There are Free Lunches Statement of Intentions

There are Free Lunches: Behavioral Clues to Live Happy in the Economic World is a blog that intends to present updated and relevant information about the "hidden" and only recently uncovered dimensions of the economic science: the behavioral factors. With this blog we intend to promote in Europe and in the rest of the World, the top research articles and perspectives on behavioral economics, decision making, consumer behavior, and general behavioral science. We aim to be followed by journalists, academics, managers, civil servants, and everyone who wishes to improve their daily interaction with the economic world and consequently, their lives' happiness.

Friday, 29 April 2011

The most Beautiful Definition of Behavioral Economics

"The gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strenght of our marriages; the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage; neither our wisdom not our learning; neither our compassion not our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile."
Robert Kennedy

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Principle 3: Buy Many Small Pleasures Instead of Few Big Ones

Across many different life domains, happiness is more strongly associated with the frequency than the intensity of people’s positive affective experiences. No one finds it surprising that people who have sex are happier than people who don’t, but some do find it surprising that the optimal number of sexual partners to have in a twelve-month period is one. Why would people who have one partner be happier than people who have many? One reason is that multiple partners are occasionally thrilling, but regular partners are regularly enjoyable. A bi-weekly ride on a merry-go-round may be better than an annual ride on a roller coaster. One reason why small frequent pleasures beat infrequent large ones is that we are less likely to adapt to the former. The more easily people can understand and explain an event, the quicker they adapt to it, and thus anything that makes a pleasurable event more difficult to understand and explain will delay adaptation. These variables include novelty (we’ve never experienced the event before), surprise (we didn’t expect it to happen), uncertainty (we’re not entirely sure what the event is), and variability (the event keeps changing). Having a beer after work with friends, for example, is never exactly the same as it was before. If we buy an expensive dining room table, on the other hand, it’s pretty much the same table today as it was last week. Because frequent small pleasures are different each time they occur, they forestall adaptation. Another advantage of small pleasures is that they are less susceptible to diminishing marginal utility, which refers to the fact that each unit increase in the magnitude of a pleasure increases the hedonic impact of that pleasure by a smaller amount than did the previous unit increase. Eating a 12 ounce cookie is not twice as pleasurable as eating a 6 ounce cookie because the first X% of a cookie’s weight accounts for more than X% of its hedonic impact. People can therefore offset diminishing marginal utility by “breaking up” or “segregating” a pleasurable experience such as cookie-eating into a series of briefer experiences. Eating two 6 ounce cookies on different days may be better than eating a 12 ounce cookie at a single sitting. But why does segregation work? One reason is that it introduces a temporal discontinuity between experiences and thus ameliorates the effects of adaptation. Researchers asked participants to sit in a chair equipped with a massage cushion. Half the participants experienced a continuous 180 second massage, while the others experienced a massage of 80 seconds, followed by a 20 second break, followed by a another 80 second massage. Compared to participants who experienced one longer massage, those who experienced two briefer massages (interrupted by a break) found the overall experience more pleasurable and were willing to pay about twice as much to purchase the massage cushion. Before the massage began, however, the majority of participants made affective forecasting errors: they predicted that they would prefer receiving one continuous massage rather than two shorter massages with a break in the middle. The happiness provided by frequent small pleasures helps make sense of the modest correlation between money and happiness. In a study of Belgian adults, individuals who had a strong capacity to savor the mundane joys of daily life were happier than those who did not. This capacity to savor, however, was reduced among wealthy individuals. The positive impact of wealth on happiness was significantly undercut by the negative impact of wealth on savoring. Indeed, when participants are exposed to photographs of money (thereby priming the construct of wealth) they spend significantly less time eating a piece of chocolate and exhibit less pleasure while doing it. In short, not only are the small pleasures of daily life an important source of happiness, but unfettered access to peak experiences may actually be counterproductive.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Is Sugar Toxic?

Sugar is a very present nutrient in most of the food we eat nowadays - specially in the more industrialized countries of the world. This a post based in a lecture from Robert Lustig - a specialist on pediatric hormone disorders and the leading expert in childhood obesity at the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine. It become an youtube viral success because it reveals many of unknown consequences of the excessive consumption of sugar - a trait of capitalist societies. Besides other consequences, this lecture reveals that sugar is the likely dietary cause of several chronic ailments widely considered to be diseases of Western lifestyles — heart disease, hypertension and many common cancers.

