From “Economic Man” to Behavioral Economics

29 04 2015

That’s the title of a great new essay by Justin Fox that reviews just how much economists’ views of human motivation have changed over the course of the last few decades. Fox explains in clear, layman-accessible terms, the ongoing academic debates about how people make decisions.  There is plenty of good historical material in this essay: lots of material about the historical context of management-school ideas seems to be the hallmark of Fox’s books and articles.

…Although heuristics and biases is currently dominant, for the past half century it has interacted with and sometimes battled with the other two, one of which has a formal name—decision analysis—and the other of which can perhaps best be characterized as demonstrating that we humans aren’t as dumb as we look.Adherents of the three schools have engaged in fierce debates, and although things have settled down lately, major differences persist. This isn’t like David Lodge’s aphorism about academic politics being so vicious because the stakes are so small. Decision making is important, and decision scholars have had real influence.

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