Why Don’t People and Institutions Do What They Know They Should?

6 Pages Posted: 12 Aug 2011  

David M. Cutler

Harvard University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Date Written: 2010

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

Cutler, David M., Why Don’t People and Institutions Do What They Know They Should? (2010). American Economic Association, Ten Years and Beyond: Economists Answer NSF's Call for Long-Term Research Agendas. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1888580 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1888580

David M. Cutler (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Department of Economics ( email )

Littauer Center, Room 315A
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-496-5216 (Phone)
617-495-8570 (Fax)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-868-3900 (Phone)
617-868-2742 (Fax)

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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