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.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

TFL @ PsycToday: Interview Alain de Botton - the most read Philosopher Alive.

Dear followers, please stay tuned with TFL. Soon we will be posting through our Psychology Today twin Blog, an interview with Swiss philosopher Alain de Boton, on his important best-selling book "Satus Anxiety". Alain will be answering some questions about the book and the impact it had worldwide.
All the best,

CO2 #3 The More Powerful Women Get (in the Office) the Less Powerful Women Get (in the Bedroom)…(via BigThink)

Pew research released yesterday finds a “gender reversal” in career aspirations. Sixty-six percent (66%) of women between the ages of 18 and 34 now rate a “high-paying career” as one of the most important goals, compared to 59% of men.

Both men and women ranked marriage and parenthood as more important goals than work, but the report also notes a disjuncture between these stated values and actual rates of marriage.

Almost half of marriages today are dual-career. Seventy percent (70%) of women with children at home are in the workforce, and a larger number of wives are primary breadwinners. In Marriage Confidential (out in paperback in May), I discuss the “workhorse wife” who is the sole breadwinner for the family.

Check the all article about this relevant phenomena, here: WomenOfficeBedroom

CO2 #2 Is famous lake disappearing? (via Yahoo Science)

In this Dec. 27, 2010 photo, the barren earth and dead trees reveal the blight of the Salton Sea, where water conservation efforts are attempting to restore the once natural playground and tourist site. The evaporating Salton Sea is the flashpoint for the latest dispute in California's water wars, testing an uneasy alliance that has sought to wean the Golden State from overreliance on Colorado River water.

You can check here several photos: LakeDisappearing

CO2 #1 High inequality makes it tougher to reform economies: Swedish Finance Minister? (via Reuters)

Americans are all too acquainted with the shouting-match politics that tends to accompany any debate over economic policy: everyone is yelling and nobody is listening. The toxic political discord in Washington has become so familiar it is almost a cliché.

It turns out high levels of income inequality, which the United States is also famous for, could be to blame. According to Anders Borg, the Finance Minister of Sweden, a large wealth gap makes it harder to achieve political consensus because the debate is poisoned by mistrust. Speaking at the Peterson Institute this week, Borg said high inequality in Southern Europe was a factor preventing those countries from achieving agreement as they struggle with a deep financial crisis:

Here you have the (short) Swedish Finance Minister statement: InequalityReforms

Sunday, 22 April 2012

O2 #3 Sad Movies Make Many People Happy (via Psych Central)

New research helps explains why many people enjoy watching tragic movies or plays. Apparently, the emotional connection evoked by such stories helped viewers better appreciate their own close relationships, which in turn boosted their life happiness.

Thus, the paradox is that what seems like a negative experience — watching a sad story — can make people happier by bringing attention to some positive aspects in their own lives.

Learn more about this surprising research here: SadMovies

O2 #2 Google Talks Presents: Daniel Kahneman (via Farnam Street)

In the highly anticipated Thinking, Fast and Slow, Kahneman takes us on a groundbreaking tour of the mind and explains the two systems that drive the way we think. System 1 is fast, intuitive, and emotional; System 2 is slower, more deliberative, and more logical. Kahneman exposes the extraordinary capabilities—and also the faults and biases—of fast thinking, and reveals the pervasive influence of intuitive impressions on our thoughts and behavior. The impact of loss aversion and overconfidence on corporate strategies, the difficulties of predicting what will make us happy in the future, the challenges of properly framing risks at work and at home, the profound effect of cognitive biases on everything from playing the stock market to planning the next vacation—each of these can be understood only by knowing how the two systems work together to shape our judgments and decisions.

