Do you always make the best possible choices, even when you’re stressed or short on sleep? The ideally rational person (“Homo economicus”) assumed by conventional economics always acts in ways that are materially advantageous to them. But Associate Professor Frank Schilbach seeks in his research and teaching to explore the ways in which Homo economicus fails as a model of actual human behavior; in particular, Prof. Schilbach is interested in uncovering the psychological factors that influence people’s choices, even when those choices appear obviously counterproductive and irrational.
In the episode of the Chalk Radio podcast embedded below, Prof. Schilbach discusses how psychologically-informed interventions can not only boost people’s productivity, earnings, and savings, but can even increase their tendency toward benevolence and cooperation. As he puts it, while economists have not ignored mental health altogether, they have tended to view it instrumentally, in terms of its effects on productivity or financial stability. It would be better, he suggests, to view mental health as valuable for its own sake, as an inherent element of overall well-being–which is why he prioritizes students’ mental health by making assignments due not first thing in the morning but at 6 or 8 PM!