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The Why Axis

Hidden Motives and the Undiscovered Economics of Everyday Life

This book is available for download with iBooks on your Mac or iOS device, and with iTunes on your computer. Books can be read with iBooks on your Mac or iOS device.


Can economics be passionate?… Can it center on people and what really matters to them day-in and day-out.… And help us understand their hidden motives for why they do what they do in everyday life?

Uri Gneezy and John List are revolutionaries. Their ideas and methods for revealing what really works in addressing big social, business, and economic problems gives us new understanding of the motives underlying human behavior. We can then structure incentives that can get people to move mountains, change their behavior—or at least get a better deal.

But finding the right incentive can be like looking for a needle in a haystack. Gneezy and List’s pioneering approach is to embed themselves in the factories, schools, communities, and offices where people work, live, and play. Then, through large-scale field experiments conducted “in the wild,” Gneezy and List observe people in their natural environments without them being aware that they are observed.

Their randomized experiments have revealed ways to close the gap between rich and poor students; to stop the violence plaguing inner-city schools; to decipher whether women are really less competitive than men; to correctly price products and services; and to discover the real reasons why people discriminate.

To get the answers, Gneezy and List boarded planes, helicopters, trains, and automobiles to embark on journeys from the foothills of Kilimanjaro to California wineries; from sultry northern India to the chilly streets of Chicago; from the playgrounds of schools in Israel to the boardrooms of some of the world’s largest corporations. In The Why Axis, they take us along for the ride, and through engaging and colorful stories, present lessons with big payoffs.

Their revelatory, startling, and urgent discoveries about how incentives really work are both revolutionary and immensely practical. This research will change both the way we think about and take action on big and little problems. Instead of relying on assumptions, we can find out, through evidence, what really works. Anyone working in business, politics, education, or philanthropy can use the approach Gneezy and List describe in The Why Axis to reach a deeper, nuanced understanding of human behavior, and a better understanding of what motivates people and why.

From Publishers Weekly

Aug 26, 2013 – Gneezy and List, economists at U.C. San Diego and the University of Chicago, respectively, specialize in ingenious “field experiments” that elucidate the workings of social psychology and decision making: from a ball-tossing game that exposes the social pressures that make women shy away from competition, to role-playing skits that tease out the subtleties of discrimination at car dealerships. There are some less-groundbreaking findings—men, it seems, give more money to door-to-door fundraisers if they are attractive females—but also many counterintuitive insights: it’s possible to boost sales of a wine by raising its price; increase charitable giving by letting prospects opt out of solicitations; and even raise profits by letting customers pay whatever they want for a product. Writing in the Freakonomics vein of breezy pop-econ (Steven Levitt provides the foreword), Gneezy and List assert that “self-interest lies at the root of human motivation,” but it’s a self-interest broadly conceived to include the “warm glow” of philanthropic sacrifice and readily influenced by the unobtrusive policy nudges they suggest. The authors’ lucid, engaging exposition of thought-provoking research spotlights some of our more perverse promptings—and their underlying logic. Photos.
The Why Axis
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  • $14.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Management & Leadership
  • Published: Oct 08, 2013
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs
  • Seller: The Perseus Books Group, LLC
  • Print Length: 288 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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