Behavioural economics is not (a) about controlling behaviour (b) conservative or liberal (c) about irrationality. So what exactly is it?
People are complex; they defy easy summary. Like Walt Whitman, we all contain multitudes. As a discipline, economics has been successful in part because it has ignored this complexity. Instead it has focused on explaining the institutions in which decisions are made — with institutions ranging from capitalism to communism, from perfect competition to monopolies, and from rock-paper-scissors to the prisoner’s dilemma. Behavioral economics differs from standard economics in that it uses a more realistic (and more complicated) model for people; it differs from psychology in that it maintains the focus on institutions and the contexts in which decisions are made. Behavioral economists study how the context of decisions interacts with our expanding understanding of human psychology. By combining the insights from these two very different perspectives, behavioral economists have been able to reveal new depths in ourselves.
Despite all the recent advances in the cognitive and neurosciences, there’s still much about the human brain that we do not know. Here are 8 of the most baffling problems currently facing science.
Virtually every animal sleeps, which is crazy if you think about it. Sleep must be incrediblyimportant because evolution hasn’t devised a way around it. It’s a condition in which conscious awareness has been (for the most part) shut off, leaving us unaware of our surroundings and completely vulnerable. Deprived of enough sleep, we would eventually die.
So what’s the purpose behind it? It could be a way to recharge the brain and replenish the body’s energy stores. Or, it could help us consolidate and store important memories whilethrowing out the neural nonsense we don’t need. And indeed, there seems to be some credence to the idea that sleep helps us encode our long-term memories.
Like all of us, economist Tyler Cowen loves a good story. But in this intriguing talk, he asks us to step away from thinking of our lives -- and our messy, complicated irrational world -- in terms of a simple narrative. (Filmed at TEDxMidAtlantic.)
We live in a world of increasing pressure and uncertainty, driven in large part by digital technology infrastructures. These marvelous infrastructures bring us unprecedented connectivity and opportunities to better ourselves.
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