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.

Monday, 29 October 2012

O2 #3 Capitalism Produces Rich Bankers, but Socialism Produces Happiness. (via Global Research)

Socialism is better than capitalism. So say 20 percent of Americans, and another 27 percent say they can’t say which is better, according to an April 9 Rasmussen poll.

There’s hope.

When you consider that virtually no newspaper, broadcaster, well-funded think tank, teacher, or anybody’s boss or commander ever said something nice about socialism, it’s remarkable that only 53 percent of us still favor rule by the moneyed class. Perhaps folks are learning how capitalism sacrifices happiness for individual gain.
Read here this interesting essay about the future of Socialism, or is it Socialism as the future?: CapitalismSocialism

O2 #2 Michael E. Porter on Why Companies Must Address Social Issues (via Forbes)

I recently spoke to Michael E. Porter, who is the Bishop William Lawrence University Professor at Harvard Business School and the leading authority on competitive strategy.  He is the author of 18 books, including Competitive Strategy: Techniques For Analyzing Industries and Competitors, and over 125 articles. Professor Porter is generally recognized as the father of the modern strategy field, as has been identified in a variety of rankings and surveys as the world’s most influential thinker on management and competitiveness. In 2001, Harvard Business School and Harvard University jointly created the Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness, dedicated to furthering Professor Porter’s work. You can follow him on Twitter @MichaelEPorter or on Facebook.

In this interview, he talks about how he originally become interested on competition and strategy, the companies that have most impressed him lately, how companies can better manage and support millennials, and more.

Read Michaels Porter interview on Social Responsability here: PorterSocialIssues

O2 #1 Delaying Gratification is About Worldview as much as Willpower (via ScienceNews)

Willpower alone doesn’t explain why some children forgo a marshmallow in hand for the prospect of getting two gooey treats later. Kids’ beliefs about the reliability of the people around them, such as the trustworthiness of an experimenter, can dramatically shape their willingness to wait for a sweeter payoff, a new study finds.

Read here about the new evidences about the study of willpower: DelayWorldviewWillpower 

Saturday, 27 October 2012

CO2 #3 Acemoglu and Robinson Answer Your Questions (via Freakonomics)

Last week, we solicited your questions for economist Daron Acemoglu and political scientist Jim Robinson, who just published a new book called Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty and are now blogging on a variety of interesting development topics.

Their thoughtful responses below cover everything from robber barons to the artificial construction of African nations to whether the race of a country’s leaders determines its success.  A big thanks to Daron, Jim, and all our readers for another great Q&A. 

First, a note from Daron and Jim: “We thank everybody for these excellent questions and comments. We had to pick a few to be able to provide detailed answers.

Read here an interview with the authors of a book that explores the link between Power and Development: PowerProsperityPoverty

CO2 #2 Rethinking How We Teach Economics (via New York Times)

While a protest of an introductory economics class at Harvard University last semester seemed inspired more by the Occupy movement than by academic criticism, it raised questions about how the teaching of economics should change in light of the financial crisis. Indeed, what have we learned in the last five years that should be imparted upon future generations of economists?
Mona Chalabi, a 2011 graduate of Sciences Po in Paris and the author of “The Latest Financial Crisis: International Relations Goes Bankrupt,” suggested this forum.

Read here, this important discussion forum, about the future of economics teaching, after the financial crisis: TeachEconomics 

CO2 #1 How Did Economists Get It So Wrong? (via New York Times)


It’s hard to believe now, but not long ago economists were congratulating themselves over the success of their field. Those successes — or so they believed — were both theoretical and practical, leading to a golden era for the profession. On the theoretical side, they thought that they had resolved their internal disputes. Thus, in a 2008 paper titled “The State of Macro” (that is, macroeconomics, the study of big-picture issues like recessions), Olivier Blanchard of M.I.T., now the chief economist at the International Monetary Fund, declared that “the state of macro is good.” The battles of yesteryear, he said, were over, and there had been a “broad convergence of vision.” And in the real world, economists believed they had things under control: the “central problem of depression-prevention has been solved,” declared Robert Lucas of the University of Chicago in his 2003 presidential address to the American Economic Association. In 2004, Ben Bernanke, a former Princeton professor who is now the chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, celebrated the Great Moderation in economic performance over the previous two decades, which he attributed in part to improved economic policy making. Last year, everything came apart.

