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, 28 June 2012

CO2 #3 The media informs our choice in way they don’t realise. (And nor do we.) (via TheHuntingDynasty)

Like you, I am a fair-minded, considerate, person. The news I read, the stories I engage with, the information I glean is considered, compared, and compartmentalized against my existing understanding, which is itself, considered, compared, and compartmentalized – and so on.
I am never told what to think. Frequently I am told what other people think, but never told what I should think. And if anyone tried, I would disengage. What’s wrong with that? Nothing, it seems. But there’s a trapdoor.
‘I am never told what to think’ works on two levels as far as our cognition is concerned; explicitly and implicitly. Explicitly it’s easy to spot, ‘vote for me’, ‘I’m right when I say . . . ‘, etc. The implicit takes a lot more work to recognise, and is – arguably – more persuasive. Let me explain.
Read this relevant article about how we are influenced withouth being aware: MediaChoice

CO2 #2 How do you fit into Breadline Britain? Find out with our income comparison tool (via TheGuardian)

Where do you fit in Breadline Britain? Are you one of the wealthy super-rich - or one of the millions on the verge of poverty? Using key data from the Institute of Fiscal Studies - which you can download here - you can see exactly how wealthy you really are. Just enter a few details below, which will not be saved, and see how you compare - and share your ranking (but not your data) via Twitter.
Get to know this incredible tool available online here: IncomeComparisonTool
P.S. it is amazing how different from the normal distribution - the statistical distribution of all human dimensions - is the earnings distribution in the UK.

CO2 #1 Rio+20: Jeffrey Sachs on how business destroyed democracy and virtuous life (via TheGuardian)

The world famous economist on corporate control, the search for happiness and why a multi-disciplinary approach is the only way to find solutions to sustainability challenges.
Jeffrey Sachs, the economist and director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, speaks with a velvet tongue but packs a mighty punch.
Big business, he says, is not responsible only for destroying the American democratic system, but has also transformed citizens into consumer addicts.
While multinationals continue to line their own pockets, what they leave in their wake is billions of people who are not only unhappy, but are suffering increasing levels of anxiety.
While a few companies are serious about dealing with the sustainability challenges of our age, Sachs says many more are still engaging in green washing, while he describes the fossil-fuel lobby, and the Koch brothers in particular, as "disgusting."
Read here, this insightful article about the worlds' dangerous direction: Rio+20Sachs

Monday, 25 June 2012

CO2 #3 The 10 Things Economics Can Tell Us About Happiness (via SimoleonSense)

Money can buy happiness, but up to what point? And does working more make us miserable? And will you be happier if you start your own company? Here's what the research tells us...
Last week, I shared the OECD's brand new rankings of the happiest countries on earth. This week, let's pull back the lens and consider the most important lessons about well-being from the mountainous piles of economic research distilled by the New Economics Foundation's excellent review. All caveats about the messiness of research bias and the usefulness of self-reported happiness surveys apply.
Read here the 10 main findings from the New Economics Foundation: EconomicsHappiness

O2 #2 Why We Lie, Go to Prison and Eat Cake: 10 Questions With Dan Ariely (via Wired)

A professor of behavioral economics and psychology at Duke University, Ariely is the author of Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape Our Decisions, and The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic, both New York Times bestsellers. Ariely’s new book, The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty, explores some of the surprising reasons we lie to each other, and ourselves. Raised in Israel, Ariely holds Ph.D.s in both business administration and psychology. Wired senior editor Joanna Pearlstein spoke with Ariely as part of the Live Talks Business Forums series at the City Club of Los Angeles.
Read 10 questions with the man of the momente here: 10Ariely

O2 #1 OCDE Better Life Index (via OCDE)

There is more to life than the cold numbers of GDP and economic statistics – This Index allows you to compare well-being across countries, based on 11 topics the OECD has identified as essential, in the areas of material living conditions and quality of life.
Use this amazing instrument, available online, and discover the country you would prefer to live, according with 11 criteria: OCDEindex

Thursday, 21 June 2012

CO2 #3 Squeezing out the doctor (via TheEconomist)

The role of physicians at the centre of health care is under pressure.
IN A windowless room on a quiet street in Framingham, outside Boston, Rob Goudswaard and his colleagues are trying to unpick the knottiest problem in health care: how to look after an ageing and thus sickening population efficiently. The walls are plastered with photographs of typical patients—here a man who exercises occasionally, there a woman with many chronic ailments. Big sheets of paper chart each patient’s course from the hospital back to a comfortable life at home, with divergent lines showing all the problems that might arise and ways to handle them. To map the many paths to health in this way Mr Goudswaard’s team interviewed a lot of patients and nurses.
But this “war room” does not belong to a hospital. It belongs to Philips, a Dutch electronics company. Mr Goudswaard, the head of innovation for Philips’s home-monitoring business, has no medical training. His speciality is the consumer.
Check this opinion, about the future of medical practices here: MedicalConsumer

