Why behavioral economics helps us understand human behavior better than traditional economic models.

Some of these studies surprised me. What did they have in common?When people are given six flavors instead of 24, they’re more likely to buy jam.

Real estate agents were surprised when they inspected a property and found that it was worth $14,000 more when the seller had listed it for sale at $149,900 rather than $119,900If children are playing an enjoyable game and then receive a reward when they win, they may lose interest in playing the rest of the game once the reward is no longer available.

When people see others consuming less than them, they tend to consume less themselves. If you flip a coin six times, most of us would agree that HHHHHTTT is less likely than HTTHTHT. However, most of us would be wrong. Managers underestimate the intrinsic motivation of their employees

All these studies have been presented as ones conducted by behavioral economists, but in reality they were done by psychology researchers.

This is a common misconception. As an economist who won a Nobel Prize says, “when it comes to policy decisions, applications of social or psychological research are now commonly referred to as ‘behavioral’ economic.”

When someone calls me a behavioral economicist, I usually correct him by saying that all of my academic credentials are in psychology. But his response was: “Your work sounds cooler if people think I called you a behavioral economicist.”

If we consider five possible explanations for why people don’t use digital marketing tools, let’s look at the available data and see which explanation best fits the facts.

The hypothesis is that behavioral economists are hotter than psychology professors.

According to a survey by the American Psychological Association, psychologists ranked #10, and economists ranked #30.

Behavioral economists do more interesting research than psychologists.

This one is false also. Exhibit A: Daniela Kahneman, the grandmother of behavioral economic studies and author of, is an economist. Despite being awarded her Nobel prize in economic sciences, she holds a PhD in political science and has been a political scientist for her entire career.

Exhibit B : Dan Ariely, the grandpa of behavioral economic studies and writer of, is a cognitive neuroscientist. He was awarded his Nobel prize in economic sciences despite holding a PhD in psychological sciences.

Predictably Irrational

Behavioral economists do more interesting research than non-named Dan

False. Great economics-related videos include Amy Cuddy’s talk on body language, Dan Ariely’s book Predictably Irrational, Daniel Kahneman’s Nobel Prize lecture, Richard Thaler’s Nudge, and even Freakonomics.

There are no psychology-related videos among the most popular TED videos.

Behavioral economics sounds less obvious than psychological research.

Yes, economics is the study of allocative efficiency – how to allocate scarce resources most effectively. Economists have come up with some ingenious ways to solve problems.

For example, they invented the turnstile so people could get into public transit without having their pockets picked.

Psychotherapy can help people who suffer from mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and schizophrenia.

Therapy can also help those who are experiencing problems with alcohol or substance abuse. Some therapies may involve talking about your feelings, thoughts and experiences, and others may include physical activities such as relaxation exercises, guided imagery or art therapy.

If you don’t give a good reason for wanting something, people won’t be impressed by your reasons.

If you want to feel happier, count more things you’re grateful for instead of fewer.Ventilating is a good way to release anger.

There’s one catch: All three of these things are the opposite of what psychology has found.

Ellen Langer and colleagues asked whether they could move ahead in the queue because they were in a hurry. Only 60 percent said yes, compared to 94 percent who agreed to do so when given an honest excuse.

When presented with a fake excuse — “I have to take these papers home and study them” — 93 percent also agreed to step aside. The researchers concluded that people often agree to things without thinking about why they’re doing it.

Research led by Norberto Schwarz has found that naming just three good aspects of your own personal situation makes it easier for you to believe that your own circumstances are positive.

However, when you have to name twelve good features of your own personal situation, you’ll need to be more creative, and you may conclude that your own circumstances aren’t quite so rosy after all.

Studies conducted by Brad Bushman suggest that venting makes us more angry and aggressive. When we’re angry, we become angrier than if we simply sat quietly or did nothing at all. We also tend to be louder when we’re angry.

Psychology isn’t as simple as it may seem. Sociologist Duncan Watts explains in his new bestseller Everything Is Obvious Once You Know the Answer. (For more examples of popular psychology myths, see The 50 Greatest Myths of Popular Psychology)

Behavioral economics is seen as more rigorous than psychological research.

It’s true that when most folks think of an economist, they imagine someone sitting at a desk crunching numbers.

But when they think of a psychologist, they imagine Sigmund Freud lying down on his sofa telling them why they’ve been failing their exams. (And if you disagree with that, then you’re just denying reality.)

Psychologists who study human behavior are almost always labeled “behavioral economists” even though they may know nothing about economics.

They’re often given more credit for their ideas simply because they’re considered to be experts in psychology.

We’ve made great strides in understanding human behavior, but our branding needs work. Behavioral science is an exciting field because it combines the best aspects of both philosophy and hard sciences.

Our research is guided by experimental methods, and we’re starting to see results that show how the brain works. In addition, we’re developing better ways to measure things such as happiness and empathy.

Finally, psychologists are working together across disciplines to develop a common language. By combining these approaches, we can create a new framework for studying the world around us.

Anyway, we’re saying goodbye, Freud.

Adam is a Whartons professor. Although he doesn’t think behavioral economists are cool, sign up for his free monthly email newsletter at