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25 Things I learned from Behavioural Economics (part 2)

On Saturday the third of October I turned 25 years old. Which you probably already knew, as I also announced it in the previous post, which was part 1 of the 25 things I have learned from behavioural science. This is part 2, because I am really milking this birthday thing…


13. FOMO will ruin your life. Fear of missing out is an entirely psychologically driven phenomenon. It means you can’t enjoy your life if you’re not at every event, with every person, doing all the things, all the time. FOMO is the reason you don’t dare sit on the couch and relax, or go to bed early. What if something earth shattering is happening and you’re not THERE?!

Go to bed, you’re heading for a burn-out. Why do you want to be there so badly anyway? So you can tell other people who weren’t there about it and feel good about yourself? Is that really worth the endless running around like a headless chicken?


14. FOBO will also ruin your life. Fear of a better option is a term that’s slightly older than FOMO, but it described a similar phenomenon: the inability to commit to a choice, because you’re afraid something better will come along. This is also known within behavioural economics as the difference between satisficing and maximizing. If you want to maximize, you’re going to end up like the homo economicus from point 10: forever searching for the perfect mobile phone, but never finding it because the market changes too quickly.

Sometimes just having something “good enough”, is better than having something that’s “the best.”


15. Time is the most valuable resource. Economics, in every form, is often seen as the study of money, and the scarcity of it. However, economics is the study of scarcity, and nothing is more scarce than time. You don’t get more of it. If you decide to apply behavioural science to only one thing in your life, make sure you apply it to how you spend your time, in whichever way you deem most optimal.

Also, don’t procrastinate, just do it. Anticipatory disutility is a thing.


16. Attention is also a damn valuable resource. Just as time is a limited resource, so is attention. Although the latter can be replenished. Thankfully. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t optimize to what we pay attention, and as a result, what we give the time of day. Social media has been designed to be addictive, but that doesn’t mean we can’t break away from it and direct our attention to things that actually matter. Like the people around us. To have deep and meaningful conversations, rather than status updates, tweets and these weird TikTok dances. You are what you consume, so make sure you direct your attention wisely!


17. Flow is a real thing. On the topic of attention: I’ve discussed the book Deep Work on this blog before, and I wasn’t a massive fan (it’s loads of common sense and mismarketing), but the idea behind it, to direct your attention and focus on one thing, and one thing only, is a good point. Stop multi-tasking if you don’t have to, it’s reducing both the quality of your work and your cognitive capacity. Make sure to get into a flow, without distraction, and then work your ass off. You’ll be very surprised with the result. And the time it was achieved in. Tip: enable DND (Do not Disturb) on all your gadgets. Or just turn everything to silent. Or just completely turn it off. It helps loads.


18. Behavioural science isn’t just nudging… I do not wish to discuss this further.


19. You’re never too old to learn your own learning style. It took me forever to realise that I cannot take information in when just listening to it. I need to read it, see it and preferably also discuss it. This is something which you can better learn sooner than later. This is also an argument for the old lecturing system not being beneficial to every single student. Just dropping that here.


20. You need to figure out how you’re being manipulated. As I already mentioned in point 6, social media is a tool for mass manipulation. Most people have caught onto that. But there’s other ways in which you’re being manipulated. The way menus are designed, or certain comparison sites, insurance policies, pension schemes. Always look out for defaults, pre-selected things, recommendations, colour schemes (what is more prominent?). These things are often referred to as Dark Patterns. They are there to manipulate you into some type of action. Like staying on a social media platforming, or buying shit you don’t need.


21. Sometimes it is common sense, but scientifically proven (until disproven). Is it surprising that reminders make people more likely to actually do things? No. Is it surprising that social feedback (e.g. you’re using much more electricity than your neighbours! ☹ ) can reduce consumption? Also no. But is it surprising that the same social feedback can make people consume more? Yes. Not all aspects of behaviour work in the same way as common sense predicts they do. Test them. Test everything!


22. Failures to replicate are just as interesting as the successful replications. If not more so. We seem to really get down on failures to replicate. If a study fails to replicate it just sucks. Rude. And untrue. A failure to replicate can lead to a wealth of knowledge, as long as you dare to put your critical thinking cap on. Also look back to points 4 and 5, or jump towards point 24. Failure to replicate can mean hundreds of different things. Rather than: “I guess it worked.” This also goes for failing in general: learning from your failures is really important, and might teach you more than instant success could ever teach you.


23. Get into behavioural finance. We’re all obsessed with money. Saving, spending, investing, etc. So you need to get into behavioural finance. Figure out how banks, credit card providers and payday lenders are trying to screw you ever. Get yourself the best deal. Find out how financial tracker apps can help you. How you can start investing with small amounts of money. And how important it is to get into the habit of saving. And how to get into the habit of saving. It might not be the most important resource, but money does matter.


24. Context is everything. From WEIRD to small samples, from failures to replicate to successful replications, it’s all dependent on context. Every decision is dependent on its context. Your mood, your friends’ mood, whether you’re hungry, whether you’ve been paid that day, whether you’re broke or loaded etc. etc. It’s time to look at decisions within the complex systems in which they occur.


25. Be open-minded. I’ve been in behavioural science for a minute now. And it has changed a lot in that short time. And I’m sure it’ll continue to change. Things we thought we’re the very foundation of our knowledge got disproven only 10 years later. Always be open to discussion, be open to adversarial collaboration and be open to be proven wrong. That’s how we progress, after all.


There you have it folks, the full 25 things I have learned from behavioural economics, or behavioural science. Or whatever we're calling it by this stage. I hope it was useful. I hope it was entertaining. I hope I actually gave you 25 items and didn't fuck up the counting. Only time and the comments on social media will tell!


Behavioural Science

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