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The Why Axis

Hidden Motives of Everyday Life

Uri Gneezy and John List

Self-interest is what motivates everyone. Once you establish what people really value - money, respect, relationships, praise - then you can figure out the triggers needed to induce them to get better grades, stay out of trouble, perform better at work, give more to charity, or discriminate against others less.

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We assume that people respond in predictable, knee-jerk ways to incentives like money, but they don't. Sometimes incentives work short term but not long, and sometimes they make people act in the opposite way you intended.

Businesses sometimes resist the cost of running marketing experiments, but now realize it costs too much not to. In past, managers relied on intuition and received wisdom from predecessors. But future managers will get up to date picture by running trials and using the data to figure out strategy.

Israeli day care which introduced a small fine for late pickups. Changed the rules of agreement between parents and staff. No longer needed to bust a gut getting there - teachers' time now just a commodity, not a moral issue of guilt.

When people agree to split a restaurant bill, they order 10% more expensive dishes.

American schools badly farked. US spends average $11,500 per student on ed. Drop out rates for low income kids 4 times that of high income. US high school graduation rates lower than Mexico or Turkey, countries that spend way less.

How to negotiate with car salesman: "I am getting three price quotes today"

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