– Updated: June 21, 2019.
The concept of behavioral economics has become massive and dispersed really fast. From the academic research subfield of economics to its applications to policy and business, behavioral economics has become an all-in-one umbrella term for any psychological insight applied to a situation within a field not traditionally used to think psychologically. If you perform a generic google search “behavioral economics” you get a little bit of everything with no apparent order or categorization. I have been interested in behavioral economics for almost a decade. During that time I have taken multiple related classes in my BS in economics at the University of Nottingham, my MS in economics at Barcelona GSE and my PhD in economics at the University of Southern California as well as online classes. I have also worked with some of the most renowned researchers in the field and have personally been involved in more than seven lab and field experiments. Apart from my academic involvement in behavioral economics I have been an avid follower of the, by now, various strands of behavioral economics and an observer of the evolution of the concept over the past ten years. In this resource I aim to bring together and organize a (by no means comprehensive) collection of resources that interested individuals can utilize to learn more about behavioral economics in a structured manner. These resources include links for beginners, introduction to various organizations, blogs and other resources related to the field of behavioral economics. Many of these resources I still use myself to get informed about news and advances in the field. Since behavioral economics ranges from academic research to policy / business work to just interesting reads for the layperson, this resource is aimed both for students-academics and any interested outsider who finds the concept of behavioral economics fascinating and does not know where to start from.
I will keep updating this resource as I discover more interesting behavioral economics resources so make sure to check out this page often. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, or have come across some interesting resource that I should include in this guide, please do get in touch! I’m always excited to discuss behavioral economics!
Behavioral economics for beginners.
By now there are countless resources for beginners. Read this article for a (relatively) short introduction to the field. Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman’s book thinking fast and slow includes a good overview of various behavioral economics concepts with relatable real-world examples. Psychologist-Business PhD turned behavioral economist Dan Ariely is arguably the most vocal advocate of the impacts of behavioral economics to our everyday lives. Dan is extremely active online with multiple online resources where he communicates his research to educate people on how to make better decisions. His MOOC “A beginners’ guide to irrational behavior” is probably the most popular introductory online course in behavioral economics (I took his course about a decade ago and I would definitely recommend it.) What is more, Dan has published numerous easy-to-read books covering a wide range of topics in the field. Check them out here.
Behavioral economics has, in some circles, become synonymous with experimental economics. While experiments have certainly been a large component of research in behavioral economics and have contributed tremendously in the development of the discipline, they are by no means synonymous. Behavioral economics refers to the more general concept of incorporating psychological insights as means to explain economic behavior, experimental economics refers to the insights produced by research utilizing controlled laboratory experiments. Thus while there’s a huge overlap between the two, behavioral economics does not necessarily need the use of experiments while experimental economics need not be solely about the extraction of psychological insights from behavior. For more on experimental economics, check out this lecture by the Nobel Laureate Venon Smith, considered by many to be the father of experimental economics.
Most laboratory experiments in economics are written using Urs Fischbacher’s, 2007 Z-tree program, a client-sever application. The server application for the designer is called z-tree while the client application for the subjects is called z-leaf. It was first developed at the University of Zurich. Another program for experimental economics that is open-source and has surfaced recently is the O-tree program, free to use and licensed under the MIT open source license. Check out their website. They provide ready-made games that are really easy to modify or you can create your own experiment from scratch. O-tree comes with integration with Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (MTurk) – a crowdsourcing marketplace where “workers” from all over the world are recruited by researchers and businesses to perform tasks oftentimes involving surveys or experiments.
Interested in funding your next small-scale experiment? Check out these two incredible funding sources for young academics:
Behavioral economics for policy.
Most people would agree that when thinking of behavioral economics in policy, the work of Nobel laureate Richard Thaler should be at the top of your list. Nudge theory, developed by Thaler and coauthor Cass Sunstein has had profound impact on how policy is viewed and implemented in many countries. Nudge theory has perhaps most enthusiastically been adopted by the UK’s cabinet office with the establishment of the The Behavioral Insights Team, or unofficially called “The Nudge Unit”. The organization sets out to apply insights from nudge theory in attempt to improve the government’s policy both in terms of its efficacy and its cost. Read more about it in this book. Finally do check out the “Nudge blog” with thousands of real-world examples of nudges, updated regularly.
Dan Ariely’s research lab the Center for Advanced Hindsight is dedicated at identifying human behavioral biases and finding ways of helping people make better choices. Another hub of both research and real-world applications of behavioral insights is ideas42, a group of academic researchers and practitioners from the world’s top Universities. I am subscribed to the mailing list of the applied behavioral science group iNudge you.
Behavioral insights are increasingly applied to maximize the efficacy of interventions in poor countries. The intersection of behavioral economics and development economics is flourishing. Read about this new field here and here. Also read the Word Bank’s 2015 World Development Report which features a strong element of psychology and behavioral science. I would also recommend checking out the work of the Busara Center for Behavioral Economics, which I have been following for a long time.
The academic community in behavioral economics is massive and increasing. The Economic Science Association (ESA) is probably the largest hub of academic researchers in behavioral – experimental economics. The ESA organizes various conferences (North America, World, Europe, Asia-Pacific) each of which is held about once every year and attract hundreds or sometimes thousands of researchers to present their current research. These meetings are a great opportunity for researchers and other interested academics to both get informed on the current topics of research within the community. ESA also hosts two google discussion groups, one for related announcements, including job openings, workshops etc, and another for questions and discussion of experimental methods. I strongly suggest to any junior behavioral economist or interested student to subscribe to both of these groups. Related is the Society for Experimental Finance (SEF) which brings together the related field of behavioral and experimental finance that organize their own annual meetings and google discussion group. The Society for Advancement of Behavioral Economics (SABE) is another long-standing community of behavioral economics researchers that frequently organize workshops and mini-conferences in various topics of behavioral economics. They also publish their own Journal of Behavioral Economics for Policy (JBEP) that focuses on works in behavioral economics, psychology, neuroeconomics and other related sub-disciplines that apply insights to policy and real-world phenomena. To be informed on upcoming conferences in behavioral economics and related fields check out this page of behavioraleconomics.com.
Behavioral economics in AI and Machine Learning.
Behavioral economics is rapidly entering the world of big data, artificial intelligence and machine learning. While research over the past 30 years, mainly in Computer science, has focused on optimization and efficiency of the algorithms, technology companies and researchers in the social sciences are beginning to examine the behavioral side of AI products that are being embedded more and more in people’s everyday lives. For a more in-depth description of the intersection between behavioral economics and artificial intelligence and machine learning, check out my other resource AI & Machine Learning.
Neuroeconomics – the intersection between economics and neuroscience – studies the association between economic decision-making and non-choice data like brain activity, eye movements and dilation, heart rate variations. It is closely associated to behavioral economics through the psychological explanations and the use of experiments. The seminal book for neuroeconomics is Paul Glimcher and Ernst Fehr’s “Neuroeconomics: Decision Making and the Brain“. I also recommend this online course from coursera.org and the Higher School of Economics which I personally completed in 2014.
My advisor Giorgio Coricelli is an expert in this field. Do check out his website. His work includes some incredible contributions at the intersection of economics and neuroscience. Take a look at one of his latest papers utilizing eye-tracking to identify different models of choices across participants.
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Please do get in touch if you have any questions or concerns. I’m glad to discuss new ideas and suggestions for research or other work. Shoot me an email, text me on skype or write your message in the box below. I’ll get back to you as soon as time permits.