U.S. academic Richard Thaler wins 2017 Nobel Economics Prize

Vastavam web: U.S. academic Richard Thaler, who helped popularise the idea of “nudging” people towards doing what was best for them, won the 2017 Nobel Economics Prize on Monday for his work on how human nature affects supposedly rational markets.Influential in the field of behavioural economics, his research showed how traits such as lack of self-control and fear of losing what you already have prompt decisions that may not have the best outcome in the longer term.

Awarding the 9 million Swedish crown ($1.1 million) prize, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said: “Richard Thaler’s contributions have built a bridge between the economic and psychological analyses of individual decision-making.”“His empirical findings and theoretical insights have been instrumental in creating the new and rapidly expanding field of behavioural economics, which has had a profound impact on many areas of economic research and policy.”Thaler brought to prominence the idea of “nudge” economics, where individuals are subtly guided toward beneficial behaviours without heavy-handed compulsion, the theme of a 2008 book he co-wrote which caught the eye of policymakers around the world.

In researching how self-control – or the lack of it – Thaler touched on an age-old problem: why New Year’s resolutions to change aspects of your life are notoriously hard to keep.Their book, titled ‘Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness’ became popular with some western politicians seeking ways to encourage their citizens to save and live healthily, without incurring voters’ wrath for raising taxes or banning behaviour outright.

“This has also been used in public pension systems in the United States and the general idea of ‘nudging’ … has made a breakthrough in public policy making,” Torsten Persson, economics prize committee member, told.David Laibson, chair of Harvard University’s economics department, said many of Thaler’s theories have been widely applied by business and government, aiming to get individuals to do a range of actions such as paying parking tickets and getting flu shots.

Influential in academic circles, the movie-going public may have noticed Thaler make a brief cameo in the 2015 film “The Big Short”, explaining the so-called “hot-hand fallacy” where past success is expected to also warrant success in the future, with pop star Selena Gomez.