Essential Reads

How the Ownership of Something Increases Our Valuations

The psychological biases underlying why we hate to lose

Why Do We Misjudge Others

Projecting one’s own motives to others

A Crash Course on Gender Differences - Session 7

Men seek Younger, Physically Attractive; Women seek Professionally Successful

My Dad's Silly, Simple, Crazy Way to Make Decisions

How my mom's death revealed the genius in my dad's decision-making

Recent Posts on Behavioral Economics

Feeling Lucky Today?

By Alain Samson Ph.D. on April 02, 2013 in Consumed
We all know that gambling is irrational – that's also why lotteries appear to be recession-proof. Here's a roundup of cognitive biases in lottery gambling. Take your pick!

What Bracketology Teaches Us About Banking

By Peter A. Ubel on March 26, 2013 in Scientocracy
Would you want your hard earned money invested with someone who's performed the financial equivalent of picking Lehigh over Duke?

The Costs and Benefits of “Living for Now”

Research done by BeyondThePurchase.org finds that present-oriented people are extraverted, they experience positive emotions as well as value stimulation. However, they also less financially clear and less likely to save money.

The First International Day of Happiness

On this first International Day of Happiness, let us reinforce our commitment to inclusive and sustainable human development and renew our pledge to help others. When we contribute to the common good, we ourselves are enriched. Compassion promotes happiness and will help build the future we want.

How can I get Rich? Your Response to Financial Trouble

When “primed” with (reminded, made to think about) threats to their financial well-being, people who were poorer as children were more likely to respond by making more impulsive, riskier choices than usual, whereas people from more secure backgrounds did the opposite.

Materialists Not Happier When Purchasing Life Experiences

Materialistic people are found to purchase life experiences for extrinsic reasons, thereby reducing the happiness they might gain from experiential purchasing.

Sunshine on My Portfolio Makes Me Happy

In many respects, the high-flyers on the trading floors throughout the world are just like the rest of us. Sometimes they are happy. Sometimes they are not. Researchers want to understand if traders’ happiness affects how they and the market perform. Two researchers, David Hirshliefer and Tyler Shumway, undertook an extensive study to try to answer this question.

Where to Invest? The Perils of Hot Stock Tips

Hearing about others’ success tends to make us overconfident. It is a general human bias to attribute other people’s success to luck and our own to skill. In the case of investing, this may lead many people to think, If she can do it, I can certainly do it. And since you were probably just getting part of the story, your confidence is doubly unjustified.

Why Some People Can't Stop Bragging

By Susan Newman Ph.D. on March 05, 2013 in Singletons
Science helps to explain why we brag so much. Or, is it just human nature to brag about ourselves or our children?

As Seen On TV: Or, How I Ended Up With the Slap Chop

We tend to model our behavior after people we know, and this extends to the realm of consumer decision-making. We trust our peers’ (even if they are just Yelp peers) recommendations, and tend to spend money on the same things our friends do. However, it seems that we get only a skewed view of other consumers’ experience. We are probably not hearing about the fails.

Why Be Spiritual? Five Benefits of Spirituality

By Ryan T. Howell Ph.D. on February 27, 2013 in Can't Buy Happiness?
In a recent study we conducted in my lab, using the data we collected on BeyondThePurchase.org, we investigated the personal and societal benefits of spiritualism by examining participants' responses to over 30 surveys. Here are the top five positive characteristics of spiritual people.

Can I Make Myself Happier?

By Neil Farber M.D, Ph.D. on February 24, 2013 in The Blame Game
The benefits of positivity are well-known. We're told "When life hands you lemons, make lemonade." Can anyone do that? What if I'm wired to be pessimistic? Is Happy a choice?

The Top 5 Reasons Spending Less Will Make You Happier

By Ryan T. Howell Ph.D. on February 21, 2013 in Can't Buy Happiness?
There are distinct differences between tightwads, those who have trouble spending money, and spendthrifts, those who have trouble not spending money. Using the data we collected on BeyondThePurchase.org, we find there are five advantages to being a tightwad.

Life's an Experience: Consuming Memories Leads to Happiness

By Ryan T. Howell Ph.D. on February 12, 2013 in Can't Buy Happiness?
People who prefer to buy life experiences report a number of positive mental health outcomes, including greater empathy, more engagement with nature, decreased anxiety, and less personal distress. Also, people who buy life experiences for intrinsic reasons reported greater psychological need satisfaction than those who buy life experiences for extrinsic reasons.