See this class (1:02:27) with the founder of Behavioral Economics: Daniel Kahneman

O2 #1 Holding on to hope in the middle of a deluge of bad news about the world (via The Guardian)

Dr Chris Johnstone, a resilience specialist, explores how to remain inspired when there is so much to feel depressed about.
When asked whether I'm hopeful about the future, I have a mixed response: sometimes I am; sometimes I'm not. My levels of optimism and pessimism fluctuate. The widespread sprouting of transition towns, part of a grassroots environmental campaign, the Occupy movement and other expressions of positive change feed my sense of buoyancy. Then there is the bad news, which comes round after round after round. Is it possible to remain inspired and enthusiastic when facing such a barrage?

Addressing this question has been my central focus for more than 20 years. What I know, because I've seen it so many times, is that people can sometimes access breath-taking courage, resilience and generosity of spirit. But what helps us do this, and is it learnable? The first breakthrough in my quest was discovering the work of Dr Joanna Macy, an eco-philosopher and scholar of Buddhism.

In the late 1970s, Macy developed a form of group work that helped people face their concerns about the world and support each other. Initially called "despair and empowerment work", it offered a radical reframing of pain for the world – an umbrella term for the range of emotional reactions to distressing world events. Rather than seeing grief, fear, despair, anger and guilt as negative feelings that should be kept out of view, they were welcomed as honoured messengers carrying important information. Creating a supportive space for people to hear their own distress allowed these feelings to serve as a wake-up call to action

Read the rest of this interesting article about resilience here: Hope

Thursday, 19 April 2012

CO2 #3 “The Last Place Aversion Paradox” (via Simoleon Sense)

Michael I. Norton is an Associate Professor of Business Administration in the Marketing Unit and Marvin Bower Fellow at the Harvard Business School. He holds a B.A. in Psychology and English from Williams College and a Ph.D. in Psychology from Princeton University. Prior to joining HBS, Professor Norton was a Fellow at the MIT Media Lab and MIT’s Sloan School of Management.

Here you have this ilustrating interview with Michael Norton, explaining why people don't want to be in the las place in a society: LastPlaceParadox

CO2 #2 Spreading the wealth (via Los Angeles Times)

The gap between the wealthiest Americans and the poorest is bigger than at any time since the 1920s — just before the Depression. According to an analysis this year by Edward Wolff of New York University, the top 20% of wealthy individuals own about 85% of the wealth, while the bottom 40% own very near 0%. Many in that bottom 40% not only have no assets, they have negative net wealth.

A gap this pronounced raises the politically divisive question of whether there is a need for wealth redistribution in the United States. This central question underlies such hot-button issues as whether the Bush tax cuts should be allowed to expire and whether the government should provide more assistance to the poor. But before those issues can be addressed, it's important to understand how Americans feel about the country's increasing economic polarity.

Here you have the full article: SpreadingWealth

CO2 #1 Wealth Inequality in America with Professor Dan Ariely (via Simoleon Sense)

Dan Ariely is an Israeli American professor of psychology and behavioral economics. He teaches at Duke University and is the founder of The Center for Advanced Hindsight.Ariely’s talks on TED have been watched 2.8 million times. He is the author of Predictably Irrational and The Upside of Irrationality, both of which became New York Times best sellers.

You can wathc this 34:17 interview with this great researcher and human-being about one of the most threatening phenomena in nowadays world: DanArielyInequality

Sunday, 15 April 2012

O2 #3 Fasting can help protect against brain diseases, scientists say (via The Guardian)

Claim that giving up almost all food for one or two days a week can counteract impact of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

Fasting for regular periods could help protect the brain against degenerative illnesses, according to US scientists.

Researchers at the National Institute on Ageing in Baltimore said they had found evidence which shows that periods of stopping virtually all food intake for one or two days a week could protect the brain against some of the worst effects of Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and other ailments.

Go here for these impressive findings about the two serious diseases: FastingBrain

O2 #2 The World Happiness Report Explains What Makes People Happy (via Co.Exist)

What are the secrets from the happiest people on Earth? Some make sense: Be wealthy, married, and have a job. From there, though, it gets more complicated.

