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Interview with Andrew Oswald

Behavioural Economics is a rapidly expanding field and everyday new research is being developed in academia, tested and implemented by practitioners in financial organisation, development agencies, government ‘nudge’ units and more. This series (a collaboration between Etinosa Agbonlahor and Merle van den Akker) features 12 behavioural economists and behavioural scientists whose work and research is at the forefront of the field. In today's interview the answers are provided by Andrew Oswald.

Andrew is a Professor of Economics and Behavioural Science at the University of Warwick. His research is principally in applied economics and quantitative social science. It currently includes the empirical study of job satisfaction, human happiness, unemployment, labour productivity, and the influence of diet on psychological well-being. Andrew is also a Visiting Fellow at IZA in Bonn and serves on the board of editors of Science. Although busy, Andrew replied to this interview with answers in less than a day!

Who or what got you into Behavioural Economics? I do not think of myself in a narrow way like that, but I have been interested in human wellbeing since 1991, when I looked at some of the first data. The topic seemed natural.

What is the accomplishment you are proudest of as a Behavioural economist? I suppose helping to develop the economics of happiness, as it is now called.

If you weren’t a behavioural economist, what would you be doing? Lots of other economics and social science. More likely even health sciences. I am in interested in the influence of fruit and vegetable diets on people, and on air pollution and the brain.

How do you apply behavioural economics in your personal life? I try to think about what might contribute to my and my family’s happiness. I also try to do less comparing with other humans. Comparisons make people unhappy, in general.

With all your experience, what skills would you say are needed to be a behavioural economist? Are there any recommendations you would make? Open-mindedness. A commitment to absolute scientific integrity even if one does not like the answers from a research project.

How do you think behavioural economics will develop (in the next 10 years)? Bigger data sets. More and more attention to links with medical science and the hard sciences generally.

Short but strong answers, thanks Andrew! Want to read more? The previous interview was done with Dilip Soman, and the next one will be with Nattavudh (Nick) Powdthavee. Want to read interviews from practitioners rather than academics, go to Etinosa's blog here.


Behavioural Science

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