Read this extensive essay about the past and present flaws of economics, and how it can look in the future: Beauty&Truth

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

O2 #2 'To my 15-year-old self': Things I wish I'd known (via Psychology Today)

CNN spoke to some of the world's most remarkable and impressive women -- from across the fields of politics, science, media, sports and culture -- to find out: "Looking back, what one piece of advice would you give to your 15-year-old self?"

Check here what was the advice this remarkable and impressive women gave to theirs daughters: 15YearOldSelf 

O2 #1 10 Things Happy People Do Differently (via Psychology Today)

Happiness is having a large, caring, close-knit family in another city. George Burns
How happy are you and why? This is a question I spend a fair amount of time thinking about, not only as it applies to my own levels of happiness, but also as it applies to my family, friends, and the people who I work with. Since graduating with my master’s degree in positive psychology, I’ve worked with and observed thousands of people in a wide variety of settings, and happy people just flow with the groove of life in a unique way. Here is what they do differently:

1)  They build a strong social fabric. Happy people stay connected to their families, neighbors, places of worship, and communities. These strong connections act as a buffer to depression and create strong, meaningful connections. The rate of depression has increased dramatically in the last 50-75 years. The World Health Organization predicts that by 2020, depression will be the second leading cause of mortality in the world, impacting nearly one-third of all adults (Murray & Lopez, 1996). While several forces are likely behind this increase, one of the most important factors may be the disconnection from people and their families and communities.

Read the 9 remaining things happy people do here: 10ThingsHappyPeople 

Thursday, 18 October 2012

CO2 #3 How Money Addled Are You? (via New York Magazine)

Research on the effects of socioeconomic status on behavior involves isolating a variety of human impulses, including empathy, ethics, and generosity. Here, we've adapted components of the Berkeley team's techniques to create our own test. Is money making you a monster?

Go here and learn how much your socioeconomic status is affecting your behavior: MoneyAddled  

CO2 #2 Is this the most unpleasant sound in the world? (via The Telegraph)

The ear-splitting screech of a knife on a glass bottle has been identified as the worst sound to the human ear by scientists who studied the brain's response to unpleasant noises.

People who listened to a series of 74 recordings while having their brain activity measured by an MRI scanner rated the sound of a fork on a glass as the second worst noise, followed by chalk on a blackboard.
The scans revealed that unpleasant sounds provoked a stronger response in the brain than pleasant ones such as the noise of blubbing water.
While sounds are processed in the brain's auditory cortex, uncomfortable noises activate the amygdala, a separate brain region which processes emotions.
Go here to learn more and listen tsome of the sounds that exacerbate our brain: UnpleasantSoundsBrain  

CO2 #1 Why Can’t More Poor People Escape Poverty? (via The New Republic)

Flannery O’Connor once described the contradictory desires that afflict all of us with characteristic simplicity. “Free will does not mean one will,” she wrote, “but many wills conflicting in one man.” The existence of appealing alternatives, after all, is what makes free will free: What would choice be without inner debate? We’re torn between staying faithful and that alluring man or woman across the room. We can’t resist the red velvet cake despite having sworn to keep our calories down. We buy a leather jacket on impulse, even though we know we’ll need the money for other things. Everyone is aware of such inner conflicts. But how, exactly, do we choose among them? As it turns out, science has recently shed light on the way our minds reconcile these conflicts, and the result has surprising implications for the way we think about one of society’s most intractable problems: poverty. 

Read here this interesting article about willpower, a recently identified obstacle that prevents people from escaping poverty:  EscapePoverty 

Thursday, 11 October 2012

CO2 #3 The Money-Empathy Gap (via New York Magazine)

New research suggests that more money makes people act less human. Or at least less humane.

