimental evidence suggests that there's a default bias toward relatively truthful utterances, and that the ability and inclination to punish deception may well have helped this bias--and hence language itself--to evolve.

Lack of Trust A Harbinger of Social Breakdown?

Some recent trends bespeak the untrusting attitudes common in poor societies with badly functioning institutions.