Could Solving This One Problem Solve All the Others?

The biggest problem with humanity is humans themselves. Too often, we make choices — what we eat, how we spend our money and time — that undermine our well-being. An all-star team of academic researchers thinks it has the solution: perfecting the science of behavior change. Will it work?

The White House Gets Into the Nudge Business

A tiny behavioral-sciences startup is trying to improve the way federal agencies do their work. Considering the size (and habits) of most federal agencies, this isn’t so simple. But after a series of early victories -- and a helpful executive order from President Obama -- they are well on their way.

What Are Gender Barriers Made Of?

Overt discrimination in the labor markets may be on the wane, but women are still subtly penalized by all sorts of societal conventions. How can those penalties be removed without burning down the house?

When Willpower Isn’t Enough

Season 5, Episode 1

In part one (When Willpower Isn't Enough), the Penn professor Katherine Milkman tells us about "temptation bundling," which means pairing something you don't want to do (but need to do) with something you love to do (but perhaps shouldn't do). For instance: allowing yourself to watch your favorite TV show only while working out at the gym. Or eating a cheeseburger only when you go to visit your least-favorite relative. In part two (The Maddest Men of All), the iconoclastic vice chairman of Ogilvy & Mather in the U.K., Rory Sutherland, tells us how marketers use behavioral economics to get us all to buy now and think later.

When Willpower Isn’t Enough: A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast

One of the most compelling talks I saw at this year's American Economics Association conference was by Katherine Milkman, an assistant professor at the Wharton School at Penn. She holds a joint Ph.D. in computer science and business, but her passion is behavioral economics -- and, specifically, how its findings can be applied to help people in their daily lives. Milkman and her research are the focus of our latest Freakonomics Radio episode, "When Willpower Isn't Enough." (You can subscribe to the podcast at iTunes or elsewhere, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above. You can also read the transcript, which includes credits for the music you’ll hear in the episode.)

How to Fix a Broken High Schooler, in Four Easy Steps: A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast

Our previous episode -- "Is America's Education Problem Really Just a Teacher Problem?" -- looked at the role of teacher skill in the education equation. But the education equation isn't so simple -- there are a lot of inputs, a lot of variables, a lot of question marks. Our conclusion: sure, it would be great to have a brilliant teacher in every classroom -- but that still doesn't guarantee that every student will be well-educated. Students have to want it; families have to want it. What is a teacher and a school system supposed to do if a lot of its students just don't really care about school?

That brings us to this week's episode, "How to Fix a Broken High Schooler, in Four Easy Steps." (You can subscribe to the podcast at iTunes or elsewhere, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above. You can also read the transcript, which includes credits for the music you’ll hear in the episode.)

It's about a program called Pathways to Education, which came out of a community health center in Regent Park,  a housing project in Toronto. You'll hear from Carolyn Acker, who used to run the center:

Why You Should Bribe Your Kids: A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast

This week’s episode is called “Why You Should Bribe Your Kids.” (You can subscribe to the podcast at iTunes, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above. You can also read the transcript, which includes credits for the music you’ll hear in the episode.)

Let's say you're trying to get a bunch of kids to eat more nutritious food. What's the best way to do this -- education, moral urging, or plain old bribery? That's one of the questions that a pair of economists set out to answer in a recent field experiment in Chicago. In this podcast, you'll hear from both of them: John List, a University of Chicago professor (and co-author of The Why Axis who's familiar to readers of this blog); and Anya Samek, who teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.