- Hardcover: 288 pages
- Publisher: PublicAffairs (October 8, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1610393112
- ISBN-13: 978-1610393119
- Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 79 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #137,366 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Why Axis: Hidden Motives and the Undiscovered Economics of Everyday Life Hardcover – October 8, 2013
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Publishers Weekly, STARRED Review
Fun, Freakonomics-style stories about why people do the things they do .Gneezy and List offer illuminating discussions on many topics, from the differences between animus-based and economic discrimination to how women can grow up to be more competitive and close the gender gap in the labor market.”
[T]rue trailblazers in one of the greatest innovations in economics of the last fifty years.”
Steven D. Levitt, coauthor of Freakonomics
Uri Gneezy is a pioneer whose work tears down the wall between the lab and the field.”
Alvin E. Roth, winner of the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences
It is hard to imagine any story of innovation in our thinking about economics that does not involve Uri and John. Both in their independent work and in their joint projects, they have expanded and looked at the sensitive underbelly of economics. I can't think of a book that I'm looking forward to more than this one.”Prof. Dan Ariely, Professor of Behavioral Economics, Duke University; author, Predictably Irrational and The Upside of Irrationality
John List and Uri Gneezy are among the foremost behavioral economists in the world. Their ideas have been groundbreaking, and their research has been widely read and hugely influential. I'll be eager to read any book they produce.” Prof. Daniel Gilbert, Professor of Psychology, Harvard University and Author of Stumbling on Happiness
John List's work in field experiments is revolutionary.”Prof. Gary Becker, University of Chicago, Nobel Laureate in Economics
John List and Uri Gneezy have done the pioneering economic work on whether gender differences are innate or the result of social pressures. They are two of America's leading young economists and their work is followed with great interest.”Prof. Tyler Cowen, George Mason University; author, The Economic Scene and blogger, Marginal Revolution.com
John List and Uri Gneezy are leaders in the area of experimental and behavioral economics and rising stars of the profession. Their work bridges the gap between the lab and the field and enables us to learn how economic agents make real decisions in controlled environments and as the economic stakes change. A book bringing their distinctive perspectives and styles has the potential of being a real home run.”Prof. Daron Acemoglu, Professor of Economics, M.I.T, coauthor of Why Nations Fail
Gneezy and List are two of the most brilliant and interesting economists in the world. Their work is simultaneously scientifically path breaking and accessible to the general public. They've studied prosaic markets like baseball card conventions, daycare centers, and auto-repair shops, but their ideas are so deep that Gneezy and List reveal that these mundane markets turn out to hold the secrets of human motivation and human behavior. Their work has revolutionized all of social science. I can't wait to read a book that they write.”Prof. David Laibson, Professor of Economics, Harvard University
About the Author
John A. List grew up in a working-class family in Wisconsinwhere his father drove trucks for a livingand 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 President's Council of Economic Advisors for environmental and resource economics.
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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.
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.