You can check everything at:

Saturday, 23 April 2011

The New Z-Land Project

One of the basic premises of the New Z-Land Project is that we work towards having all of the Earth's resources as the common heritage of all of the world's people. Anything less will simply result in a continuation of the same catalogue of problems inherent in the present system.

The New Z-Land Project is to be a protoype, experimental community. This experimental community will be offered as a service to experience eco-friendly living while enjoying the luxury of the latest technologies. Due to the current conflict of interests around the world, this project can only cater to those who would like to experience a Resource Sharing Society.

A Resource Sharing Society correctly implemented would give the world much cleaner, safer living capabilities with all essential necessities being available to all persons. By applying advanced technology we can intelligently manage our resources to use surplus materials within the carrying capacity of the earth, to make goods and automated services for everbody. Researching renewable sources of energy, we will design a safe energy-efficient city and community. Eventually this will lead to advanced transportation systems, automated manufacturing and computerized control systems. Most importantly, this method will generate a new incentive system based on human wellbeing and environmental concerns thanks to heavy consideration on education systems and social development programs.

Amazing things tend to happen when humans collaborate. If we put aside our nationalistic tendencies and focus on a clear, well defined objective void of superficial competition, the result is Wikipedia, the Human Genome Project, and the Large Hadron Collider to name just a few. These initiatives serve as proof that we as a species can in fact work together successfully. The NZP hopes one day to be listed amongst such distinguished company. If for only a brief shining moment, the NZP is a meeting place for people with an educated passion.

You can know more about this New Zealand project at:

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Principle 2: Help Others Instead of Yourself

In case you don’t know human beings are the most social animal on our planet and many scientists believe that this “hypersociality” is what caused our brains to triple in size in just two million years. Given how deeply and profoundly social we are, it isn’t any wonder that the quality of our social relationships is a strong source of happiness: almost anything we can do to improve our connections with others tends to improve our happiness as well, and that includes spending money. Researchers asked a nationally representative sample of Americans to rate their happiness and to report how much they spend in a typical month on (1) bills and expenses, (2) gifts for themselves, (3) gifts for others, and (4) donations to charity. The first two categories were summed to create a personal spending composite, and the latter two categories were summed to create a prosocial spending composite. Results showed that although personal spending was unrelated to happiness, people who devoted more money to prosocial spending were happier, even after controlling for their income. These results were replied in other experiments and the benefits of prosocial spending appear to be cross-cultural manifesting themselves with students attending universities in so distance places such as Canada and Uganda. The emotional rewards of prosocial spending are also detectable at the neural level. Participants in an MRI were given the opportunity to donate money to a local food bank. Choosing to give money away, or even being forced to do so, led to activation in brain areas typically associated with receiving rewards. The strong and consistent benefits for well-being promoted by prosocial spending are explained by the fact that strong social relationships are universally critical for happiness, and prosocial spending has a surprisingly powerful impact on social relationships. Research shows that receiving a gift from a romantic partner has a significant impact on college’s feelings about the likelihood of success of the relationship. Besides that, it also provides an opportunity for positive self-presentation, which has been shown to produce benefits for mood. Although the benefits of prosocial spending are robust across cultures and methodologies, they are invisible to many people. Most of the people make an “affective forecasting error”: they think that spending money on themselves makes them happier than spending on others. Research has showed that it is not quite exactly the case.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

1 owns 40 - Something most Americans dont' Know

According to the Normal distribution (which describes the distribution of most human dimensions from height to intelligence, and let me say it, merit and hard-work) the range between the media minus one standard-deviation and the media plus one standard-deviation must contain 66,6% of the observations. As Dan Ariely - I wonder in which of the following 5 years is he going to win the nobel prize - shows us, when it relates to wealth (shouldn't it be a human dimension?) thinks are not quit like that. And the most impressive thing, although most of the americans would desire it (from Republicans to Democrats), they don't know the real distribution of wealth in America and they mistake it with the wealth distribution of Sweden (much closer to the Normal distribution).
You can check here all the details of the Study: ""

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Animals Happiness: Are Wild Animals Happier?

