American Economic Review 2018, 108(6): 1265–1287 https://doi.org/10.1257/aer.108.6.1265 From Cashews to Nudges: The Evolution of Behavioral Economics By Richard H. Thaler* In the beginning there were stories. People think in stories, or at least I do. My research in the field now known as behavioral economics started from real life stories I observed while I was a grad- uate student at the University of Rochester. Economists often sneer at “anecdotal data” and I had less than that—a collection of anecdotes without a hint of data. Yet, each story captured something about human behavior that seemed inconsistent with the economic theory I was struggling to master in graduate school. Here are a few examples: • At a dinner party for fellow economics graduate students I put out a large bowl of cashew nuts to accompany drinks while waiting for dinner to finish cooking. In a short period of time, we devoured half the bowl of nuts. Seeing that our appetites (and waistlines) were in danger I removed the bowl and left it in the kitchen pantry. When I returned everyone thanked me. But, as economists are prone to do, we soon launched into analysis: how is it that we were all
American Economic Review – American Economic Association
Published: Jun 1, 2018
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