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

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Overview

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 show how economic incentives ...

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

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Overview

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 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.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"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
"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; author of Stumbling on Happiness
"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
"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
"John List's work in field experiments is revolutionary." - Prof. Gary Becker, University of Chicago, Nobel Laureate in Economics
Library Journal - Audio
02/01/2014
Gneezy (economics & strategy, Rady Sch. of Management, Univ. of California-San Diego) and List (economics, Univ. of Chicago) here brilliantly meld social psychology with economics in an attempt to understand human behavior. The authors develop and conduct field experiments to study people in their natural environments and use the results to identify ways to address difficult problems such as the gap between rich and poor students, violence in schools, and gender differences in competition. Their unique approach, with its emphasis on field research, demonstrates effective incentives to solve these and other problems and change the outcomes. Other areas investigated include why people discriminate, how to best price products and services, and new ways to look at philanthropic fundraising. Their ideas, based on serious research, are presented in a straightforward and entertaining way. Eric Martin's well-paced delivery finds the right balance between the serious problems and entertaining anecdotes. VERDICT Buy for public libraries and fans of Freakonomics.—Cynthia Jensen, Gladys Harrington Lib., Plano, TX
Publishers Weekly
★ 08/26/2013
Gneezy and List, economists at U.C. San Diego and the University of Chicago, respectively, specialize in ingenious “field experiments” that elucidate the workings of social psychology and decision making: from a ball-tossing game that exposes the social pressures that make women shy away from competition, to role-playing skits that tease out the subtleties of discrimination at car dealerships. There are some less-groundbreaking findings—men, it seems, give more money to door-to-door fundraisers if they are attractive females—but also many counterintuitive insights: it’s possible to boost sales of a wine by raising its price; increase charitable giving by letting prospects opt out of solicitations; and even raise profits by letting customers pay whatever they want for a product. Writing in the Freakonomics vein of breezy pop-econ (Steven Levitt provides the foreword), Gneezy and List assert that “self-interest lies at the root of human motivation,” but it’s a self-interest broadly conceived to include the “warm glow” of philanthropic sacrifice and readily influenced by the unobtrusive policy nudges they suggest. The authors’ lucid, engaging exposition of thought-provoking research spotlights some of our more perverse promptings—and their underlying logic. Photos. Agent: Levine Greenberg Literary Agency. (Oct.)
Kirkus Reviews
2013-09-15
More fun, Freakonomics-style stories about why people do the things they do. In this debut, Gneezy (Behavioral Economics/Univ. of California, San Diego) and List (Economics/Univ. of Chicago) draw on 20 years of pioneering field research to explain human motivations. Conducting randomized experiments that examine people's behavior in the real world, they have explored "the real underbelly of human motivation" behind problems in such areas as education, discrimination and gender equity. Their informative stories about the behavior of people in real-life situations discuss their fascinating discoveries: Most modern-day discrimination stems from people or companies trying to increase their profits. Women earn less because of deeply held cultural worldviews. Financial incentives help underachieving school kids get higher grades. Donors give money mainly to feel good about themselves. In sum, write the authors, "self-interest lies at the root of human motivation--not necessarily selfishness, but self-interest." Once one understands what people value (money, relationships, praise, etc.), it should be possible to help close the achievement gap in schools, get donors to give more money, and so on, by designing incentives that work to change behavior. 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. Their book brims with stories of the Chicago public schools, the matrilineal society of the Khasi tribal people, and the thinking behind charitable appeals to help children with cleft palates, among others. Weak title aside, this book will interest general readers as well as individuals and companies seeking to influence behaviors.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781624068096
  • Publisher: Dreamscape Media
  • Publication date: 10/8/2013
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Unabridged
  • Product dimensions: 6.04 (w) x 5.04 (h) x 1.13 (d)

Meet the Author

Uri Gneezy is the Arthur Brody Endowed Chair in Behavioral Economics and professor of economics and strategy at the Rady School of Management at UC San Diego. He has also been on the faculties of the University of Chicago, Israel's Technion, and the University of Haifa.

John 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 decade and served as senior economist on the President's Council of Economic Advisors for environmental and resource economics.

