Nobel awarded to University of Chicago’s Thaler – Consumer News

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9 October 2017 | 10:15 am

(Bloomberg)—University of Chicago’s Richard H. Thaler, one of the founders of behavioral economics and finance, was awarded the 2017 Nobel Prize in Economics for shedding light on how human weaknesses such as a lack of rationality and self-control can ultimately affect markets.

The 72-year-old, co-author of the 2008 best-seller “Nudge,” has “built a bridge between the economic and psychological analyses of individual decision-making,” the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said Monday.

“By exploring the consequences of limited rationality, social preferences, and lack of self-control, he has shown how these human traits systematically affect individual decisions as well as market outcomes,” the academy said.

Speaking by phone to a news conference immediately after he was announced as the prize winner, Thaler said the most important impact of his work is “the recognition that economic agents are humans” and money decisions are not made strictly rationally.

Thaler told the news conference that he will likely use the prize money in ways consistent with his research.

“I will say that I will try to spend it as irrationally as possible,” said Thaler, whose title is the Charles R. Walgreen Distinguished Service Professor of Behavioral Science and Economics at the university’s Booth School of Business..

His “Nudge” theory, outlined along with former White House adviser Cass Sunstein, suggests small incentives can prod people into making certain decisions. His work has informed politicians looking for ways to influence voters and shape societies at a time when budget deficits limited their scope to spend. Former U.S. President Barack Obama and former U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron both appointed teams to study if behavioral economics could be used to save their governments money.

For example, writing to Britons to inform them that most people in their town had already paid their taxes was found to speed up payments. People were also found to be more likely to insulate their attics if they were offered help clearing them.

Outside of academia, Thaler has made a cameo in the movie “The Big Short” to discuss an economic phenomenon known as the “hot hand fallacy” — in which a person’s success is seen as a sign he would be successful in other fields — with pop star Selena Gomez.

Asked at the news conference if he thought this observation applied to the U.S president, he said: “As to President Trump, I think he would do well to watch that movie.”

On his website, Thaler said he investigates the implication of “relaxing” the standard economic assumption that everyone is rational and selfish, “instead entertaining the possibility that some of the agents in the economy are sometimes human.”

Thaler developed the theory of “mental accounting,” explaining how people make financial decisions by creating separate accounts in their minds, focusing on the narrow impact rather than the overall effect.

His research on “fairness,” which showed how consumer concerns may stop firms from raising prices in periods of high demand, but not in times of rising costs, has also been influential, according to the Swedish academy. He shed light on how people succumb to short-term temptations, which is why many people fail to plan and save for old age.

Thaler’s body of work includes insights on the ways in which limited rationality, social preferences and a lack of self control affect decisions that shape market outcomes. His other works include “Quasi-Rational Economics,” “The Winner’s Curse: Paradoxes and Anomalies of Economic Life” and “Advances in Behavioral Finance.”

He’s the director of the Center for Decision Research, and is the co-director, with now fellow Nobel laureate, Robert Shiller, of the Behavioral Economics Project at the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Born in New Jersey, Thaler graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the Case Western Reserve University in 1967. He received a master’s degree from the University of Rochester in 1970 and a doctorate in 1974, also from Rochester. Thaler joined the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business in 1995.

The Associated Press contributed.



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