For a long time, primatologists have known that chimpanzees will act out ­social dominance with a special ferociousness, slapping hands, stamping feet, or “charging back and forth and dragging huge branches,” as Jane Goodall once wrote. And sociologists and anthropologists have explored the effects of hierarchy in tribes and groups. But psychology has only recently begun seriously investigating how having money, that major marker of status in the modern world, ­affects psychosocial behavior in the species Homo sapiens. By making real people temporarily very affluent, without regard to their actual economic circumstances and within the controlled environment of a psych lab, the Berkeley researchers aim to demonstrate the potency of that one variable. “Putting someone in a role where they’re more privileged and have more power in a game makes them behave like people who actually do have more power, more money, and more status,” says Paul Piff, the psychologist who designed the experiment. The Monopoly results, based on a year of watching inequitable games between pairs like Glasses and T-Shirt, have not yet been ­released. But Piff believes that they will support and amplify his previous provocative research. 

Earlier this year, Piff, who is 30, published a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that made him semi-famous. Titled “Higher Social Class Predicts Increased Unethical Behavior,” it showed through quizzes, online games, questionnaires, in-lab manipulations, and field studies that living high on the socioeconomic ladder can, colloquially speaking, dehumanize people. It can make them less ethical, more selfish, more insular, and less compassionate than other people. It can make them more likely, as Piff demonstrated in one of his experiments, to take candy from a bowl of sweets designated for children. “While having money doesn’t necessarily make anybody anything,” Piff says, “the rich are way more likely to prioritize their own self-interests above the interests of other people. It makes them more likely to exhibit characteristics that we would stereotypically associate with, say, assholes.”

Read the rest of this complete (6 pgs) article about the relation between Money and Empathy, here: MoneyEmpathyGap

CO2 #2 Alain de Botton: Advertising Confuses Us (via Big Think)

Watch here, a very short video (1:41) from Alain de Botton, about the effect of advertising on people: AlainAdvertising

CO2 #1 Speed-Debunking The 7 Biggest Lies About The Economy (via Up Worthy)

No one can debunk myths quite like Robert Reich. Watch him blast apart seven economic lies in just two minutes and 30 seconds without even breaking a sweat.

Watch here, a short but insightful movie: 7BiggestLiesEconomy 

Monday, 8 October 2012

O2 #3 Empirics and Psychology: Eight of the World’s Top Young Economists Discuss Where Their Field Is Going (via Big Think)

The past few years have been tough on economics and economists.  In a searing indictment written one year after the collapse of Lehman Brothers, Paul Krugman concluded that
the central cause of the profession’s failure was the desire for an all-encompassing, intellectually elegant approach that also gave economists a chance to show off their mathematical prowess.  Unfortunately, this romanticized and sanitized vision of the economy led most economists to ignore all the things that can go wrong.  They turned a blind eye to the limitations of human rationality…to the problems of institutions that run amok; to the imperfections of markets…and to the dangers created when regulators don’t believe in regulation. 
Last August, Graeme Maxton published a book arguing that “modern economics has failed us,” and this April, the New York Times hosted a roundtable “about how the teaching of economics should change in light of the financial crisis.” 
This soul-searching has led to the establishment of organizations such as the Institute for New Economic Thinking and invigorated discussions about alternative metrics for gauging countries’ welfare (last July, in fact, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution asserting that “the gross domestic product indicator by nature was not designed to and does not adequately reflect the happiness and well-being of people in a country”).
To get the pulse of a field in flux, I asked eight of the world’s top young economists to identify the biggest unanswered questions in economics and predict what breakthroughs will define it a decade or two hence.  
Read here the 8 interviews, with some of the worlds top young economists: 8TopYoungEconomists 

O2 #2 Judge a society by its level of happiness, not by its GDP (via Third Sector)

It's getting easier to measure how happy people are, and it's important to do so, says Kate Rogers of Schroders

What do the Prince of Wales, a Nobel laureate and the prime minister of Bhutan have in common?
The answer is they all took part in a conference last month at the UN called Happiness and Wellbeing: Defining a New Economic Paradigm, which looked at new ways to measure the performance of nations, moving away from gross domestic product towards metrics such as gross national happiness.
This is evidence of an increasing interest in the economics of happiness. This momentum has no doubt been hastened by the difficult economic climate and the perception that traditional economics has somehow failed our society. It is not difficult to see that the overwhelming focus on growth of output has led to an extraordinary level of indebtedness, both for ourselves and for our government.
Read more about the Economics of Happiness movement latest achievements here: HappinessVsGDP 

