Why Don’t People and Institutions Do What They Know They Should?
David M. Cutler
Harvard University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)
American Economic Association, Ten Years and Beyond: Economists Answer NSF's Call for Long-Term Research Agendas
I propose as a central question for the social and behavioral sciences the following topic: why do people and institutions not do things that are so obviously in their self-interest, even when they want to do so? We have numerous examples of this phenomenon, from individual behavior such as seatbelt use and medication adherence, to firm outcomes such as quality improvement or cost reduction. The ability to encourage what people know to be right is central in many policy debates, including the recent health reform discussion in the United States. I indicate three lines of inquiry as promising in understanding this question: characterizing the motivation of individuals; understanding group decision-making; and undertaking interventions.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 6working papers series
Date posted: August 12, 2011
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