Happiness isn’t easy to quantify, but a lot of people have tried: Bhutan has its Gross National Happiness survey, global research company Ipsos has its annual world happiness poll, and now Columbia University’s Earth Institute has put out the first World Happiness Report, which has the ambitious goal of surveying the state of happiness in the world today and looking at how the science of happiness plays into it.

The report, commissioned by the United Nations Conference on Happiness (yes, that exists), contains over a hundred pages of musings on world happiness. Here’s an ultra-abridged version of the findings.

Here is the link to the article with the report: PeopleHappiness

O2 #1 How Tax Credits Can Solve the Obesity Crisis (via Washington Post)

Adopting a new system with Calorie Credits and measuring Calorie Footprints will speed the growth of better-for-you food and drink brands.

Recently the Wall Street Journal reported that the major beverage companies are now taking ownership positions in coconut water brands. Touted as natural sports drinks, the beverages hold promise as the next wave of revenue and profit generators. More importantly, these actions are part of a pattern to shift from higher calorie products to better-for-you versions.

Large food and beverage companies are notorious for their poor track record at creating and developing new brands unless the name borrows from its legacy (e.g., Diet Coke; Honey Nut Cheerios; Grape Gatorade). Many big successes have often been acquired and examples abound:

Go here if you want to know more: TaxCreditsObesity

Thursday, 12 April 2012

CO2 #3 How Symptoms Are Presented Online May Affect Whether We Think We Have The Disease (via HuffPost)

If you're one of those people who obsessively Googles your symptoms when you're feeling sick, you should read this.

A new study in the journal Psychological Science shows that we're more likely to think we have the sickness or disease if a number of our symptoms are listed consecutively on a website.

"People irrationally infer more meanings from a 'streak,'" study researcher Virginia Kwan, a psychologist at Arizona State University, said in a statement. It leads them to "perceive a higher personal risk of having that illness."

For the experiment, Kwan and researchers from University of California, Irvine, Ono Academic College and the University of Warwick had student study participants were introduced to six symptoms for a made-up thyroid cancer, that researchers called "isthmal."

Check this Healthy Living article here: InternetDisease

CO2 #2 Defeat will make kids cheerier, says Tal Ben-Shahar (via GeelongAdvertiser)

TAL Ben-Shahar, a Harvard lecturer on positive psychology and the author of books on happiness, wants kids to fail.

Mr Ben-Shahar believes cocooning from real life trial and triumph is part of the reason young people around the world are growing with rising levels of depression, anxiety and unhappiness.

"Children don't have enough opportunities to fail or to struggle," he said at Geelong Grammar School yesterday.

"One of the things I told my Harvard students was that I wished that they failed more and I truly wish that on them because they will learn a great deal from it.

"They will grow, they will develop, they will be happier."

He also believes many young people are vulnerable through lack of sense of purpose, yearning for fame, celebrity or wealth.

"It's fine being all those things or wanting to be all those things but it doesn't provide any person with any sense of purpose, of meaning, a reason to wake up in the morning," Mr Ben-Shahar said.

Depressed celebrities might provide evidence of the end game.

"They've been told their entire life if you want to be happy you've got to make it," he said. "When they get there they realise there is no 'there' there."

He said the first step towards a better life was as simple as being real.

Mr Ben-Shahar's international best-sellers Happier and Being Happy have been translated into 25 languages.

He taught Harvard's largest course in positive psychology, lectures across the globe and is spending a week at Geelong Grammar to learn and share in its pioneering work fusing positive psychology and education across all areas of school life.

"Geelong is leading the pack so there is very much hope that more schools around the world will take up this model, will learn from the story of this school and use the ideas," Mr Ben-Shahar said.

He hopes to share a bigger picture with a bigger audience during a free public lecture on "the science of happiness" in Deakin University's waterfront campus Percy Baxter theatre Thursday night.

"It's about giving practical tools and ideas that can be applied to personal and professional lives," Mr Ben-Shahar said.