CO2 #2 Fighting Sign Pollution in Florida With Robocalls (via NewYorkTimes)

In Florida, they are as much a part of the landscape as palm trees and oceanfront hotels: plastic signs cluttering roadsides with messages like “We Buy Houses!” “Junk Cars!” and “Avoid Foreclosure!”
But now, worried about the impact on tourism and the state’s natural beauty, some coastal communities have begun aggressive campaigns against the signs — by robocalling the advertisers’ phone numbers.
Check here the NYT article about this clever way cities found to fight visual pollution: RoboCalls

CO2 #1 Soda Ban Will Fail and Jeopardize Future Public Health Efforts (via USNews)

We've dedicated our research careers to helping people eat better, contributing to Smarter School Lunchrooms, 100-calorie packs, and the 2010 Dietary Guidelines. We fear that this ban on large soft drinks will be a huge setback to fighting obesity for two reasons: 1) unless it succeeds, it will poison the water for better solutions, and 2) it won't succeed.
First, consider the McLean Effect. McDonald's launches the visible and controversial low-calorie hamburger. It failed, becoming a byword for restaurants for the next 15 years. No one would dare introduce low-calorie fast-food offerings because "Look what happened to the McLean."
Check here this brief article from Wansink&Just, about banning large soft drinks: SodaBan

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

O2 #3 'Truth About Dishonesty' sheds Light on the Lies we Tell (via USA Today)

Be honest. Would you cheat if you were certain you'd get away with it?
Best-selling author Dan Ariely says most people cheat — but just a tad. He calls it the fudge factor.
We cheat up to the level that allows us to retain our self images as reasonably honest individuals, says Ariely, who teaches behavioral economics at Duke.
We want to see ourselves as honorable, he says, but we also want to benefit from cheating. That's especially true when we observe others around us cheating — fudging their taxes, boosting pens from the office supply cabinet, underreporting the number of miles they drive each year for insurance purposes.
Read here, this interesting presentation of another great book of Dan Ariely: Dishonesty

O2 #2 2020 Decade of Health&Wellbeing (via HomePage)

There are five ways to Wellbeing and 2020 the Decade of Health and Wellbeing is about encouraging people to build these ways into their daily routines and potentially add 7.5 years to their life expectancy.
The underlying message through the five ways is that mental health and wellbeing is as important as physical health; feeling good is an important part of being healthy: Connect with others whether it is at home, work, school or within the local community. Taking the time to develop these relationships can enhance everday life.
Get to know here, the web page of this amazing initiative from the Liverpool city council: Health&Wellbeing

O2 #1 How to Rewire your Brain to be More Optimistic (via TheBostonGlobe)

Winston Churchill, Britain’s prime minister during World War II, once described success as the “ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.” He might have been more than a little prescient because researchers have since found that optimism plays a key role in achievement in life — as well as increasing our odds of living longer and healthier.
But where scientists once thought that having a sunny outlook, or a rainy one, was set in stone on the day we were conceived, the latest research suggests that genes play only a 30 to 40 percent role in our outlook and that, with a little training, our brains have the ability to shift over time from a more negative outlook to a more positive one.
A book published last week provides a road map for rewiring the brain and redefines what optimism is. “It’s not just positive thinking but positive actions,” said Oxford University cognitive neuroscientist Elaine Fox, author of “Rainy Brain, Sunny Brain.” Persistence is key: Rather than sitting and passively waiting for life to happen, optimistic people take steps to implement their goals.
Read this article, which tells something new about optimism, here: RewireBrain

Thursday, 14 June 2012

CO2 #3 'They're killing us': world's most endangered tribe cries for help (via TheGuardian)

Logging companies keen to exploit Brazil's rainforest have been accused by human rights organisations of using gunmen to wipe out the Awá, a tribe of just 355. Survival International, with backing from Colin Firth, is campaigning to stop what a judge referred to as 'genocide'.
Watch a video and read an article about the "Rainforest Genocide": EndangeredTribe

CO2 #2 Michael Hudson: Productivity, The Miracle of Compound Interest, and Poverty (via NakedCapitalism)