O2 #1 Why Twitter Makes you Feel Good (via Twitter Counter)

Researchers at Harvard took the time to dig into our brains to figure out why 40 percent of our daily speech is centered around telling others what we think and feel. And the reason? Because it feels so good!
In a series of experiments, they compared the feeling one gets from eating food, getting money or having sex with the feeling one gets from disclosing information about oneself. The study revealed that the feeling one gets from all of the above is strikingly similar, they all give the same feel-good feeling. This explains why we tweet and update about ourselves so often. It seems that self-disclosure activates the mesolimbic dopaminergic system of the brain, which is associated with the same rewarding feeling as getting money or sex.
Read more about this exciting research here: SelfDisclosureGood 

Friday, 5 October 2012

CO2 #3 Can the Mediterranean Diet Treat Your Depression? (via Psychology Today)

BDNF is a protein that is responsible for many important brain functions. Severe alterations in BDNF levels may contribute to many different psychiatric disorders such as epilepsy, autism, schizophreniaand depression. Animal studies have shown that different dietary factors can affect brain levels of BDNF. Diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E or flavonols from colorful fruits can increase BDNF levels and improve cognitive function and mood. In contrast, diets rich in saturated fatty acids or total fat actually lower BDNF levels and are associated with impaired memory, brain atrophy and mood disorders. But this is true for rats; would a similar dietary change benefit us humans?

Read here why the Mediterranean Diet can be so helpful to improve your mood: MediterraneanDiet   

CO2 #2 Joseph Stiglitz: The 99 Percent Wakes Up (via The Daily Beast)

Inequality isn’t only plaguing America—the Arab Spring flowered because international capitalism is broken. In From Cairo to Wall Street: Voices from the Global Spring, edited by Anya Schiffrin and Eamon Kircher-Allen, Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz says the world is finally rising up and demanding a democracy where people, not dollars, matter—the best government that money can buy just isn’t good enough.

Read this article about a book which is also a treatise about inequality and the revolution our world is witnessing: Stiglitz99% 

CO2 #1 Send a Letter, Not an E-mail (via New York Times)

For years, well-intentioned e-mail users have asked one another to “consider the environment before printing” presuming that electronic communication is better for the environment than paper-based communication. However, as more information becomes available about the environmental footprint of data centers, computers and other personal devices, we’re seeing that no form of communication is without environmental impact.

Read the rest of this counter-intuitive article about the way we communicate here: LetterEmail    

Monday, 1 October 2012

O2 #3 Your Personality Type Affects the Situations you Place Yourself in (via Research Digest)

People with so-called "avoidant" personalities, who fear intimacy, also tend to shun the kind of social situations that could lead them to forge meaningful relations with others, thus perpetuating a vicious cycle.

That's according to Lindsey Beck and Margaret Clark who conducted three studies testing participants' preference for "diagnostic social situations" in which they're likely to receive feedback regarding whether other people like them or not.

Read more about the Personality-Situations link: PersonalityTypeSituations 

O2 #2 Teachers' Expectations Can Influence How Students Perform (via NPR)

In my Morning Edition story today, I look at expectations — specifically, how teacher expectations can affect the performance of the children they teach.
The first psychologist to systematically study this was a Harvard professor named Robert Rosenthal, who in 1964 did a wonderful experiment at an elementary school south of San Francisco.
The idea was to figure out what would happen if teachers were told that certain kids in their class were destined to succeed, so Rosenthal took a normal IQ test and dressed it up as a different test.

Listen to this article about one of the most important psychology studies ever: TeacherExpectations 

O2 #1 Dan Pink: The Puzzle of Motivation (via TED)

Career analyst Dan Pink examines the puzzle of motivation, starting with a fact that social scientists know but most managers don't: Traditional rewards aren't always as effective as we think. Listen for illuminating stories -- and maybe, a way forward.

Watch here this engaging conversation about creativity & motivation: PuzzleMotivation