On Behavioral Economics: When Psychology and Economics Collide by Scott Huettel (2014)

Book coverIt’s been a while since I listened to most or perhaps all of this course. My beautiful wife discovered that the DVD player in our old, but newish to us, truck would “play” DVDs, but when it played them, it would not display the video on the new-then-fangled touchscreen video control. Instead, it would play the audio. Which opened us up to “listening” to DVD courses while driving. Except that the track listing was not as straight-forward as actual CDs. The track listing includes menus you cannot see, titles and whatnot, and other things. So I listened to this course in May and June, culminating in our trip to Wisconsin. But somewhere on the trip, we reached a point where we were retreading the same ground, hearing the same course again, so either we got the discs out of order or mangled returning to our place on the last lecture or three. So we removed it from the car’s audio system and went onto the next course. And then we didn’t drive anywhere of consequence. Given that my oldest son is old enough to drive he and his brother to school, and the round trip in the car is no longer an hour and a half per day, who knows when I will finish another course?

Well, UPDATE, although you have not seen this post before, I started it in August of last year and discovered the course in the back of my to-review and notepad set on my desk. All I had written was the above paragraph, and then I rebooted or something where I closed the text editor. So, six months later, my recollections of the course are a little hazier, but at a high level, I can remember some elements of it, and sometime I think I would like to revisit the course and/or read more on the subject.

The book deals with research in psychology, particularly the science of decision making, which is the root of economics. How do people make the choices they do given the information they have? How much do they weigh this, how much do they research, how much do they go with their gut, and how’s that working out for them?

The lectures include:

  1. What Is A Good Decision?
  2. The Rise of Behavioral Economics
  3. Reference Dependence–It’s All Relative
  4. Reference Dependence–Economic Implications
  5. Probability Weighting
  6. Risk–The Known Unknowns
  7. Ambiguity–The Unknown Unknowns
  8. Temporal Discounting–Now or Later?
  9. Comparison–Apples and Oranges
  10. Bounded Rationality–Knowing Your Limits
  11. Heuristics and Biases
  12. Randomness and Patterns
  13. How Much Evidence Do We Need?
  14. The Value of Experience
  15. Medical Decision Making
  16. Social Decisions–Competition and Coordination
  17. Group Decision Making–The Vox Populi
  18. Giving and Helping–Why Altruism?
  19. Cooperation by Individuals and in Socialism
  20. When Incentives Backfire
  21. Precommitment–Setting Rationality Aside
  22. Framing–Moving to a Different Perspective
  23. Interventions, Nudges, and Decisions

I liked it better than On Thinking Like An Economist: A Guide To Rational Decision Making because this course and discipline are more descriptive and enquiring into what guides peoples’ decision making rather than on how to proscriptively alter people’s minds and mental calculus by imposing outside incentives–that other course sure did want to guide people to the right path, which is what the economists and their paymasters determined as the right path. I also liked it far better than Seven Bad Ideas: How Mainstream Economists Have Damaged America and the World, which I did not finish, which found the State should fix the values for its subjects (and the bad ideas were basically individuals and self-determination).

Sorry to have held out on you, but this really was a good and engaging course, and I recommend it. I guess it’s available on the Internet and you don’t need a DVD player that plays audio in your truck to appreciate it. And watching it on an actual television might just give me the excuse I need to watch it again, perhaps with an actual notebook in hand.

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