Beeminder Forum

ACX post on behavioral economics

This is a placeholder; I’m going to edit in my thoughts when I’m done reading Scott Alexander’s post. But feel free to start the discussion in the meantime…

PS: Ok, I read it out loud to @bee last night and it was great. I added a comment there that I’ll repeat here:

This is a brilliant defense of the field and I’m really grateful for it! Another thing that I believe to be reasonably unscathed by the replication crisis is research on present bias (aka akrasia) and commitment devices. Phew for us!

(P)PS, not a correction to Scott’s post per se but maybe a correction to an impression readers will likely have. I don’t know if it actually matters but is interesting:

Hreha posted that article a full year ago. It reads as (and is) a perfectly apt reaction to the Ariely affair and I presume that when Hreha noticed it being circulated he just savvily removed the date from the article so people wouldn’t be distracted by that or write it off as insufficiently timely. (I actually checked the internet archive and he made no other change besides removing the date.)

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(Not central to the topic of behavioral economics and claims about its death but on reflection I am unimpressed with Hreha removing the date on that article to better capitalize on its recent virality. For starters there’s a mild element of deception to it – intentionally letting everyone form a false impression.

So what about not putting dates on articles in the first place, to counteract readers’ bias against old stuff? That bugs me too. It’s like a presumptuous caginess: “you don’t need to know when I wrote this; it’s timeless”. No, it’s useful and interesting to know, sometimes is critical to know, and it’s just generally important to record for posterity. So get over yourself and just include dates!)

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But include them at the end of the article rather than at the beginning, so that the information is not lost, nor is it unduly predjudicious. Anything that’s truly timely/transient can be disclaimed at the outset, not unlike a statement of epistemological status.

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I mean, I definitely prefer dates at the top, because a lot of times I AM looking for timely information. An article about school transmission of covid from Feb. 2021 is a lot less useful to me than one from July '21… (and an article talking about how hard it is to get cargo bikes in 2018 is pretty much useless to everyone, to pick an example I dealt with recently). Let me see that your information won’t fit my needs and let me move on to the next one (which of course explains why sites prefer not to use dates, sigh).

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