About the Author
Although his first writings on behavioral economics appeared in 1980, Thaler became more prominent between 1987 and 1990 when he wrote a regular column called “Anomalies”, published in the Journal of Economic Perspectives. In his column he wrote on a myriad of subjects that illustrated the ways in which human behavior seemed to violate traditional economic theories. These columns were later published in the collection The Winner's Curse.
Daniel Kahneman later cited his joint work with Thaler as a “major factor” in his receiving the Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel. Commenting on the prize, he said, “The committee cited me ‘for having integrated insights from psychological research into economic science'. Although I do not wish to renounce any credit for my contribution, I should say that in my view the work of integration was actually done mostly by Thaler and the group of young economists that quickly began to form around him.”
Thaler is currently the Ralph and Dorothy Keller Distinguished Service Professor of Behavioral Science and Economics, and Director of the Center for Decision Research, Graduate School of Business, University of Chicago. He previously taught at Cornell University and MIT.
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- The design of menus gets you to eat (and spend) more. For example, lining up all prices on either side of the menu leads many consumers to simply pick the cheapest item. On the other hand, discretely listing prices at the end of food descriptions lets people read about the appetizing options first…; and then see prices.
- "Flies" in urinals improve, well, aim. When Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport was faced with the not uncommon issue of dirty urinals, they chose a unique solution: by painting "flies" in the (center of) commodes, men obligingly aimed at the insects, reducing spillage by 80 percent.
- Credit card minimum payments affect repayment schedules. Among those who only partially pay off credit card balances each month, the repayment level is correlated with the card's minimum payment — in other words, the lower the minimum payment, the longer it takes a consumer to pay off the card balance.
- Automatic savings programs increase savings rate. All over the country, companies are adopting the Save More Tomorrow program: firms offer employees who are not saving very much the option of joining a program in which their saving rates are automatically increased whenever they get a raise. This plan has more than tripled saving rates in some firms, and is now offered by thousands of employers.
- "Defaults" can improve rates of organ donation. In the United States, about one–third of citizens have signed organ donor cards. Compare this to Austria, where 99 percent of people are potential organ donors. One obvious difference? Americans must explicitly consent to become organ donors (by signing forms, for example) while Austrians must opt out if they do not want to be organ donors.