Suppose you were alive back in 1945 and were told about all the new technology that would be invented between then and now: the computers and internet, mobile phones and other consumer electronics, faster and cheaper air travel, super trains and even outer space exploration, higher gas mileage on the ground, plastics, medical breakthroughs and science in general. You would have imagined what nearly all futurists expected: that we would be living in a life of leisure society by this time. Rising productivity would raise wages and living standards, enabling people to work shorter hours under more relaxed and less pressured workplace conditions.
Why hasn’t this occurred in recent years? In light of the enormous productivity gains since the end of World War II – and especially since 1980 – why isn’t everyone rich and enjoying the leisure economy that was promised? If the 99% is not getting the fruits of higher productivity, who is? Where has it gone?
Under Stalinism the surplus went to the state, which used it to increase tangible capital investment – in factories, power production, transportation and other basic industry and infrastructure. But where is it going under today’s finance capitalism? Much of it has gone into industry, construction and infrastructure, as it would in any kind of political economy. And much also is consumed in military overhead, in luxury production for the wealthy, and invested abroad. But most of the gains have gone to the financial sector – higher loans for real estate, and purchases of stocks and bonds.
Read this extensive essay about the emerging "Financial Feudalism" here: InterestPovery

CO2 #1 Credit Card Debt and Emotions Can Be a Bad Mix (via CreditCardGuide)

What’s the best way to pay off credit card debt?
The traditional formula generally goes something like this: pay down the debt with the highest interest rate first. Once that is paid off, proceed to the debt with the next highest interest rate and so on. However, that’s not the way most people go about paying off debt.
Picking battles
According to a recent study headed by Israeli marketing professor Moty Amar and Duke University’s Dan Ariely, when it comes to paying down debt, we often don’t act logically. If we are saddled with multiple debts, we tend to prioritize paring back the total number of loans, rather than reducing the total debt. In other words, we’ll tackle smaller debts first so that we have the peace of mind that comes with checking them off the list — even if it means paying more in interest charges in the long run.
Read more about the relations between humans and credit cards here: EmotionsCreditCards

Monday, 11 June 2012

CO2 #3 Sweets make you dumb, but salmon makes you smart (via AlaskaDispatch)

There's bad news for sweets lovers out of the University of California. A study from there indicates corn-syrup-laced sweets could make you dumb. But you might be OK if you eat your bonbons with a side of salmon -- or better yet, eulachon.
The UCLA findings, published in Journal of Physiology, "also show omega-3 fatty acids helping to negate the effect,'' reports Medical News Today.
Salmon, especially fresh Alaska salmon, are loaded with healthy Omega-3s. So, too, are the eulachon, or "hooligan" as they are commonly known.
Those fish are so rich omega-3-laced oil that they used to be called "candlefish." When dried, the fish will actually burn and were sometimes used as candles.
Read more about the relation between food and the brain: SweetSalmon

CO2 #2 DIY Health: You're Smarter Than The Health Care System (via BigThink)

"We’ve basically led people to believe that their health has to be in the hands of the health care system, that they don't have the power to control their health, to regulate their health, to create health," says Dr. Mark Hyman, the author of a new book called The Blood Sugar Solution: The UltraHealthy Program for Losing Weight, Preventing Disease, and Feeling Great Now!
And yet, you don't need to rely on our "top heavy," "doctor and hospital-centric" system to take control of your own health. Dr. Hyman says self-care is the key to being a healthy person today.
Watch here this relevant presentation about why we should be empowered patients: SmarterHealthSystem

O2 #1 15 Powerful Things Happy People Do Differently (via PurposeFairy)

What is the difference between happy people and unhappy people? Of course, it may be very obvious, happy people are happy while unhappy people are unhappy, right? Well, that is correct, but we want to know what are the things that these people do differently and that is why, I have put together a list of things that HAPPY people do differently than UNHAPPY people.
Acknowledge here the 15 things happy people do: 15Happy

Thursday, 7 June 2012

CO2 #3 Patrimoine mondial (via Unesco)

Ce document contient des informations sur l’état de conservation de biens inscrits sur la Liste du patrimoine mondial. Il est demandé au Comité du patrimoine mondial d’examiner les rapports sur l’état de conservation des biens contenus dans ce document. Dans certains cas, le Comité du patrimoine mondial pourra souhaiter décider de discuter en détail les rapports sur l’état de conservation présentés pour adoption sans débat.
Décision requise: Le Comité du patrimoine mondial pourra souhaiter adopter les projets de décisions présentés à la fin de chaque rapport sur l’état de conservation.
Acknowledge here a Unesco list of the main Natural and Cultural Heritage sites in the World, and their most pressing threats: WorldHeritage

CO2 #2 The "Truth" About Why We Lie, Cheat and Steal (via NPR)

