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133 - 1/8/2014 12:18:47 PM  

The Why Axis

The Why Axis: Hidden Motives and the Undiscovered Economics of Everyday Life

Uri Gneezy and John List

The field of economic forecasting is often the butt of jokes, being called the modern-day equivalent to soothsaying.


Economists read the entrails of Chicago school professors, together with anecdotal evidence, mixed into a pot with abstract theories and a large portion of wishful thinking, attempt to predict the behaviour of markets in order to better make business decisions. Needless to say, it's about as effective as it sounds.

Even those within the industry are aware of the faulty methods used, as even Goldman-Sachs' chief economist Jan Hatzius was quoted as saying that “Nobody really has a clue [what's going to happen].” In The Why Axis, John List & Uri Gneezy attempt to rectify this problem by getting out of the lab and into the field, designing innovative experiments to get actual, empirical data on how various incentives motivate behaviour in order to solve real-world problems.

They study a variety of issues, including the influence of patriarchal culture on individual competitiveness (dispelling the notion that women are intrinsically less competitive than men), how best to reduce inner-city school absenteeism caused by the threat of violence, and how to get people to donate more to charitable causes.

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