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Valparaiso Univ. Law School

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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Behavioral Economics and Halloween

Jack-o'-LanternAccording to this scary report from National Public Radio, children are not entirely rational.  Well, perhaps we should not overstate the conclusions one can draw based on the relevant research.  Children are only boundedly rational when it comes to Halloween candy.

A psychologist at Dartmouth College discovered that children were happier when they got a candy bar than they were when they got a candy bar and a piece of gum.  This research calls into question our earlier assumption that more is better.  

And it turns out that, according ot the same NPR report, Halloween candy is not the only realm in which people's responses to experiences can defy our expectations.  It turns out that, while colonoscopies are bad, colonoscopies in which a tube is left inserted in the patient for a while, causing additional discomfort, are . . . (if you guessed worse, you're getting colder), at least according to a survey of patients on what they thought of the experience.

The trick (or treat) is to save the best (or the least bad) for last.  If y0u are handing out candy tonight, and you don't want to get your house egged back into the stone ages, give the children some prunes, and then as they reach for their mace, offer a candy bar.  They will leave happy and nominate you for a Nobel Prize.  Similarly, if you are going to perform an invasive procedure on someone, make sure you have something less bad with which to follow it up.

[JT]

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