Chances are, you're a liar. Maybe not a big liar — but a liar nonetheless. That's the finding of Dan Ariely, a professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke University. He's run experiments with some 30,000 people and found that very few people lie a lot, but almost everyone lies a little.
Ariely describes these experiments and the results in a new book, The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie To Everyone — Especially Ourselves. He talks with NPR's Robert Siegel about how society's troubles aren't always caused by the really bad apples; they're caused by the scores of slightly rotting apples who are cheating just a little bit.
Interview Highlights
On the traditional, cost/benefit theory of dishonesty
"The standard view is a cost/benefit view. It says that every time we see something, we ask ourselves: What do I stand to gain from this and what do I stand to lose? Imagine it's a gas station: Going by a gas station, you ask yourself: How much money is in this gas station? If I steal it, what's the chance that somebody will catch me and how much time will I have in prison? And you basically look at the cost and benefit, and if it's a good deal, you go for it.
"On why the cost/benefit theory is flawed"
It's inaccurate, first of all. When we do experiments, when we try to tempt people to cheat, we don't find that these three elements — what do we stand to gain, probability of being caught and size of punishment — end up describing much of the result.
"Not only is it a bad descriptor of human behavior, it's also a bad input for policy. Think about it: When we try to curb dishonesty in the world, what do we do? We get more police force, we increase punishment in prison. If those are not the things that people consider when they think about committing a particular crime, then all of these efforts are going to be wasted."
Read the rest of this revealing Ariely's new book interview here: TruthLie

CO2 #1 Bad News (via AlGore)

"First the bad news from the International Energy Agency (IEA). Thanks to a huge jump in Chinese emissions, "global carbon-dioxide (CO2) emissions from fossil-fuel combustion reached a record high of 31.6 gigatonnes (Gt) in 2011."
"The worse news is that, "The new data provide further evidence that the door to a 2°C trajectory is about to close," according to IEA Chief Economist Fatih Birol. Why does that matter? As Reuters reported:"
"Scientists say ensuring global average temperatures this century do not rise more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels is needed to limit devastating climate effects like crop failure and melting glaciers.""Darn you truth-telling scientists, always ruining the party (see "James Hansen Is Correct About Catastrophic Projections For U.S. Drought If We Don't Act Now")."
"And the worst news, as Birol told Reuters, is that:"
"When I look at this data, the trend is perfectly in line with a temperature increase of 6 degrees Celsius [11°F], which would have devastating consequences for the planet."
Here is the link to the Sadest Post of All: BadNews

Monday, 4 June 2012

CO2 #3 Red wine is "exercise in a bottle," study suggests (via CBSNews)

Can red wine offset the negative health effects of a sedentary lifestyle?
A new study suggests wine can be "exercise in a bottle." At least if you're a rat.
The goal of this study was to see if an ingredient in wine, resveratrol, might help astronauts who often experience bad health effects from all that zero gravity inactivity. Weightlessness in space makes physical activity almost impossible for astronauts, resulting in a decrease in muscle and bone mass.Cue the resveratrol. Earlier studies showed it can be good for health, because it lowers levels of "bad" cholesterol and protects the lining of heart blood vessels, according to the Mayo Clinic. For the study, scientists mimicked the inactivity astronauts experience by hanging rats by their back legs. Half the rats received a daily dose of resveratrol, and half did not. What happened? The rats not given resveratrol experienced reduced muscle mass and strength and bone density, and developed insulin resistance - which is considered a prelude to diabetes. The ones that took resveratol didn't experience any of these negative health effects.
Read another piece of evidence in favor of Red Wine qualities here: RedWine

O2 #2 How We Are Judged by Our Voice in Dating and the Workplace (via PsychologyToday)

Your voice exerts an unconscious influence on how others judge you.
People spend a lot of time talking and thinking about how members of the opposite sex look, but very little time paying attention to how they sound. To our unconscious minds, however, voice is very important. Our genus Homo has been evolving for a couple million years. Brain evolution happens over many thousands or millions of years, but we’ve lived in civilized society for less than 1 percent of that time. That means that though we may pack our heads full of 21st century knowledge, the organ inside our skull is still a Stone-Age brain. We think of ourselves as a civilized species, but our brains are designed to meet the challenges of an earlier era. Among birds and many other animals voice seems to play a great role in meeting one of those demands — reproduction — and it seems to be similarly important in humans.
Check this interesting article about the importance of voice here: Voice

O2 #1 Spiegel Interview with Daniel Kahneman (via Spiegel)

Debunking the Myth of Intuition
Can doctors and investment advisers be trusted? And do we live more for experiences or memories? In a SPIEGEL interview, Nobel Prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman discusses the innate weakness of human thought, deceptive memories and the misleading power of intuition.
SPIEGEL: Professor Kahneman, you've spent your entire professional life studying the snares in which human thought can become entrapped. For example, in your book, you describe how easy it is to increase a person's willingness to contribute money to the coffee fund.
Kahneman: You just have to make sure that the right picture is hanging above the cash box. If a pair of eyes is looking back at them from the wall, people will contribute twice as much as they do when the picture shows flowers. People who feel observed behave more morally.
SPIEGEL: And this also works if we don't even pay attention to the photo on the wall?
Kahneman: All the more if you don't notice it. The phenomenon is called "priming": We aren't aware that we have perceived a certain stimulus, but it can be proved that we still respond to it.
Read this complete interview to Daniel Kahneman here: SpiegelKahneman