Essential Reads

The Winner's Curse

Some Behavioural Economics of Bidding and Information

Why It's Time to Change How You Divide Your Time

It's not about balance. It's about doing what matters most.

What Your Financial Health Says About Your Mental Health

Studies show your debt could cost you more than just interest.

Recent Posts on Behavioral Economics

Really? Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way?

The old English proverb asserts itself with complete assurance: “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” Like many time-worn sayings, this claim that mind always rules over matter rings true only some of the time. Sometimes we don’t have the will; sometimes we lose our way. What should we do then?

Denying Jobs to Smokers is Bad Policy

By Peter A. Ubel on September 16, 2013 in Scientocracy
As much as I like the idea of incentivizing people to kick the habit, denying jobs to qualified people because they smoke is not an appropriate intervention.

Getting a Bargain: A Double-Edged Sword for Enjoyment

By Alain Samson Ph.D. on September 13, 2013 in Consumed
Buy now, enjoy later? Not so much when it comes to discounted products.

How Many People Have Money Saved for a Rainy Day?

By Ryan T. Howell Ph.D. on September 07, 2013 in Can't Buy Happiness?
A few years ago I read a story in CNN Money (Most Americans can't afford a $1,000 emergency expense) that reported over 60% of Americans did not have enough money in their savings or checking accounts to pay for a $1,000 emergency. I was shocked. Is it possible that only 36% of US adults have $1,000 in a savings account saved up for a rainy day? Well, maybe not.

Why Do Materialists Worry About Their Finances?

By Ryan T. Howell Ph.D. on September 01, 2013 in Can't Buy Happiness?
A few weeks I wrote about how a lack of money management predicts individuals' compulsive spending, regardless of their personality, gender, age, and income. These results were based on a study published in the Journal of Economic Psychology. In this blog entry I answer a few follow-up questions.

The evolved wisdom behind our seemingly stupid decisions

Amos Tversky, a prominent psychologist and founding father of modern behavioral economics, said: “My colleagues, they study artificial intelligence; me, I study natural stupidity.” But here’s why Tversky and the behavioral economists got it wrong!

What Can Be Done to Help With Compulsive Spending Habits?

We asked about their materialistic values, addictive shopping behavior, and motivations behind their purchases with widely-used questionnaires in order to explore the relationship between these three things. We learned that individuals who value material possessions are more likely to shop compulsively because they don't manage their credit well.

The Billionaire’s Brain: Do You Have One?

I’m convinced that one secret of Warren Buffett’s enduring popularity is his “everyman-ness.” While “The Oracle” is insanely wealthy, he is also grounded and approachable which makes replicating what he has done seem almost doable for regular schlubs like you or I. Buffett famously said of intelligence and investment success, "You don't need to be a rocket scientist."

Why Do Shopping Addicts Keep Spending Their Money?

So, why do shopping addicts, or compulsive buyers, keep spending their money even in the face of harmful financial, emotional, and social consequences? Compulsive shoppers tend to be people who bury their head in the sand and ignore credit card bills, as we we found that these individuals keep on buying because they are looking for that "buy high."

Are You a Happy Shopper?

People who spent most of their disposable income on experiences scored highly on the “extravert” and “openness to new experience” scales.

Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due

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

What Really Inspires a Woman to Go Shopping?

When women perceive there to be competition for mating opportunities, they sexy up their wardrobe. Something as seemingly unrelated as the state of the economy may lead women to perceive that the pool of available, attractive men is smaller, and thus, the competition for those mates stronger.

The Briefcase Rule: Decisions Under Stress

Lack of self-control can make you sacrifice more, not less, for those close to you, according to a new study. This is helpful insight if you’re one of those harried folks who finds themselves always doing too much for others. Try using “The Briefcase Rule” to help avoid decision-making when self-control wanes.

Under/Overconfidence: It’s All About the Mindset

By Alain Samson Ph.D. on June 25, 2013 in Consumed
A change in mindset can turn underconfident women into realists and overconfident men into the über-confident.

Trust in Children

In this post we will tell you whether interpersonal trust increases of decreases during childhood.

Is Behavioral Economics the Death of Living Wills?

By Peter A. Ubel on June 21, 2013 in Critical Decisions
What does behavioral economics teach us about the role of living wills in medical care?

Decision and Illusion

Is making bad decisions like falling prey to a visual illusion? Prominent decision scientists see it that way, but their vision may be blurry.

Whistle-Blowers and the Ellsberg Paradox

Even if he had never leaked the ‘Pentagon Papers’, Daniel Ellsberg would still be famous – though much less so. In the news this week defending Edward Snowden for leaking classified NSA surveillance programs, Ellsberg is also the inventor of the Ellsberg Paradox...

The College Grad Comes Home

By Susan Newman Ph.D. on June 05, 2013 in Singletons
As your college grad settles in, consider the ways you can make living together again smooth sailing for all. Here, suggestions to avoid potential glitches and irksome problems.

Useful Tips for Buying Your Teen's First Car

Buying the right car for your teenager can prove to be a challenge. A lot of parents out there think it’s just about picking one and going with it. However, your teenager obviously doesn’t think like you.

Here are 7 apps for a happier life.

Think apps can't make you happy? Think again. Apps can do just about anything while you wait in line at the post office, from letting you play games to updating your expense records. Specifically, using financial apps allow you to be happier because you know how much money is coming in, and how much (and where) it's going out.

What Is the Best Way to Spend $100?

Separate studies run by, a project by San Francisco State University, and yielded the same list of desirable experiential purchases: traveling, dining and concerts are the most popular experiential purchases.

If You're Happy and You Know It Check Your Text

Using mobile technology is now a part of psychological research and you can use it to improve your happiness through improved spending choices—that is, unless you are already depressed.

Want A Deep Spiritual Path? Try Economics.

By Jeremy E Sherman Ph.D. on May 16, 2013 in Ambigamy
Economics as a science aims to be the value-neutral study of how value happens. Since all living things express values, economics is fundamental to all of the life and social sciences. Some say economics can't speak to transcendent values like love and spirituality. Here's an argument than it can--more honestly, humbly and wisely than other spiritual practices do.

A Professor Walks Into a MOOC…

By Peter McGraw Ph.D. on May 15, 2013 in The Humor Code
How funny is Dan Ariely?

Your Ethical Mindset

By Art Markman Ph.D. on May 14, 2013 in Ulterior Motives
People’s ethical behavior is complicated. Sometimes, we act consistently. Other times, we do not. What factors drive us to maintain consistency in our ethical behavior?

Senza Piombo

Having gassed up with unleaded (senza piombo), I arrived in Bergamo to teach psychology. This post begins with a Neo-Freudian view on shame and blame and ends with notes from the road.

E = "Education and Ecstasy"

This article examines recent developments in brain science, such as neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) and brain plasticity in the context of emerging social media. It highlights the importance of theories in media psychology. The auther asserts the need for new graduate programs in media studies and media psychology.

Why Every “P” Needs a Few Good “J”s

By Paul J. Zak on May 03, 2013 in The Moral Molecule
We all have different cognitive styles, and designing a cognitively diverse team can help facilitate success. Every P needs a few good J’s.

Do You Have the Strength to Lead?

Being a leader takes strength -- not physical strength, but inner strength. Here is a way to assess leader strength. It involves understanding leader character.