READER BIO
Eric is an Earphones Award-winner for his narration of "Detroit: An American Autopsy." He has narrated over a dozen audiobooks in both fiction and nonfiction. Eric is also the host and producer of the award-winning "This American Wife," a popular podcast and now webseries that features original comedy and stories, as well as interviews with authors such as Robert Greene, and Amy Tan. He also works as a theatrical producer, and is based in Los Angeles.

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Read an Excerpt


The sign on the road in the Khasi hills of northeast India had a puzzling message: “Equitable distribution of self-acquired property rights.” We asked Minott, our driver, what it meant.

“I do not work in the rice fields, like most men of my tribe,” he told us proudly. “I work as a translator. And a driver. And I operate a gas station in my sister’s house. And I trade goods at the market. You see! I work very hard!”

We nodded in agreement. He certainly seemed like a natural-born entrepreneur….But Minott’s life was constricted. Many of the things he wanted to do required his sister’s permission, because in the matrilineal Khasi society, women hold the economic power. The sign on the road, Minott explained, was part of a nascent men’s movement, as the men in Khasi society began to articulate their resentment over being treated as “breeding bulls and babysitters.” Here was a parallel universe—one we believed might help us solve one of the most vexing economic questions in Western society, inequality between men and women.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 18 )
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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 17, 2014

    Private Nickels

    Walks in im a new recruite

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 16, 2014

    Dawson

    Hides behind a tree and shoots Hunter in the back.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 7, 2014

    Zero

    Walks in and looks at all the children

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 13, 2014

    Lt. Griffin to hunter

    My orders were to switch posts im moving tonight

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 7, 2014

    To hunter

    Book ba<_>be

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 12, 2014

    Anderson

    Walks in

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 17, 2014

    RJ

    I think Hunter is non-existant Dawson. Not to mention inside a building. So ya nice try tho. And dont even bother to shot at me. It wont work.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 4, 2014

    Jordan

    (How would I be dead? It's a bullet to the stomach. You can survive that. Plus I stopped the guard.) *The guard pulled te trigger and the gun backfired on him. Last night, several other soldiers and myself had sabotaged the guns in the base by loading the ammo backwards, along with detaching the treads on the tanks and cutting open the fuel tanks on any other vehicles. I grabbed the guard and shoved my combat knife into his back between the third and fourth rib, silencing him. I threw the gate open and ran off into the night.*

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 30, 2014

    Spade

    (Done.)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 30, 2014

    To Sinon,

    I died of laughter at your Over 18 joke. I read it before. 17 year olds, "Yeah, l'm over 18." And it's not a lie o.o

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 28, 2014

    Parker and Company

    From in the sky, a roaring hum sounded in the distant. An cargo plane made a mini dot in the distant.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 26, 2014

    zimmerman

    Reporting for duty sir i would like to be in the front line of the navy sir thankyou sir turns around and sits down

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 26, 2014

    Ace

    Marches in. Wearing standard gear and with two pistols at his side. Onewith blood marks all over, and one that looks like it was dropped in a bucket of blue paint. Stands at attention. "This ia Ace Parker reporting, Sir! With a request to be leader of a Ground Squad, Sir!" He shouts. (Where do we write a bio?)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 13, 2014

    Sinon

    Gtg bbl.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 26, 2014

    Annie

    Looks at Ace

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 26, 2014

    Ashyln

    I want to be a medic. It says i jeed to come here before making a bio......

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 12, 2014

    Hunter to Sinon

    Until we reqruit somwone I'm placeig you in chatge of the manned and radar targeting A-A only thing you might not no. Turn off the radar targeting when our airplanes are in the air. Thety can't tell friend from foe.

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  • Posted October 8, 2013

    I Also Recommend:

    I just got a copy of The Why Axis and it is really good! I like

    I just got a copy of The Why Axis and it is really good! I like that the authors weave together both the research findings from some behavioral economics studies as well as their own personal stories and explanations of how they came up with the work. It was especially neat to read about how Uri Gneezy came up with the idea to study the impact of fines after being late to pick up his children at a daycare. If you liked Freakonomics, you will like this book!

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