When it comes to behavior, consumers do not always practice what they preach. We all know we should recycle, but even committed recyclers can behave erratically, cleaning and sorting bottles one day, and tossing recyclable glass in the trash the next. Consumers will report that they believe it’s important to recycle, but their actual behaviors often tell a different story.
What is going on? It turns out that an array of biases sway our decisions about what to place in the green bin and what to throw away that can be better understood through Behavioral Economics. The study of behavioral economics was developed to go beyond what people would say they would do (idealized rational behavior) and instead explores what people actually do, why they do it, and most importantly, how to influence it. It involves a combination of economics and psychology to give a more realistic account of human behavior and decision making. And since most people tend to make “errors” in judgment in the same direction, these deviations from a rational norm become fairly systematic and predictable.
Although public interest in sustainability, sustainable ...