Richard H. Thaler

Richard H. Thaler
Nobel Laureate
University of Chicago | UC · Chicago Booth School of Business

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198
Publications
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Publications

Publications (198)
Chapter
This book presents the definitive exposition of ‘prospect theory’, a compelling alternative to the classical utility theory of choice. Building on the 1982 volume, Judgement Under Uncertainty, this book brings together seminal papers on prospect theory from economists, decision theorists, and psychologists, including the work of the late Amos Tvers...
Article
There has been growing interest in the field come to me known as “behavioral economics” which attempts to incorporate insights from other social sciences, especially psychology, in order to enrich the standard economic model. This interest the underlying psychology of human behavior returns economics to its earliest roots. Scholars such as Adam Smi...
Article
Full-text available
We examine high stakes three-person bargaining in a game show where contestants bargain over a large money amount that is split into three unequal shares. We find that individual behavior and outcomes are strongly influenced by equity concerns: those who contributed more to the jackpot claim larger shares, are less likely to make concessions, and t...
Article
Behavioral economics can be scaled up to have a major, positive impact on certain behaviors, such as retirement savings.
Article
A question of increasing interest to researchers in a variety of fields is whether the biases found in judgment and decision making research remain present in contexts in which experienced participants face strong economic incentives. To investigate this question, we analyze the decision making of National Football League teams during their annual...
Article
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We examine cooperative behavior when large sums of money are at stake, using data from the TV game show “Golden Balls.” At the end of each episode, contestants play a variant on the classic Prisoner’s Dilemma for large and widely ranging stakes averaging over $20,000. Cooperation is surprisingly high for amounts that would normally be considered co...
Chapter
Full-text available
Decision makers do not make choices in a vacuum. They make them in an environment where many features, noticed and unnoticed, can influence their decisions. The person who creates that environment is, in our terminology, a choice architect. In this paper we analyze some of the tools that are available to choice architects. Our goal is to show how c...
Article
Full-text available
In his Nobel Prize acceptance speech given in 1985, Franco Modigliani drew attention to the "annuitization puzzle": that annuity contracts, other than pensions through group insurance, are extremely rare. Rational choice theory predicts that households will find annuities attractive at the onset of retirement because they address the risk of outliv...
Article
We analyze the long-standing “annuity puzzle” through the lens of behavioral economics. We provide novel evidence that lessens the extent of the puzzle and shed some additional light on the real drivers of the decision to annuitize. Last, we discuss the policy implications of our findings.
Article
Firms sometimes know more about a consumer's expected usage than the consumer herself. We explore the consequences of this reversal in the information asymmetry. We analyze the consequences of making consumers more informed about themselves. While making consumers more informed decreases their expenditure conditional on a given set of prices, equil...
Article
Decision makers do not make choices in a vacuum. They make them in an environment where many features, noticed and unnoticed, can influence their decisions. The person who creates that environment is, in our terminology, a choice architect. In this paper we analyze some of the tools that are available to choice architects. Our goal is to show how c...
Book
Full-text available
Every day, we make decisions on topics ranging from personal investments to schools for our children to the meals we eat to the causes we champion. Unfortunately, we often choose poorly. The reason, the authors explain, is that, being human, we all are susceptible to various biases that can lead us to blunder. Our mistakes make us poorer and less h...
Article
Full-text available
The average nominal share prices of common stocks traded on the New York Stock Exchange have remained constant at approximately $35 per share since the Great Depression as a result of stock splits. It is surprising that U.S. firms actively maintained constant nominal prices for their shares while general prices in the economy went up more than tenf...
Article
The early empirical evidence of a wide disparity between people's valuations of gains and losses appeared in results of contingent valuation studies in which respondents were asked both how much they would be willing to pay to prevent a loss of an environmental or other amenity, and what sum they would demand to accept its loss. The results of expe...
Article
A few simple gadgets for the home would prod people into saving energy
Article
Full-text available
We examine the risky choices of contestants in the popular TV game show "Deal or No Deal" and related classroom experiments. Contrary to the traditional view of expected utility theory, the choices can be explained in large part by previous outcomes experienced during the game. Risk aversion decreases after earlier expectations have been shattered...