No Romance, No Marriage, Just a Baby, Please

By Susan Newman Ph.D. on February 11, 2013 in Singletons
They hardly know each other, they may or may not end up living together, but he and she want a biological baby. These newly formed baby-making partnerships will be questioned, but there is logic to them.

How Do I Find a Babysitter? A Behavioral Economics Lesson

By Ryan T. Howell Ph.D. on February 07, 2013 in Can't Buy Happiness?
You’re looking for a trustworthy sitter for your young child. Your friend gives you the following descriptions. Sitter One is described as intelligent, industrious, impulsive, critical, stubborn, and envious. Sitter Two is described as envious, stubborn, critical, impulsive, industrious and intelligent. So, proud mama or papa – which do you choose?

Living with Parents: Stunted Development or Opportunity?

By Susan Newman Ph.D. on January 30, 2013 in Singletons
Are young adults living at home prolonging adolescence or building stronger bonds?

In for a Penny

By Alain Samson Ph.D. on January 29, 2013 in Consumed
The effect of competition on prices in online auctions.

Can Money Buy Happiness? Money and Need Satisfaction

By Ryan T. Howell Ph.D. on January 27, 2013 in Can't Buy Happiness?
If materialistic pursuits, those that are embodied by the American Dream, are not making people happier, then are the hours we spend pursuing better careers, nicer homes, and faster cars, in vain? We believe the problem is that people are simply spending their money on the wrong things (literally).

Why You'll Never Be Able to Keep Up With the Joneses

By Ryan T. Howell Ph.D. on January 13, 2013 in Can't Buy Happiness?
Given our tendency to compare our own incomes with what others have, we only feel better off if we move up relative to those with whom we compare ourselves. Thought of in this comparative light, wealth creation becomes a contest where your gains are tantamount to my losses and vice versa.

Biological Markets: Why Money Only Sometimes Buys Love

It’s un-American to even bring it up, but in the biological marketplace, money matters. But sometimes that’s more true than others. Why?

Resolution For the New Year: Focus On the Future

By Ryan T. Howell Ph.D. on January 03, 2013 in Can't Buy Happiness?
What should be on your resolutions for the New Year? How about focusing on the future. A new research suggests that people’s perception of time influences their financial and emotional well-being, as well as the kinds of purchases they choose to make.

Life History Explains Our Responses to Financial Recessions

By Ryan T. Howell Ph.D. on December 28, 2012 in Can't Buy Happiness?
Whether measured by asking about childhood income or by measuring oxidative stress, childhood stress is related to spending rather than saving when faced with financial threats as an adult.

Holiday Gift Giving Tip 2012: Give Experiential Gifts

By Ryan T. Howell Ph.D. on December 20, 2012 in Can't Buy Happiness?
If you’re struggling to think of what to gift this holiday, consider tickets to the theatre, gift certificates for the movies or a favorite restaurant, a membership at their favorite museum, or lift tickets at a ski resort. Your gift may bring you closer to the most important people you love, help them build new memories, and give them good stories to tell later.

Purchasing Experiences Can Produce Emotional Benefits

By Ryan T. Howell Ph.D. on December 18, 2012 in Can't Buy Happiness?
In three experiments, Rudd, Vohs, and Aaker showed that individuals who experience awe, are less impatient, feel they have more time available, prefer experiences over material items, volunteer their time to help other people, and experience higher overall life satisfaction.

People Who Spend Freely Do Not Spend Wisely

By Ryan T. Howell Ph.D. on December 16, 2012 in Can't Buy Happiness?
Those who feel too little pain of paying are called ‘spendthrifts’ while those who feel too much pain of paying are referred to as ‘tightwads’. However, people who feel anxious when spending money (tightwads) may actually be happier than those who do not feel negative emotions (spendthrifts) when making a purchase.

When Positivity Prevails

By Alain Samson Ph.D. on December 15, 2012 in Consumed
Favorable information can be sticky when you research a purchase online.

What Drives Us to Get Our Bling On?

By Ryan T. Howell Ph.D. on December 11, 2012 in Can't Buy Happiness?
For people who don’t have status, acquiring it is a motivation. Thus people who can least afford it tend to feel the greatest need to acquire possessions that signal high status.

Life Saving Lessons From the Makers of Sprite?

By Peter A. Ubel on December 06, 2012 in Critical Decisions
How public campaigns would benefit if they took a lesson from soft drink companies.

Preferences and Price, or Price and Preferences?

By Diogo Gonçalves on November 30, 2012 in There Are Free Lunches
Five recent studies gather evidence that challenges a fundamental assumption in economics: that preferences determine prices but are independent from them.