"We talk a little bit about relationships, about child-rearing, a little bit about professional realms and inter-personal realms."

CO2 #1 Valuing oceans - The $2 trillion question (via The Economist)

PUTTING a price on something that is priceless is, well, tricky. It is, however, possible to assign a number to how much damage is being done to that thing. In the case of the oceans, a conservative estimate of the cost of climate change is that by the year 2100 it will amount to nearly $2 trillion annually in 2010 dollars, or about 0.4% of global GDP. Any number that purports to describe an economy nine decades hence must be taken with a dollop of salt, of course. But it should not be dismissed out of hand.

Frank Ackerman and Elizabeth Stanton, economists at the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), a non-profit research organisation, arrived at their figure by looking at five measures: how much fisheries and tourism stand to lose and what the economic impact would be of rising sea levels, more storms and less carbon being absorbed by oceans. If the world continues to warm at its present rate and temperatures rise by 4°C by 2100, they reckon, the total will come to $1.98 trillion. If drastic measures are taken to cut emissions and they rise by only 2.2°C, it will be $612 billion.

Check this scary articel on the economic value (there is one?) of oceans: EconomicOceans

Sunday, 8 April 2012

O2 #3 The Psychology Behind The Sweet Spots Of Pricing (via Fast Company)

Thanks to the likes of Louis C.K., Aziz Ansari, and the brains who created Google Wallet, $5 is the new 99 cents. It's funny what makes customers loosen their purse strings.

Have you ever noticed how some stores mark the price of their goods with a "$" sign, while others don’t? This is not by accident. It fact, the decision to include that little symbol (or not) makes a big difference.

Over the past few years, pricing analysis specialists have determined that it’s far more effective to price goods without the iconic dollar symbol. It seems that when a currency sign appears with the price, we automatically connect it to our very own hip pockets or purses--and what is or isn't inside there--leading us to believe the item in question is more expensive than it actually is.

You can check here the complete article: PsychologicalPricing

O2 #2 First World Happiness Report Launched at the United Nations (via Earth Institute)

The happiest countries in the world are all in Northern Europe (Denmark, Norway, Finland, Netherlands). Their average life evaluation score is 7.6 on a 0-to-10 scale. The least happy countries are all poor countries in Sub-Saharan Africa (Togo, Benin, Central African Republic, Sierra Leone) with average life evaluation scores of 3.4. But it is not just wealth that makes people happy: Political freedom, strong social networks and an absence of corruption are together more important than income in explaining well-being differences between the top and bottom countries. At the individual level, good mental and physical health, someone to count on, job security and stable families are crucial.

These are among the findings of the first ever World Happiness Report (download PDF), commissioned for the April 2nd United Nations Conference on Happiness (mandated by the UN General Assembly). The report, published by the Earth Institute and co-edited by the institute’s director, Jeffrey Sachs, reflects a new worldwide demand for more attention to happiness and absence of misery as criteria for government policy. It reviews the state of happiness in the world today and shows how the new science of happiness explains personal and national variations in happiness.

The report shows that, where happiness is measured by how happy people are with their lives:
■ Happier countries tend to be richer countries. But more important for happiness than income are social factors like the strength of social support, the absence of corruption and the degree of personal freedom.
■ Over time as living standards have risen, happiness has increased in some countries, but not in others (like for example, the United States). On average, the world has become a little happier in the last 30 years (by 0.14 times the standard deviation of happiness around the world).
■ Unemployment causes as much unhappiness as bereavement or separation. At work, job security and good relationships do more for job satisfaction than high pay and convenient hours.
■ Behaving well makes people happier.
■ Mental health is the biggest single factor affecting happiness in any country. Yet only a quarter of mentally ill people get treatment for their condition in advanced countries and fewer in poorer countries.
■ Stable family life and enduring marriages are important for the happiness of parents and children.
• In advanced countries, women are happier than men, while the position in poorer countries is mixed.
• Happiness is lowest in middle age.