Article
A new model of consumer behavior is developed using a hybrid of cognitive psychology and microeconomics. The development of the model starts with the mental coding of combinations of gains and losses using the prospect theory value function. Then the evaluation of purchases is modeled using the new concept of “transaction utility.” The household bu...
Article
Marketing Science, in collaboration with the Informs Society on Marketing Science (ISMS), announces a new type of authored submission---the database report. Marketing Science will consider the publication of submitted databases. The same ...
Article
Think of all the poor choices you could make in the course of a day, if not over an entire lifetime, and then think of all the better choices you might have made if only you had known better, had had better information, were paying attention, or had not been defeated by the sheer complexity of the issue. Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein would help...
Book
Every day, we make decisions on topics ranging from personal investments to schools for our children to the meals we eat to the causes we champion. Unfortunately, we often choose poorly. The reason, the authors explain, is that, being human, we all are susceptible to various biases that can lead us to blunder. Our mistakes make us poorer and less h...
Article
Full-text available
Standard economic theories of saving implicitly assume that households have the cognitive ability to solve the relevant optimization problem and the willpower to execute the optimal plan. Both of the implicit assumptions are suspect. Even among economists, few spend much time calculating a personal optimal savings rate. Instead, most people cope by...
Article
In this paper, we apply basic principles from the domain of design and architecture to choices made by employees saving for retirement. Three of the basic principles of design we apply are: (1) there is no neutral design, (2) design does matter, and (3) many of the seemingly minor design elements could matter as well. Applying these principles to t...
Article
Nominal prices of common stocks have remained constant at around $30 per share since the Great Depression as a result of firms splitting their stocks. It is surprising that firms actively maintained constant nominal price for their shares while general prices in the economy went up more than ten fold. This is especially puzzling given that commissi...
Article
Full-text available
Some 11 million participants in 401(k) plans invest more than 20 percent of their retirement savings in their employer's stock. Yet investing in the stock of one's employer is risky: single securities are riskier than diversified portfolios, and an employee's human capital typically is positively correlated with the company's performance. In the wo...
Article
Monetary transactions in which consumption is temporally separated from purchase naturally lend themselves to multiple frames and to alternative accounting schemes, which nonetheless maintain a modicum of discipline and authenticity. We investigate some of the relevant accounting rules, and find that advanced purchases (e.g., a case of wine) are ty...
Article
In this column, we discuss a version of the utility maximization hypothesis that can be tested--and we find that it is false. We review empirical challenges to utility maximization, which return to the old question of whether preferences optimize the experience of outcomes. Much of this work has focused on a necessary condition for utility-maximizi...
Article
Full-text available
We argue that “narrow framing,” whereby an agent who is offered a new gamble evaluates that gamble in isolation, may be a more important feature of decisionmaking than previously realized. Our starting point is the evidence that people are often averse to a small, independent gamble, even when the gamble is actuarially favorable. We find that a sur...
Article
Our goal in this chapter is to draw on empirical work about preference formation and welfare to propose a distinctive form of paternalism, libertarian in spirit, one that should be acceptable to those who are firmly committed to freedom of choice on grounds of either autonomy or welfare. Indeed, we urge that a kind of ‘libertarian paternalism’ prov...
Article
Monetary transactions in which consumption is temporally separated from purchase naturally lend themselves to multiple frames and to alternative accounting schemes, which nonetheless maintain a modicum of discipline and authenticity. We investigate some of the relevant accounting rules, and find that advanced purchases (e.g., a case of wine) are ty...
Article
Full-text available
One of the most important predictions of the dividend‐signaling hypothesis is that dividend changes are positively correlated with future changes in profitability and earnings. Contrary to this prediction, we show that, after controlling for the well‐known nonlinear patterns in the behavior of earnings, dividend changes contain no information about...
