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RS 219 - Jason Collins on "A skeptical take on behavioral economics"

Release date: October 14th, 2018

Jason Collins

In this episode, economist Jason Collins discusses some of the problems with behavioral economics: Why governments have started to rely too much on the field, and why that's bad; why it's suspicious that there are over 100 cognitive biases; when "nudges" are problematic; and more.


Jason Collins' Blog

"MacArthur 'Genius' Angela Duckworth Responds To A New Critique Of Grit" by Anna Kamenetz

"Angela Duckworth on Grit" from Econtalk

"On the Reality of Cognitive Illusions" by Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky

"How to Make Cognitive Illusions Disappear: Beyond 'Heuristics and Biases'" by Gerd Gigerenzer

"On Narrow Norms and Vague Heuristics: A Reply to Kahneman and Tversky" by Gerd Gigerenzer

"Putting nudges in perspective" by George Loewenstein and Nick Chater

"Much Ado About Nudging" by Tony Hockley

"Do people really want to be nudged towards healthy lifestyles?" by Robert Sugden

"'Better Off, as Judged by Themselves': A Comment on Evaluating Nudges" by Cass R. Sunstein

"‘Better off, as judged by themselves’: a reply to Cass Sunstein" by Robert Sugden

"Nudging and the Problem of Context Dependent Preferences" by Jason Collins

"Overrepresentation of extreme events in decision making reflects rational use of cognitive resources." by Lieder, Falk,Griffiths, Thomas L.,Hsu, Ming

Edited by Brent Silk

Music by Miracles of Modern Science

Full Transcripts 

Reader Comments (4)

As I was listening to this episode I was reminded that we very often think of evolution as being towards a goal even when we know better. Evolution doesn't select for perfect fitness for the current environment but rather deselects those individuals that are unfit for their environment due to either mutation, combination, or changes to the environment itself. Ironically, this cognitive trap seems to be one that doesn't make humans less fit and has therefore never been selected out of us. ;-)
Another example is our propensity to see actors in everything. This may have actually been selected for in some phases of human evolution as the belief in spirits, sprites, imps, and gods may have been an advantage when it came to group cohesion. Unfortunately it doesn't serve us well as we think about the process of evolution.
Another example is the statistical combination you mentioned. This is not likely to be selected out of the human population any time soon. It doesn't seem to be especially dangerous and I have never heard any of my friends say, "that date went well, but when he/she said 'I'm bad at math' that was a real deal breaker."
October 16, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterDave Adsit
Hi Thanks for another great episode.

Could you confirm which Carol, Jason was referring too in his closing remarks? I had assumed it was Carol Dweck, but the transcript has it as Caroll DeWitt.
October 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterGino
Interesting Podcast.

The opt out method of getting compliance really does work. Furthermore, for organ donation, it provides a HUGE benefit to society.

Competent medical professionals framing medical alternatives in a way that actually maximizes the survival and well being of the patient does make sense. It makes much more sense than trying to completely eliminate the patient's confusion over an issue the patient actually lacks the background to fully understand. This actually happens in hospitals around the world every day.

If you ever buy any product from Apple or any other Manufacturer, you have already opted in to have that manufacturer nudge you in every way possible towards buying more of their products. Manufacturers do in fact aggressively attempt to sell their customers more products. Attempting to contract with the manufacturer to abstain from nudging you to buy more from them will necessarily fail since the manufacturer already has contact with you, and has such a strong economic (perhaps even behavioral) incentive to sell you more products. Trying to enforce such a contract would entail interpreting the motivation behind manufacturer communications to customers, and create a legal nightmare. Most courts would likely simply refuse to engage in making such judgments, and instead allow the manufacturer nudges as a form of commercial free speech. However, simply creating a provision such as "Do not contact me" or "Do not email me about exciting new offers" does make sense, and many service providers do have such a clause in their user agreements.
October 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJameson
@gino Yes, that is indeed most likely to be Carol Dweck.
October 20, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterKoenfucius

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