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Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economics

av Richard H. Thaler

MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygOmnämnanden
6391227,008 (4.07)5
"Traditional economics assumes rational actors. Early in his research, Thaler realized these Spock-like automatons were nothing like real people. Whether buying a clock radio, selling basketball tickets, or applying for a mortgage, we all succumb to biases and make decisions that deviate from the standards of rationality assumed by economists. In other words, we misbehave. More importantly, our misbehavior has serious consequences. Dismissed at first by economists as an amusing sideshow, the study of human miscalculations and their effects on markets now drives efforts to make better decisions in our lives, our businesses, and our governments"--Amazon.com.… (mer)
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I have mixed feelings about this book. I wrote a brief article about how college doesn't teach you anything, and to my horror I realized that I already learned most of what this book has to say. For someone without any background in behavioral economics, I recommend reading this in conjunction with Thinking Fast and Slow, the two books will pretty much teach you everything you need to know.

Having studied most of the points mentioned in the book (as well as reading several of the papers summarized) I enjoyed the book mainly for the anecdotes and fun tidbits (for example that the exponential discount function was first posited by the great Samuelson). The book was interesting to me in that it also served as a memoir for Thaler, discussing the various phases of his academic life and his work. I was pleasantly surprised to confirm that Thaler's collection of anomalies was a nod to Kuhn's theory of scientific revolutions. I also heavily agreed with Thaler's emphasis on randomized trials and use of experimental evidence over a priori axioms.

Now for the critique. Thaler seems like a bit of a braggart. He never seems to cease name dropping, and some of his claims seem overreaching. He makes it seem almost like he single-handedly set up behavioral economics. Additionally, the characterization of economists of the more rational mold seem unfair to me. Posner and Miller are reduced to stubborn silly one dimensional characters when both are accomplished and nuanced.

Thaler sets up certain classical problems such as the dividend puzzle, the equity premium puzzle and close ended funds and proclaims them solved by behavioral economics. I read the dividend puzzle paper, and while the "solution" seems reasonable, it has little to no empirical work (ironic, given Thaler's admonishment that "mainstream" economics doesn't look at evidence enough). Thaler claims to have solved the equity premium puzzle by looking at loss aversion rather than risk aversion, and argues that additionally the equity premium puzzle cannot be a risk premium because he looked at the betas of the equity and it didn't explain the equity premium. However, especially after Fama's work, there's widespread agreement that beta does not completely capture risk (it's hard to get a beta of the "market"). Thaler himself recognizes this when he discusses the Fama-French factors and the failure of CAPM. It seems disingenuous to try to refute a possible objection using a risk metric that he knows is not accurate. Lastly, Thaler criticizes Miller for dismissing his work on finding a correlation between close ended funds and small cap equity. It seems like Miller is correct, in that just because Thaler found a correlation, he shouldn't be able to attribute that correlation to investor sentiment. In other words, Thaler presents as fact what is still very controversial in the field.

Even during my studies I always found myself annoyed by Thaler's idea of mental accounting. For the record, I find the concept of mental accounting totally reasonable, and perhaps even true. However, scientifically speaking, it does not seem falsifiable. Any result that does not jive, seems to be able to be explained away, and it seems like mental accounting has little to no predictive power.

At least to me, Thaler needs to propose some empirical tests that can differentiate between behavioral explanation and other explanations. Otherwise, his explanations are as axiomatic as the "mainstream" economics he criticizes. ( )
  vhl219 | Jun 1, 2019 |
This is simultaneously an autobiography of Richard H. Thaler and a history of modern behavioral science. The author was one of the early adopters of the idea, so he can supply a great inside view. At the same time he remains an academic economist, thus he doesn’t bash aimlessly modern mainstream economics but shows where and when its assumptions about rationality may be wrong.
The story starts from early works by Kahneman-Tversky, moves through academia and finishes in practical implementation of behavioral insights in Britain. The list of studies and examples is largely known to readers of Nudge or Predictably Irrational, however it is more tightly interwoven into the single narrative.
Recommended read for anyone, especially non-economists, who are interested in why often people at seemingly irrationally.
( )
  Oleksandr_Zholud | Jan 9, 2019 |
A nice gentle reintroduction to Economics and in particular Behavioural Economics which was a nascent branch when I left the discipline.An excellent primer both for what behavioural economics offers and the limitations of rational economics. ( )
  malcrf | Oct 15, 2018 |
Richard Thaler is one of the founders of behavioral economics, and he gives us a clear, enlightening, and entertaining account of its origins, principles, and findings.

