After I wrote here in March about studies playing disappointing economic games with chocolate, Amit wrote me to give more context. I promptly lost his e-mail in the mix. Recovering it recently, I found his comment in much need of posting. It aided my argument that not giving people all the chocolate or candy or ice cream they wanted was poor science.
those studies are done by marketing depts. can’t trust that. that’s why economists only studied actual purchasing behavior. (we call this revealed preference.)
The Wikipedia page for revealed preference has a nice explanation as well. If you, like Amit, enjoy economics or, like me, enjoy observation-based problem solving (more fun than it sounds), revealed preference is for you. Who cares what people say they do or say they are willing to do? The things people actually do are the things that matter.
Newsroom note I: We sure still struggle here. With process issues, we stick too close to the surface because we’re afraid going deeper will take too long. We end up making decisions that ignore the underlying issues and cost us more in the long run. With outside reaction issues, we tend to ignore the actual outside reactions, guessing instead because going outside, again, takes too long. We end up in the same place as we do internally and hurt the other half of our workings.
Newsroom note II: It was great to end up spending two days last month with people from IDEO. They’re innovation experts who don’t do focus groups. They find people deeply connecting to their area of research and do deep-dives into their lives. “Human factors,” they call it. Storytelling, brainstorming and prototyping cycle from there. From the beginning and end of the process, you keep your identity, integrity and ideas. Good for any industry, but great for competitive news and information. Backed up a bunch of things I’d tried before and gave a ton of ideas to move ahead.
Back to candy.
Amit also points me toward a Yale paper. The study isn’t about chocolate consumption, but it still involves giving chocolate away. It’s my kind of paper.
“We examine whether ambiguity aversion correlates with costume choice amongst children at Halloween,” the study’s cover notes. “We conducted an ambiguity aversion experiment with children on Halloween during trick-or-treating and correlated this with their choice of costumes. We find that children wearing the most commonly chosen costumes are more likely to avoid a gamble with ambiguous odds.”
Not only do the authors rag on their department head refusing them the use of his porch, but Amit highlights this line: “Fourth, while recent work (Todd and Wolpin (2002)) has narrowed a gap between structural economists and experimentalists, structural economist residents of the neighborhood were suspicious of the experimental activities on the porch and were more likely to persuade their children to avoid the home.”