Article
This book offers a definitive and wide-ranging overview of developments in behavioral finance over the past ten years. In 1993, the first volume provided the standard reference to this new approach in finance--an approach that, as editor Richard Thaler put it, "entertains the possibility that some of the agents in the economy behave less than fully...
Article
Public policies toward private pensions reflect a fundamental tension between free choice and paternalism. When people act in their own best interest without harming others, government intervention is unwarranted. But a key motivation for public policies to subsidize retirement saving in the first place is the belief that, without such subsidies, p...
Article
Market e#ciency survives the challenge from the literature on long-term return anomalies. Consistent with the market e#ciency hypothesis that the anomalies are chance results, apparent overreaction to information is about as common as underreaction, and post-event continuation of pre-event abnormal returns is about as frequent as post-event reversa...
Article
Some eleven million 401(k) plan participants take a concentrated equity position in their retirement savings account, investing more than 20% of the balance in their employer's common stock. Yet investing in the stock of one's employer is a risky investment on two counts: single securities are riskier than diversified portfolios (such as mutual fun...
Article
Full-text available
As firms switch from defined-benefit plans to defined-contribution plans, employees bear more responsibility for making decisions about how much to save. The employees who fail to join the plan or who participate at a very low level appear to be saving at less than the predicted life cycle savings rates. Behavioral explanations for this behavior st...
Article
In the 2000 U.S. Presidential campaign, George W. Bush advocated a partial privatiza- tion of the Social Security system. According to his plan, a portion of the payroll tax would be designated for individual savings accounts. At the same time as this issue was being debated in the United States, Sweden was in the process of launching a system that...
Article
Full-text available
The Law of One price states that identical goods (or securities) should sell for identical prices. In financial markets the law of one price is thought to hold almost exactly, and is the basis for much of financial economic theory. We present evidence on several examples of violations of this law, including closed-end country funds, twin shares, du...
Article
We argue that narrow framing, whereby an agent who is offered a new gamble evaluates that gamble in isolation, separately from other risks she already faces, may be a more important feature of decision-making under risk than previously realized. To demonstrate this, we present evidence on typical attitudes to independent monetary gambles with both...
Article
Moneyball by Michael Lewis is reviewed from the perspective of behavioral economics.
Article
The idea of libertarian paternalism might seem to be an oxymoron, but it is both possible and desirable for private and public institutions to influence behavior while also respecting freedom of choice. Often people's preferences are unclear and ill-formed, and their choices will inevitably be influenced by default rules, framing effects, and start...
Article
Full-text available
Matthew Rabin's Clark medal honors his abilities to digest huge amounts of nuanced psychology, create simple models capturing that psychology, and do behavioral economics with those models. After warming up by solving hard problems in modeling pre-game communication, his behavioral career began with a seminal paper on reciprocity. He also created m...
Article
Recent equity carve-outs in U. S. technology stocks appear to violate a basic premise of financial theory: identical assets have identical prices. In our 1998-2000 sample, holders of a share of company A are expected to receive x shares of company B, but the price of A is less than x times the price of B. A prominent example involves 3Com and Palm....
Article
Full-text available
The idea of libertarian paternalism might seem to be an oxymoron, but it is both possible and legitimate for private and public institutions to affect behavior while also respecting freedom of choice. Often people's preferences are ill-formed, and their choices will inevitably be influenced by default rules, framing effects, and starting points. In...
Article
Full-text available
Investors in 401(k) plans often have very naïve notions of diversification. For example, in past research we have found that some employees use a simple "1/n rule": if there are five investment funds, they invest 20 percent in each fund regardless of its risk and return profile. 1 This strategy can lead to poor diversification if the funds in the p...
Article
Behavioral finance argues that some financial phenomena can plausibly be understood using models in which some agents are not fully rational. The field has two building blocks: limits to arbitrage, which argues that it can be difficult for rational traders to undo the dislocations caused by less rational traders; and psychology, which catalogues th...
