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Showing 1-10 of 44 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 76 reviews
on November 19, 2013
If you liked "Freakonomics" and its sequel, you will love this book. Behavioral economics is a fascinating field, and the authors here break down their findings in a very readable, accessible way. Their field experiments are creative and even grandiose, and the results can be very surprising. I particularly liked the way they approached the problem of women's inequality in the workplace and explored potential ways of improving educational outcomes. Their discoveries about incentives and how they can work for or against the organization that is trying to implement them make for a very entertaining and educational read. I wish more people in public policy thought the way the authors do. Gneezy and List present some very precise, data-backed ideas for addressing social problems, and in an era of government budget-cutting, we need that kind of approach. Ideals are all well and good, but the data tell the story, and the authors present quite a convincing case for their way of thinking.
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on January 25, 2016
I really like this book because the authors are very creative scholars and the world needs more field experiments. Here are my two major drawbacks to the book.
1. If the purpose of the book was to "feature" their own research, then they did a good job. If the purpose was to propose answers to the questions they raised, then they did a pretty lousy job. They ignore tons of other research (some of it experimental) done by scholars in other fields. How many people did they name besides a few co-authors? I'm sure it was less than 10. Even if the purpose of the book was to demonstrate the value of field experiments, there are lots of them out there that should have been acknowledged. Otherwise it sounds like they're saying "Have no fear world! Economists (from Chicago, no less) have arrived to solve your problems." And this is really the root of the problem: behavioral economists tend to ignore the huge amounts of work done in other fields by other people. Maybe their academic papers acknowledge them, but if you read books like this one or Freakonomics or Nudge, then you would never know of social scientists who have spent decades studying human behavior.
2. Maybe this is addressed in their academic papers, but they never mention one huge threat to internal validity. In the educational experiments, how many people know about the experiment and who's in what condition? When parents find out that their child is in the "control" condition (or any other condition) how does that affect their behavior and the children's behavior? In other words, field experiments are great, but doing a truly double blind experiment is often impossible. It would have been nice to at least mention this problem.

But still a book worth reading.
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on January 9, 2014
The Why Axis by Gneezy and List is a case study analysis of how experimental economics can help us figure out what motivates people and how to use that information to improve economic efficiency. The book is very reminiscent of Freakenomics but with the added focus of using controlled experiments on sample groups to determine policy and actions for the investigating parties. The book is a good combination of behavioral economics, business strategy which includes sampling techniques and methodology ideas. It reminds us that economics doesnt work in a vacuum in academics and can be adaptive from the bottom up and enhance the way we motivate outcomes by having a greater understanding of the underlying consumer's behaviour.

The book is split into multiple chapters each with its own focus. It starts out by asking the question of how do incentives work and why we should think intrinsically about what works better, carrot, sticks, in which order and why. It reminds us that experiments can be the ideal way to figure out which incentives are more effective despite the fact that they might be identical in theory (or under the assumptions of rational audience). It starts out with a very interesting investigation into compensation differences between the genders. It then does a cultural investigation of whether women and women operate differently when they are put in competition. They also investigate this question within the context of matriarchal and patriarchal societies showing how with a simple game one sees that the cultural background affects the answer and that the culture rather than the biology tells us whether this propensity will be different. The book investigates education and whether financial incentives can bridge the gap in schooling outcomes for different socioeconomic groups. The results are affirmative in certain conditions. The book describes economics of discrimination and how basic transparency of pricing can easily remove predatorial and discriminatory pricing. The authors investigate insurance business and the rationality of pricing. The book investigates in some detail charity and the psychological aspects of giving and what can motivate it as well as investigating the marketing side. They discover how different marketing strategies can be successful and the limitations of certain gimmicks. They debunk several rules of thumbs that have been industry norms with simple experiments. They finally discuss why, despite the overwhelming evidence that experimental economics can massively change bottom line with little expense, it is still often overlooked.

The Why Axis is an incredibly practical book and takes pride that its conclusions are empirical and not theoretical. The authors dont live by their assumptions, they test them to see where they are most true and then build on the results to define better frameworks and guidelines. The work is interesting and the chapters can be fun to read. This material is not particularly groundbreaking, it is reinforcing of what should be the microeconomic and marketing research trend taken by professionals and academics. The messages of the book are far ranging in field and the authors remind us that we should care about optimal results and experiments on the right samples can confirm or deny our suspicions for great efficiency gains.
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on January 19, 2014
The empirical-instrumental method that has represented the basis of our modern scientific knowledge and the progress of our western world civilization is finally beeing applied to economics. Not singular in its approach to the topic, "The Why Axis" however has the freshness and catchiness of first responder reaction to field experiments. Many of these economical books for laymen are actually retellings of stories experienced by others. Here instead we have the actual experimenters narrating the how and why of their work. From societie's needs, to the people and groups involved in solving them Gneezy and List pull us into issues such as gender discrimination, modern racism, minority difficulties in schooling, charity business. They show us how it is difficult to make statements if these are not based on experiments, and how when experiments are carried out sometimes motivations and results are completely different from what we immagined. Social sciences and economics are a one and only discipline.
Resting on the shoulders of giants such as Kahneman and Tversky, Gneezy and List take us another step into the new field of experimental and not theoretical economics and incite us to try our own experiments in our little backyards.
A fun book, mind opening and optimistic. Leaves you happy.
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on August 29, 2014
I write fundraising appeals for a living. I explain my profession to my family this way: "You know that stuff you always throw in the trash, I write that." And what I am ALWAYS looking for is a psychological edge that will help me raise more money for the VERY worthy causes that hire me. This incredible book gave me a half-dozen POWERFUL insights I can now to put to work in fundraising. Thank you, authors. This book is world-changing … or could be, if people, especially policy people and nonprofits, take the time to read it.
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on July 15, 2014
For readers of the Freakanomics persuasion the Why Axis helps demonstrate the wonders and possibilities of field testing of economic theories. List, a leader in the nonprofit research world, and Greezy provide an excellent overview of their impactful and influential work. Fully knowing that accessing a range of emotions will aid in the delivery of the message the duo provide a range of experiences that will make the reader both inspired to do good, and recoil at the occasional horror that makes up the world. What's more, the duo provide a lighthearted commentary that glides through the complex material and provides a good laugh along the way. This book is a hearty recommendation!
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on March 4, 2017
thumb up
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on January 10, 2014
Gneezy and List write in a manner that makes the field of behavioral economics accessible and interesting for all to enjoy. Their creativity and enthusiasm for finding solutions that work make field experiments exciting. By the end of the book you will be thinking of how you may implement experiments in your own life.

Read it! It will inspire you to think of (and test) new approaches to social and individual problems.
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on December 9, 2013
I enjoyed this book thoroughly, finding it engaging and through-provoking throughout. Furthermore I think the tone of the book makes it very readable. The chapters on gender and competition early in the book are a highlight, as is the last chapter on business. Highly recommended!
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on November 16, 2013
Awesome book. Very well written. A non-fiction book that is actually fun too read. Aside from the fact that it is about a serious topic, of course. Very relevant for our times and our social issues. Hopefully, people with the means will pay attention and follow those well-researched recommendations.
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