Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much

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A surprising and intriguing examination of how scarcity—and our flawed responses to it—shapes our lives, our society, and our culture

Why do successful people get things done at the last minute? Why does poverty persist? Why do organizations get stuck firefighting? Why do the lonely find it hard to make friends? These questions seem unconnected, yet Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir show that they are all examples of a mind-set produced by scarcity.

Drawing on cutting-edge research from behavioral science and economics, Mullainathan and Shafir show that scarcity creates a similar psychology for everyone struggling to manage with less than they need. Busy people fail to manage their time efficiently for the same reasons the poor and those maxed out on credit cards fail to manage their money. The dynamics of scarcity reveal why dieters find it hard to resist temptation, why students and busy executives mismanage their time, and why sugarcane farmers are smarter after harvest than before. Once we start thinking in terms of scarcity and the strategies it imposes, the problems of modern life come into sharper focus.
Mullainathan and Shafir discuss how scarcity affects our daily lives, recounting anecdotes of their own foibles and making surprising connections that bring this research alive. Their book provides a new way of understanding why the poor stay poor and the busy stay busy, and it reveals not only how scarcity leads us astray but also how individuals and organizations can better manage scarcity for greater satisfaction and success.

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About the author

Sendhil Mullainathan, a professor of economics at Harvard University, is a recipient of a MacArthur Foundation "genius grant" and conducts research on development economics, behavioral economics, and corporate finance. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Eldar Shafir is the William Stewart Tod Professor of Psychology and Public Affairs at Princeton University. He conducts research in cognitive science, judgment and decision-making, and behavioral economics. He lives in Princeton, New Jersey.

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3.6
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Additional Information

Publisher
Macmillan
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Published on
Sep 3, 2013
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Pages
304
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ISBN
9781429943451
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Language
English
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Genres
Business & Economics / Decision-Making & Problem Solving
Business & Economics / Economics / Microeconomics
Psychology / Applied Psychology
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Few things are as valuable in business, and in life, as the ability to make good decisions. Can you imagine how much more rewarding your life and your business would be if every decision you made were the best it could be? Decision Quality empowers you to make the best possible choice and get more of what you truly want from every decision.

Dr. Carl Spetzler is a leader in the field of decision science and has worked with organizations across industries to improve their decision-making capabilities. He and his co-authors, all experienced consultants and educators in this field, show you how to frame a problem or opportunity, create a set of attractive alternatives, identify relevant uncertain information, clarify the values that are important in the decision, apply tools of analysis, and develop buy-in among stakeholders. Their straightforward approach is elegantly simple, yet practical and powerful. It can be applied to all types of decisions.

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Many people are satisfied with 'good enough' when making important decisions. This book provides a method that will take you and your co-workers beyond 'good enough' to true Decision Quality.

A renowned cognitive psychologist reveals the science behind achieving breakthrough discoveries, allowing readers to confidently solve problems, improve decision-making, and achieve success.

Insights-like Darwin's understanding of the way evolution actually works, and Watson and Crick's breakthrough discoveries about the structure of DNA-can change the world. Yet we know very little about when, why, or how insights are formed-or what blocks them. In Seeing What Others Don't, Gary Klein unravels the mystery.

Klein is a keen observer of people in their natural settings-scientists, businesspeople, firefighters, police officers, soldiers, family members, friends, himself-and uses a marvelous variety of stories to illuminate his research into what insights are and how they happen. What, for example, enabled Harry Markopolos to put the finger on Bernie Madoff? How did Dr. Michael Gottlieb make the connections between different patients that allowed him to publish the first announcement of the AIDS epidemic? How did Martin Chalfie come up with a million-dollar idea (and a Nobel Prize) for a natural flashlight that enabled researchers to look inside living organisms to watch biological processes in action?

Klein also dissects impediments to insight, such as when organizations claim to value employee creativity and to encourage breakthroughs but in reality block disruptive ideas and prioritize avoidance of mistakes. Or when information technology systems are "dumb by design" and block potential discoveries.

