Behavioral Economics / Behavior Change

The application of principles of economics and psychology to examine how individuals make choices in complex contexts--such as personal finances and health--and to improve these decisions and behaviors.

Concentration of Tobacco Advertisements at SNAP and WIC Stores, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 2012

Feb. 4, 2015

Amy Hillier, Mariana Chilton, Qianwei Zhao, Dorota Szymkowiak, Ryan Coffman, Giridhar Mallya

In Preventing Chronic Disease, Amy Hillier and colleagues analyze the amount and type of tobacco advertising in stores that take part in the nutrition assistance programs SNAP and WIC. The authors conducted field visits and analyzed online images to inspect all licensed tobacco retailers in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The authors find that tobacco outlets with exterior tobacco advertising are significantly clustered in high-poverty areas. Controlling for socioeconomics and racial variables, SNAP and WIC vendors are significantly more likely to have both indoor and outdoor tobacco...

Wearable Devices as Facilitators, Not Drivers, of Health Behavior Change

Feb. 3, 2015

Mitesh S. Patel, David A. Asch, Kevin G. Volpp

In a commentary in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Mitesh Patel, David Asch, and Kevin Volpp discuss the validity of claims that wearable devices promote long-term healthy behaviors. The authors contend that, although they may be useful in facilitating behavioral change in individuals already motivated to do so, using wearable devices to motivate people to instigate healthy changes is a challenge. Relatively high prices, potential inaccuracy of metrics, inconsistency of use, and difficulties in sustaining motivation are all significant barriers to success. Getting patients...

Insurance Decision-Making For Rare Events: The Role Of Emotions

Jan. 16, 2015

Howard Kunreuther, Mark Pauly

In a NBER working paper, Howard Kunreuther and Mark Pauly analyze an individual’s decision to purchase insurance when given information about “low-probability high-consequence” events such as a hurricane. The authors conducted a web-based multi-period insurance purchasing experiment. Participants were told the probability and resulting losses of a hurricane occurring and were informed that these were stable from period to period. The authors contrast the model of informed expected utility maximization with alternative behavioral models of choice as explanations for what they observe. The...