Can we make the world a 'better' place with behavioural economics?

August 14, 2023 Mark Fabian/Malte Dold Season 4 Episode 7
Can we make the world a 'better' place with behavioural economics?
Show Notes

Regular host Dr Mark Fabian from the University of Warwick is joined by Dr Malte Dold, assistant professor of economics at Pomona College. Malte is one of the most prominent scholars in the field of behavioural welfare economics, which sits at the intersection of economics, philosophy, and psychology. You might have heard of behavioural economics, which inspired the idea of nudges in public policy – little tweaks to the choice environment citizens face as they navigate the world that can help them towards the decisions they would ideally like to make. Piano key stairs that play music to encourage you to walk rather than take the escalator. Being defaulted into a high savings-rate retirement plan by your employer. Or Timely and easy to action reminders from the tax office encouraging you to pay your bills. All nudges. If you think these are all bullshit, try navigating a budget airline’s website without paying for any additional extras. Here behavioural insights from psychology are used against to wear you down and encourage you to hand over cash for things you don’t need. Behavioural welfare economics is the philosophical side of these interventions. When we use nudges and other similar interventions to help people, how do we understand what is good for them? Economics would traditional use people’s own preferences as a measure of their welfare. But one of the main contributions of behavioural economics research has been to demonstrate that people’s preferences are often unstable, unclear, context sensitive, constructed on the spot, and otherwise a poor guide to their welfare. So how should economists, psychologists, and policymakers proceed? Tune in to find out. 

Malte's website:

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Kuhn on scientific revolutions:

Lakatos on scientific revolutions:

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Gneezy, U. (2020). A fine is a price. The Journal of Legal Studies, 29(1): 1-17.   

Nudge by Thaler & Sunstein: