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The Business of Behavioral Economics






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You've done everything—endured diets, purged your freezer of Ben & Jerry's, and educated yourself on fat, sugar, and calories. Yet, you can't manage to lose weight.

What's wrong with you? According to standard economic theory, which gives humans (perhaps too much) credit for making rational choices, those efforts should be enough to change your behavior. If you know the consequences but still get fat, you must want to be overweight.

"Losing $100 is more painful than gaining $100 is pleasurable"

Of course not, say Leslie John and Michael Norton, professors at Harvard Business School specializing in the burgeoning field of behavioral economics. "Standard economic theory suggests that as long as people understand the full consequences of their actions, they tend to act in their self interest," says John. "If they want to be healthy, and you tell them how many calories are in a burger, then they'll eat better." But behavioral economics suggests that people make mistakes in their thinking. For example, we have self-control problems that can lead us to knowingly "misbehave."

Such biases are the bread and butter of behavioral economics, and have been accepted into the mainstream of economics and pop culture, particularly since the recent publication of popular books such as Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein's Nudge, Dan Ariely's Predictably Irrational, and Daniel Kahneman's Thinking, Fast and Slow....

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