Before the Spending it Right Principle 2, I couldn't avoid to share with you this wonderful piece of science from biologist Christie Wilcox at Scientific American - It was brought to me by a friend of mine called Laura Reis and it talks about animals happiness and how it relates with their living conditions. I believe it can help to shed some light on human beings happiness too.

"There are Free Lunches" in the Blogs List of SJDM - Society for Judgment and Decision Making

I am happy the idea was considered interesting enough to figure in this list. You can check the list in the following link:, and meet other blogs about related topics.

Principle 1: Buy Experiences Instead of Things

Research suggests that people are often happier when they spend their money on experiences rather than things. "Experiential purchases" are defined as those "made with the primary intention of acquiring a life experience: an event or series of events that one lives through", while "Material purchases" as those "made with the primary intention of acquiring a material good: a tangible object that is kept in one's possession". When asked to a nation-wide sample of over a thousand American which of these 2 type of purchases made them happier; 57% reported that they had derived greater happiness from their experiential purchase, while only 34% reported greater happiness from their material purchase. Similar results were obtained when participants were randomly assigned to reflect on either a material or experiential purchase they had made, suggesting that experiential purchases produce more lasting hedonic benefits. The importance of experiences for happiness is also corroborated by recent studies in which people reported their current happiness, their current activity, and the current focus of their thoughts. Results showed that current happiness was more determined by people’s focus of their thoughts than by their current activity. People reported more happiness when they were focused on their current activity, instead of having their minds wandering to pleasant, neutral, or unpleasant topics. Thus, it seems that a wondering mind is an unhappy mind, and one of the benefits of experiences is that they keep us focused on the here and now. Experiences are also better than things because we adapt to things much quickly than to experiences. After devoting days to choose a new hardwood floor to install in our apartment, we will quickly note that it will become nothing more than the unnoticed ground beneath our feet. In contrast, the memory of seeing a baby cheetah at dawn on the African safari continues to provide delight, and each session of a year-long cooking class is different from the before. This happens because we adapt most quickly to that which doesn't change. Another reason why we get more happiness from experiences than from things is because we anticipate and remember the former more often than the latter. Things bring us happiness when we used them, but not so much when we merely think about them. Experiences bring happiness in both cases and some (climbing a mountain or making love to a new partner) may even be better contemplated than consummated. We are also more likely to mentally revisit our experiences than our things in part because our experiences are more centrally connected to our identities. Because experiences are as unique as the people who experience them, they are also difficult to compare, and that its good because it saves us from troubling ruminations about roads less travelled - its' difficult to say if we could have more fun going one week vacations to sunny Brasil instead of cold Sweden. A final reason why experiences make us happier than things is that experiences are more likely to be shared with other people, and that - as will see - is our greatest source of happiness.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

If Money Doesn't Make You Happy Then You Probably Aren't Spending It Right

Why this Post? This first post is based on an article from Dunn, Gilbert, and Wilson (2010) which propose us 8 principles to help us get more happiness from our money. We decided to dedicate a post to each of these 8 principles because this article was one of the reasons why we decided to start this blog and also because we think it's a revolutionary paper that creates an idea - happiness for money - whose time has come. Money & Happiness The relation between money and happiness has been scientifically studied and results point to a surprisingly low relation - especially low when compared with the expectations of people who don't have much money. This result should puzzle more than it does. Besides allowing people to buy "better toys", money also allows people to live better and wealthier lives, to have more control over the nature of their daily activities, to buffer themselves against worry and harm - all ingredients in the recipe for a happy life. So, the puzzle is: if wealthy people are not that much happier than those who have less, why is it that they are not? People don't Spend it Right The majority of people don't know the scientific facts about happiness - what brings it and sustains it - so they don't know how to better invest their money to acquire it. Just like wealthy people who know nothing about wine end up with cellars that are not much better stocked than their neighbours’', wealthy people who know nothing about happiness end up with lives that aren't that much happier than anyone else's. Money can be an opportunity for happiness, but only if we know what are the things that can make us happy. The good news is that there is affective forecasting literature which explains why we often don't spend money in ways that maximize our happiness, and that literature originated 8 principles we can adopt to avoid that. These principles will be presented in our next 8 posts.