Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economics

W. W. Norton & Company
25
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Winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics

Get ready to change the way you think about economics.

Nobel laureate Richard H. Thaler has spent his career studying the radical notion that the central agents in the economy are humans—predictable, error-prone individuals. Misbehaving is his arresting, frequently hilarious account of the struggle to bring an academic discipline back down to earth—and change the way we think about economics, ourselves, and our world.

Traditional economics assumes rational actors. Early in his research, Thaler realized these Spock-like automatons were nothing like real people. Whether buying a clock radio, selling basketball tickets, or applying for a mortgage, we all succumb to biases and make decisions that deviate from the standards of rationality assumed by economists. In other words, we misbehave. More importantly, our misbehavior has serious consequences. Dismissed at first by economists as an amusing sideshow, the study of human miscalculations and their effects on markets now drives efforts to make better decisions in our lives, our businesses, and our governments.

Coupling recent discoveries in human psychology with a practical understanding of incentives and market behavior, Thaler enlightens readers about how to make smarter decisions in an increasingly mystifying world. He reveals how behavioral economic analysis opens up new ways to look at everything from household finance to assigning faculty offices in a new building, to TV game shows, the NFL draft, and businesses like Uber.

Laced with antic stories of Thaler’s spirited battles with the bastions of traditional economic thinking, Misbehaving is a singular look into profound human foibles. When economics meets psychology, the implications for individuals, managers, and policy makers are both profound and entertaining.

Shortlisted for the Financial Times & McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award

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About the author

Richard H. Thaler is the coauthor of the best-selling book Nudge with Cass R. Sunstein, and the author of Quasi Rational Economics and The Winner’s Curse. He is a professor of behavioral science and economics at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and, in 2015, the president of the American Economic Association.

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Additional Information

Publisher
W. W. Norton & Company
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Published on
May 11, 2015
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Pages
336
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ISBN
9780393246773
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
Business & Economics / Consumer Behavior
Business & Economics / Economic History
Psychology / Cognitive Psychology & Cognition
Psychology / Statistics
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Poker champion turned business consultant Annie Duke teaches you how to get comfortable with uncertainty and make better decisions as a result.

In Super Bowl XLIX, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll made one of the most controversial calls in football history: With 26 seconds remaining, and trailing by four at the Patriots' one-yard line, he called for a pass instead of a hand off to his star running back. The pass was intercepted and the Seahawks lost. Critics called it the dumbest play in history. But was the call really that bad? Or did Carroll actually make a great move that was ruined by bad luck?

Even the best decision doesn't yield the best outcome every time. There's always an element of luck that you can't control, and there is always information that is hidden from view. So the key to long-term success (and avoiding worrying yourself to death) is to think in bets: How sure am I? What are the possible ways things could turn out? What decision has the highest odds of success? Did I land in the unlucky 10% on the strategy that works 90% of the time? Or is my success attributable to dumb luck rather than great decision making?

Annie Duke, a former World Series of Poker champion turned business consultant, draws on examples from business, sports, politics, and (of course) poker to share tools anyone can use to embrace uncertainty and make better decisions. For most people, it's difficult to say "I'm not sure" in a world that values and, even, rewards the appearance of certainty. But professional poker players are comfortable with the fact that great decisions don't always lead to great outcomes and bad decisions don't always lead to bad outcomes.

By shifting your thinking from a need for certainty to a goal of accurately assessing what you know and what you don't, you'll be less vulnerable to reactive emotions, knee-jerk biases, and destructive habits in your decision making. You'll become more confident, calm, compassionate and successful in the long run.
This book offers a definitive and wide-ranging overview of developments in behavioral finance over the past ten years. In 1993, the first volume provided the standard reference to this new approach in finance--an approach that, as editor Richard Thaler put it, "entertains the possibility that some of the agents in the economy behave less than fully rationally some of the time." Much has changed since then. Not least, the bursting of the Internet bubble and the subsequent market decline further demonstrated that financial markets often fail to behave as they would if trading were truly dominated by the fully rational investors who populate financial theories. Behavioral finance has made an indelible mark on areas from asset pricing to individual investor behavior to corporate finance, and continues to see exciting empirical and theoretical advances.

Advances in Behavioral Finance, Volume II constitutes the essential new resource in the field. It presents twenty recent papers by leading specialists that illustrate the abiding power of behavioral finance--of how specific departures from fully rational decision making by individual market agents can provide explanations of otherwise puzzling market phenomena. As with the first volume, it reaches beyond the world of finance to suggest, powerfully, the importance of pursuing behavioral approaches to other areas of economic life.


The contributors are Brad M. Barber, Nicholas Barberis, Shlomo Benartzi, John Y. Campbell, Emil M. Dabora, Daniel Kent, François Degeorge, Kenneth A. Froot, J. B. Heaton, David Hirshleifer, Harrison Hong, Ming Huang, Narasimhan Jegadeesh, Josef Lakonishok, Owen A. Lamont, Roni Michaely, Terrance Odean, Jayendu Patel, Tano Santos, Andrei Shleifer, Robert J. Shiller, Jeremy C. Stein, Avanidhar Subrahmanyam, Richard H. Thaler, Sheridan Titman, Robert W. Vishny, Kent L. Womack, and Richard Zeckhauser.

Which is more dangerous, a gun or a swimming pool? What do schoolteachers and sumo wrestlers have in common? Why do drug dealers still live with their moms? How much do parents really matter? How did the legalization of abortion affect the rate of violent crime?

These may not sound like typical questions for an economist to ask. But Steven D. Levitt is not a typical economist. He is a much-heralded scholar who studies the riddles of everyday life—from cheating and crime to sports and child-rearing—and whose conclusions turn conventional wisdom on its head.

Freakonomics is a groundbreaking collaboration between Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, an award-winning author and journalist. They usually begin with a mountain of data and a simple question. Some of these questions concern life-and-death issues; others have an admittedly freakish quality. Thus the new field of study contained in this book: Freakonomics.

Through forceful storytelling and wry insight, Levitt and Dubner show that economics is, at root, the study of incentives—how people get what they want, or need, especially when other people want or need the same thing. In Freakonomics, they explore the hidden side of . . . well, everything. The inner workings of a crack gang. The truth about real-estate agents. The myths of campaign finance. The telltale marks of a cheating schoolteacher. The secrets of the Ku Klux Klan.

What unites all these stories is a belief that the modern world, despite a great deal of complexity and downright deceit, is not impenetrable, is not unknowable, and—if the right questions are asked—is even more intriguing than we think. All it takes is a new way of looking.

Freakonomics establishes this unconventional premise: If morality represents how we would like the world to work, then economics represents how it actually does work. It is true that readers of this book will be armed with enough riddles and stories to last a thousand cocktail parties. But Freakonomics can provide more than that. It will literally redefine the way we view the modern world.

Bonus material added to the revised and expanded 2006 edition

The original New York Times Magazine article about Steven D. Levitt by Stephen J. Dubner, which led to the creation of this book.

Seven “Freakonomics” columns written for the New York Times Magazine, published between August 2005 and April 2006.

Selected entries from the Freakonomics blog, posted between April 2005 and May 2006 at http://www.freakonomics.com/blog/.

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