Traditional economics operates on the theory of the rational economic person--homo economicus, or as Thaler shortens it for convenience, Econs. For the purposes of economic theory, Econs are assumed to always make rational and fully informed choices, for maximum economic benefit. The problems should be obvious; we are rarely fully rational in our decision-making, and almost never have complete, and completely accurate, information. The more important our decisions are--career choice, marriage, retirement planning, the less likely we are to have enough information to make "correct" economic choices.

Over a period of forty years, Thaler and others, recognizing, sometimes dimly, sometimes clearly, that humans don't make purely rational decisions, often not even when we do have "enough" information, began to tease this out. They needed to prove not only that humans make economic decisions based on incomplete information, emotion, impulse, and what economists consider irrelevant factors, but that it matters. If the collective effect of all our individual decisions adds up to the same result as if we had made those decisions rationally, it wouldn't matter, and rational economic theory, "efficient market theory," would still be fully sufficient for economic analysis.

The book is lively, filled with stories and anecdotes, but also clear explanations of the basic principles. It's clear, and in some ways more rational than traditional economic theory that assumes human economic behavior can be accurately predicted based on a model of human behavior that resembles no human being who has ever lived. As an example of the divergence between Econs and humans, Thaler offers the example of a bowl of cashews on the coffee table before dinner. You may like cashews. You may enjoy having cashews before dinner--but you probably don't want to eat so many that you spoil your dinner. What's the sensible thing to do?

The Econ, homo economicus, who always makes completely rational decisions, just stops eating the cashews when he decides he's had enough. The ordinary, real, human being who really wants to stop eating before eating enough to spoil dinner, is more likely to take that cashew bowl and put it away, so that it's not sitting there as a temptation.

And, once you allow for the fact of real human beings rather than Econs, that's a completely rational decision. It's also one that the Econ would never understand. Either you prefer to stop eating cashews, so you do, or you prefer to keep eating cashews, so you do. No need to move the bowl!

More directly economic matters are the cab driver who works each day until he's hit his target income for the day, and then ends his work day. This means he works more hours when earning is low, and fewer hours on the days when earning is good. From the point of view of homo economicus, this is insane. It's just not worth working that many hours when pay is bad, but on the days when pay is good, he could boost his total income by working more hours! From the viewpoint of income maximization, this is completely rational, and Thaler agrees. It's a mistake not to take advantage of the high-pay days, and knock off early when the pay is bad. I'm not sure income maximization is the only consideration here, but it's quite reasonable for an economist to think it should be.

More interesting are strange anomalies in the part of the economy that, it would seem, should be most rational, the stock market. Surely most of the money in the stock market is invested or managed by professionals able to master all available information and make rational decisions, right?

Turns out, not so much. Even the professionals can succumb to irrational exuberance, over- or under-estimate value and risk, and find themselves unable to properly exploit market inefficiencies (which are not supposed to exist), even when they recognize them.

It's a fascinating, enlightening, entertaining book, well worth your time. Recommended.

I bought this audiobook. ( )
  LisCarey | Sep 19, 2018 |
Very good book - easy read and I enjoyed the stories and the points. Probably the only reasons it isn't 5 stars for me are that it is a little less rigorous (but with the trade-off of being more accessible, which is clearly its goal) and I've already heard basically all the research many times before by now based on my general interest in the topic and having read so many other related books first. ( )
  TravbudJ | Sep 15, 2018 |
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"Traditional economics assumes rational actors. Early in his research, Thaler realized these Spock-like automatons were nothing like real people. Whether buying a clock radio, selling basketball tickets, or applying for a mortgage, we all succumb to biases and make decisions that deviate from the standards of rationality assumed by economists. In other words, we misbehave. More importantly, our misbehavior has serious consequences. Dismissed at first by economists as an amusing sideshow, the study of human miscalculations and their effects on markets now drives efforts to make better decisions in our lives, our businesses, and our governments"--Amazon.com.

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