Article
Behavioral finance argues that some financial phenomena can plausibly be understood using models in which some agents are not fully rational. The field has two building blocks: limits to arbitrage, which argues that it can be difficult for rational traders to undo the dislocations caused by less rational traders; and psychology, which catalogues th...
Article
There is a worldwide trend towards defined contribution savings plans, where investors are often able to select their own portfolios. How much is this freedom of choice worth? We present retirement investors with information about the distribution of outcomes they could expect to obtain from the portfolios they picked for themselves, and the same i...
Article
Recently equity carve-outs in US technology stocks appear to violate a basic premise of financial theory: identical assets have identical prices. In our 1998-2000 sample, holders of a share of company A are expected to receive x shares of company B, but the price of A is less than x times the price of B. A prominent example involves 3Com and Palm....
Article
Full-text available
There is a worldwide trend toward defined contribution saving plans and growing interest in privatized Social Security plans. In both environments, individuals are given some responsibility to make their own asset-allocation decisions, raising concerns about how well they do at this task. This paper investigates one aspect of the task, namely diver...
Article
Full-text available
Economics can be distinguished from other social sciences by the belief that most (all?) behavior can be explained by assuming that rational agents with stable, well-defined preferences interact in markets that (eventually) clear. An empirical result qualifies as an anomaly if it is difficult to "rationalize" or if implausible assumptions are neces...
Article
The difference between people's valuations of gains and losses has been widely observed in both single trial and repeated trial experiments, as well as in survey responses and in commonplace behavior. However, the results of some Vickrey auction experiments indicate that the disparity may decrease, or even disappear, over repeated trials. This pape...
Article
Full-text available
this paper we summarize the results of 74 studies comparing behavior of experimental subjects who were paid zero, low or high financial performance-based incentives. The studies show that the effects of incentives are mixed and complicated. The extreme positions, that incentives make no difference at all, or always eliminate persistent irrationalit...
Article
Full-text available
In responding to a request for predictions about the future of economics, I predict that Homo Economicus will evolve into Homo Sapiens, or, more simply put, economics will become more related to human behavior. My specific predictions are that Homo Economicus will start to lose IQ, will become a slower learner, will start interacting with other spe...
Article
Corruption in the public sector erodes tax compliance and leads to higher tax evasion. Moreover, corrupt public officials abuse their public power to extort bribes from the private agents. In both types of interaction with the public sector, the private agents are bound to face uncertainty with respect to their disposable incomes. To analyse effect...
Article
Mental accounting is the set of cognitive operations used by individuals and households to organize, evaluate, and keep track of financial activities. Making use of research on this topic over the past decade, this paper summarizes the current state of our knowledge about how people engage in mental accounting activities. Three components of mental...
Conference Paper
Mental accounting is the set of cognitive operations used by individuals and households to organize, evaluate, and keep track of financial activities. Making use of research on this topic over the past decade, this paper summarizes the current state of our knowledge about how people engage in mental accounting activities. Three components of mental...
Article
Full-text available
We study how decision makers choose when faced with multiple plays of a gamble or investment. When evaluating multiple plays of a simple mixed gamble, a chance to win x or lose y, subjects show a sensitivity to the amount to lose on a single trial, holding the distribution of returns for the portfolio constant; that is, they display "myopic loss av...
Article
Probabilistic insurance is an insurance policy involving a small probability that the consumer will not be reimbursed. Survey data suggest that people dislike probabilistic insurance and demand more than a 20% reduction in the premium to compensate for a 1% default risk. While these preferences are intuitively appealing they are difficult to reconc...
Article
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We are grateful to Richard Posner and Mark Kelman for their detailed comments on our article. Their objections come from opposite directions. Judge Posner complains that behavioral economics is not a "theory" and is in- deed "antitheoretical"'; he invokes "evolutionary considerations" in the interest of providing a unitary account of both rational...
Article
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Economic analysis of law usually proceeds under the assumptions of neoclassical economics. But empirical evidence gives much reason to doubt these assumptions; people exhibit bounded rationality, bounded self-interest, and bounded willpower. This article offers a broad vision of how law and economics analysis may be improved by increased attention...

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