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The Why Axis: Hidden Motives and the Undiscovered Economics of Everyday Lifeby Uri Gneezy and John A. List
Synopses & Reviews
Can economics be passionate? Can it center on people and what really matters to them day-in and day-out. And help us understand their hidden motives for why they do what they do in everyday life?
Uri Gneezy and John List are revolutionaries. Their ideas and methods for revealing what really works in addressing big social, business, and economic problems gives us new understanding of the motives underlying human behavior. We can then structure incentives that can get people to move mountains, change their behavior — or at least get a better deal.
But finding the right incentive can be like looking for a needle in a haystack. Gneezy and Lists pioneering approach is to embed themselves in the factories, schools, communities, and offices where people work, live, and play. Then, through large-scale field experiments conducted in the wild,” Gneezy and List observe people in their natural environments without them being aware that they are observed.
Their randomized experiments have revealed ways to close the gap between rich and poor students; to stop the violence plaguing inner-city schools; to decipher whether women are really less competitive than men; to correctly price products and services; and to discover the real reasons why people discriminate.
To get the answers, Gneezy and List boarded planes, helicopters, trains, and automobiles to embark on journeys from the foothills of Kilimanjaro to California wineries; from sultry northern India to the chilly streets of Chicago; from the playgrounds of schools in Israel to the boardrooms of some of the worlds largest corporations. In The Why Axis, they take us along for the ride, and through engaging and colorful stories, present lessons with big payoffs.
Their revelatory, startling, and urgent discoveries about how incentives really work are both revolutionary and immensely practical. This research will change both the way we think about and take action on big and little problems. Instead of relying on assumptions, we can find out, through evidence, what really works. Anyone working in business, politics, education, or philanthropy can use the approach Gneezy and List describe in The Why Axis to reach a deeper, nuanced understanding of human behavior, and a better understanding of what motivates people and why.
Two superstars revolutionizing economics — indeed all social science — provide breakthrough ideas for taking on big, complicated problems, using colorful stories from their travels and experiments around the world.
Based on groundbreaking original research, The Why Axis is a colorful examination of why people do what they do — observed through the lens of incentives that can spur people to achieve.
Uri Gneezy and John List are like the anthropologists who spend months in the field studying the people in their native habitats. But in their case they embed themselves in our messy world to try and solve big, difficult problems, such as the gap between rich and poor students and the violence plaguing inner city schools; the real reasons people discriminate; whether women are really less competitive than men; and how to correctly price products and services.
Their field experiments in the factories, communities, and shops where real people live, work, and play show how economic incentives can change outcomes. Their results will change the way we both think about and take action on big and little problems, and force us to rely no longer on assumptions, but upon the evidence of what really works.
About the Author
Uri Gneezy was born and raised in Israel, where he learned applied game theory firsthand in the streets of Tel Aviv. Dr. Gneezy is the Epstein/Atkinson Endowed Chair in Behavioral Economics and professor of economics and strategy at the Rady School of Management at the University of California, San Diego.
John A. List grew up in a working-class family in Wisconsin — where his father drove trucks for a living — and learned economics in hobby markets. Dr. List is the Homer J. Livingston Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago. He has been a research associate at the National Bureau of Economics (NBER) for more than a decade and served as senior economist on the Presidents Council of Economic Advisors for environmental and resource economics.
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