Both scientifically sophisticated and fun to read, Seeing What Others Don't shows that insight is not just a "eureka!" moment but a whole new way of understanding.
In recent years, remarkable progress has been made in behavioral research on a wide variety of topics, from behavioral finance, labor contracts, philanthropy, and the analysis of savings and poverty, to eyewitness identification and sentencing decisions, racism, sexism, health behaviors, and voting. Research findings have often been strikingly counterintuitive, with serious implications for public policymaking. In this book, leading experts in psychology, decision research, policy analysis, economics, political science, law, medicine, and philosophy explore major trends, principles, and general insights about human behavior in policy-relevant settings. Their work provides a deeper understanding of the many drivers--cognitive, social, perceptual, motivational, and emotional--that guide behaviors in everyday settings. They give depth and insight into the methods of behavioral research, and highlight how this knowledge might influence the implementation of public policy for the improvement of society.

This collection examines the policy relevance of behavioral science to our social and political lives, to issues ranging from health, environment, and nutrition, to dispute resolution, implicit racism, and false convictions. The book illuminates the relationship between behavioral findings and economic analyses, and calls attention to what policymakers might learn from this vast body of groundbreaking work.


Wide-ranging investigation into people's motivations, abilities, attitudes, and perceptions finds that they differ in profound ways from what is typically assumed. The result is that public policy acquires even greater significance, since rather than merely facilitating the conduct of human affairs, policy actually shapes their trajectory.


The first interdisciplinary look at behaviorally informed policymaking
Leading behavioral experts across the social sciences consider important policy problems
A compendium of behavioral findings and their application to relevant policy domains
“Ideas of economic democracy are very much in the air, as they should be, with increasing urgency in the midst of today’s serious crises. Richard Wolff’s constructive and innovative ideas suggest new and promising foundations for much more authentic democracy and sustainable and equitable development, ideas that can be implemented directly and carried forward. A very valuable contribution in troubled times.”—Noam Chomsky

"Probably America's most prominent Marxist economist."—The New York Times

Capitalism as a system has spawned deepening economic crisis alongside its bought-and-paid-for political establishment. Neither serves the needs of our society. Whether it is secure, well-paid, and meaningful jobs or a sustainable relationship with the natural environment that we depend on, our society is not delivering the results people need and deserve.

One key cause for this intolerable state of affairs is the lack of genuine democracy in our economy as well as in our politics. The solution requires the institution of genuine economic democracy, starting with workers managing their own workplaces, as the basis for a genuine political democracy.

Here Richard D. Wolff lays out a hopeful and concrete vision of how to make that possible, addressing the many people who have concluded economic inequality and politics as usual can no longer be tolerated and are looking for a concrete program of action.

Richard D. Wolff is professor of Economics emeritus at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He is currently a visiting professor at the New School University in New York. Wolff is the author of many books, including Capitalism Hits the Fan: The Global Economic Meltdown and What to Do About It. He hosts the weekly hour-long radio program Economic Update on WBAI (Pacifica Radio) and writes regularly for The Guardian, Truthout.org, and the MRZine.


Traditional public finance provides a powerful framework for policy analysis, but it relies on a model of human behavior that the new science of behavioral economics increasingly calls into question. In Policy and Choice economists William Congdon, Jeffrey Kling, and Sendhil Mullainathan argue that public finance not only can incorporate many lessons of behavioral economics but also can serve as a solid foundation from which to apply insights from psychology to questions of economic policy.

The authors revisit the core questions of public finance, armed with a richer perspective on human behavior. They do not merely apply findings from psychology to specific economic problems; instead, they explore how psychological factors actually reshape core concepts in public finance such as moral hazard, deadweight loss, and incentives.

Part one sets the stage for integrating behavioral economics into public finance by interpreting the evidence from psychology and developing a framework for applying it to questions in public finance. In part two, the authors apply that framework to specific topics in public finance, including social insurance, externalities and public goods, income support and redistribution, and taxation.

In doing so, the authors build a unified analytical approach that encompasses both traditional policy levers, such as taxes and subsidies, and more psychologically informed instruments. The net result of this innovative approach is a fully behavioral public finance, an integration of psychology and the economics of the public sector that is explicit, systematic, rigorous, and realistic.

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