What Do Grocery Store Prices and Heart Surgery Have in Common? (Freakonomics, M.D. Ep. 4)

Listen now:

Humans are hardwired to focus on the left digit in numbers. It’s why products are priced at $3.99 instead of $4.00. But does this left-digit bias also affect medical decisions? Host Bapu Jena is joined by a fellow researcher and a cardiologist to explain how left-digit bias shows up in one of the most important decisions a doctor can make, what it means for patients, and what we can do about it.

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Relevant Research & References

Here’s where you can learn more about the people and ideas in this episode:


  • Stephen Coussens, economist and an assistant professor of Health Policy and Management at Columbia University.
  • Bryan Smith, assistant professor of medicine and a cardiologist at the University of Chicago Medical Center.