Search the Site

Have a Very Homo Economicus Christmas (Ep. 105)


(Photo: ahenobarbus)

Our latest Freakonomics Radio on Marketplace podcast is called “Have a Very Homo Economicus Christmas.” (You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, listen via the media player above, or read the transcript here.)
It’s the latest in our annual series of explanations about how economists can take all the fun out of the holidays. This year, we have one simple mission: ask economists how they go about shopping for the holidays.
You’ll hear from Steve Levitt; Alex Tabarrok (who wants gifts directed to his “wild self”); Justin Wolfers (who has written before on Christmas efficiency); and Joel Waldfogel (here’s his famous “Deadweight Loss of Christmas” paper; he’s also the author of Scroogenomics).
Wolfers tries to ease our holiday stress by pointing to “the spotlight effect”:

You tend to think that you’re in the spotlight and everyone’s looking at you. Applying that to Christmas, it’s like you think that everyone’s looking at the gift you’re about to give and it’s super important. And so you put a lot more weight on it, and maybe you spend a little bit too much. The truth is you’re not that interesting. The person who’s about to get the present is going to get dozens of others and they’ll probably forget what you’re going to give them.

If you need even more help, you might want to check out Cass Sunstein’s “Holiday Shopping Tips From Behavioral Economists” (paywall).
Happy Everything, everybody.