As case studies, the report describes in detail how happiness is measured in Bhutan and the United Kingdom, and it lays out how the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development plans to promote standard methods of data collection in different countries. The report itself proposes two evaluative questions that should be asked by social surveys of representative populations in all countries:
■ Taking all things together, how happy would you say you are? (where 0 means extremely unhappy, and 10 means extremely happy)
■ All things considered, how satisfied are you with your life as a whole nowadays? (where 0 means extremely dissatisfied and 10 means extremely satisfied.)

If possible, it would also be desirable to ask separate questions about how people experience their day- to-day existence.

Here you have the complete report: ReportUnitedNations

O2 #1 When Dan Ariely found the key to human nature (via Haaretz)

In his Duke University residence, the Ramat Hasharon-raised Prof. Dan Ariely pauses to talk about behavioral economics, the serious accident he suffered as a teenager and what it’s like to know what we’re all thinking.

Prof. Dan Ariely is surprised when I ask for his iPhone in order to see the famous names in his contacts list. “Is that important?” Yes. “OK. Let’s see ... Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon. Is that good?” I nod. “I also have the CEO of Procter & Gamble, American Express, McDonald’s − but he left, actually. The founder of Wikipedia − is that interesting? [Documentarian] Morgan Spurlock is a celebrity, no? We have just received funding to do a program together for National Geographic, a program on experiments.”

Check this extensive interview with Dan Ariely here: DanAriely

Sunday, 1 April 2012

O2 #3 Most Reported Genetic Associations with General Intelligence are Probably False Positives (via HarvardUniversity)

General intelligence (g) and virtually all other behavioral traits are heritable. Associations between g and specific single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in several candidate genes involved in brain function have been reported. We sought to replicate published associations between 12 specific genetic variants and g using three independent, longitudinal datasets of 5571, 1759, and 2441 well-characterized individuals. Of 32 independent tests across all three datasets, only one was nominally significant at the p < .05 level. By contrast, power analyses showed that we should have expected 10–15 significant associations, given reasonable assumptions for genotype effect sizes. As positive controls, we confirmed accepted genetic associations for Alzheimer disease and body mass index, and we used SNP-based relatedness calculations to replicate estimates that about half of the variance in g is accounted for by common genetic variation among individuals. We conclude that different approaches than candidate genes are needed in the molecular genetics of psychology and social science.

You have the complete article here: IntelligenceGenetics

O2 #2 The Mathematics of Happiness? (via BigThink)

An iPad can calculate faster than the human brain, but in the areas of creativity and abstract thought, even massive supercomputers lag far behind the average human three year old. Still, the size of our computer databases and their processing power is increasing so rapidly that data and algorithms for interpreting it are becoming formidable sources of political and economic power. In education, finance, and government, it seems, he who has the most inscrutable machines and impressive statistics sets the agenda.

The trouble with this is that the qualitative data about our lives – the quality of our relationships, the happiness of our children, our level of satisfaction at work – is often left out of the equation (and therefore the agenda) because it’s much more difficult to measure.

Chip Conley, Founder of Joie De Vivre Hospitality and the author of Emotional Equations, argues (against Einstein, as it happens), that everything that counts can and ought to be counted. A hotelier by trade, he says that GDP and the bottom line are blunt instruments for measuring the health of a society or a business. After the crash of 2001, and a visit to the Buddhist nation of Bhutan, which has a “Gross National Happiness” index, Conley and his team decided to create indices for measuring the well-being of their employees and customers.

See the wonderful video here: MathematicsHappiness

O2 #1 Behavioural economics with Daniel Kahneman (via YouTube)

Daniel Kahneman, Nobel Prize Laureate for Economics and Professor of Psychology at Princeton University, discusses how behavioural economics is likely to improve consumer protection in the United States and that policy makers in America recognise the value of this field of economic thought.

You can watch the tube here: KahnemanConsumerProtection