George Loewenstein helped to found the field of behavioral economics, the field of neuroeconomics and was one of the early proponents of a new approach to public policy called, variously, ‘asymmetric’ or ‘libertarian’ paternalism. He has published over 300 journal articles in journals in economics, psychology, law, medicine and other fields, numerous book chapters, has written or edited six books on topics ranging from intertemporal choice to behavioral economics and emotions, and has served on the editorial boards of numerous journals in different fields. He has served on multiple National Academy of Sciences and Institute of Medicine panels and has advised numerous corporations and governmental organizations, including the NIH, USDA, U.K. Behavioural Insights Team, CVS Caremark, Ascension Health, McKinsey, NPD, Aramark and many others.
Areas of Expertise (2)
Media Appearances (5)
Opinion How ‘nudge economics’ lets companies pass the buck
The Washington Post online
But there is a darker interpretation, too. As behavioral finance economists Nick Chater and George Loewenstein write in a recently released working paper, the mass acceptance of behavioral nudges “unwittingly helped promote the interests of corporations who oppose systemic change.”
The New York Times online
“People are so raw at this point, having lived through two years of Covid, that any new thing is going to make them upset and angry,” said George Loewenstein, a behavioral economist at Carnegie Mellon University. “It just feels like it’s one thing after another.”
Economists explain how high inflation wreaks havoc on our brains and makes us feel ‘really angry’
Take the case of whether you would be willing to risk losing $100 at a casino for the possibility of winning $100, for example. Most people, Carnegie Mellon University professor George Loewenstein says, would decline the offer.
How does inflation affect your spending decisions?
NBC News online
“When inflation is bad and people expect it to continue or get worse, they generally tend to not save money and try to buy durable goods before the price rises,” said George Loewenstein, professor of economics and psychology at Carnegie Mellon University.
Why Paying People to Be Vaccinated Could Backfire } Opinion
The New York Times online
Some economists and politicians have proposed offering financial incentives, but that risks sending an unintended message.
Industry Expertise (3)
Honorary Doctorate, Tilburg University (professional)
Honorary Doctorate of Science, City University (professional)
Honorary Doctorate of Science, University of Warwick (professional)
Winner, Student Poster Competition (poster by Sunita Sah), Judgment & Decision Making Meeting (professional)
Winner, Best Paper Award (with Daylian Cain and Sunita Sah), Society for Business Ethics Annual Meeting (professional)
Yale University: Ph.D., Economics 1985
Brandeis University: B.A., Economics 1977
- Member, American Academy of Arts and Sciences
- American Economic Association Honors and Awards Committee
- Fellow, CESifo Research Network
- American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Economics Membership Panel
- Member, Behavioral Economics Roundtable, Russell Sage Foundation
The rhetoric of reaction, extendedBehavioural Public Policy
2023 Hirschman, The Rhetoric of Reaction: Perversity, Futility, Jeopardy (1991) taxonomizing three rhetorical strategies–Perversity, Futility and Jeopardy–that can be used by powerful interests, and their supporters, in opposing reforms to the political, social or economic system. Suppose, for example, a fossil fuel company is attempting to undermine regulations enforcing a rapid transition to electric vehicles. The rhetoric of Perversity claims that such regulation will have the opposite of the intended consequence–for example, suggesting that when the “embedded carbon” involved in battery manufacture, or the fossil fuels consumed by the power network are taken into account, switching to electric vehicles will actually worsen, rather than remediating, greenhouse gas emissions.
Cognition: A Study in Mental EconomyCognitive Science
2023 In this letter, we argue that an economic perspective on the mind has played—and should continue to play—a central role in the development of cognitive science. Viewing cognition as the productive application of mental resources puts cognitive science and economics on a common conceptual footing, paving the way for closer collaboration between the two disciplines. This will enable cognitive scientists to more readily repurpose economic concepts and analytical tools for the study of mental phenomena, while at the same time, enriching our understanding of the modern economy, which is increasingly driven by mental, rather than physical, production.
Where next for behavioral public policy?Behavioral and Brain Sciences
2023 Our target article distinguishes between policy approaches that seek to address societal problems through intervention at the level of the individual (adopting the “i-frame”) and those that seek to change the system within which those individuals live (adopting the “s- frame”). We stress also that a long-standing tactic of corporations opposing systemic change is to promote the i-frame perspective, presumably hoping that i-frame interventions will be largely ineffective and more importantly will be seen by the public and some policy makers as a genuine alternative to systemic change. We worry that the i-frame focus of much of behavioral science has inadvertently reinforced this unhelpful focus on the individual.
The Drive to DiscloseConsumer Psychology Review
2023 Disclosure is a pervasive behavior critical to the human experience, and has been the focus of both empirical research and theorizing by social and consumer psychologists. This work has typically characterized disclosure as a deliberate and strategic act, the product of a careful weighing of costs and benefits. In this paper, we argue that, although some disclosure can be deliberate and “rational,” much of it exhibits drive‐like qualities. We review evidence to suggest that, much like other drive states (e.g., hunger), the desire to disclose can be visceral, driven by emotions and physical arousal, and satiated through the act of disclosing. And just as more basic drives evolved to motivate adaptive action but can engender maladaptive behavior (e.g., over‐eating), disclosures can likewise be impulsive and ultimately regrettable.
Confusing context with Character: Correspondence bias in economic interactionsManagement Science
2023 When drawing inferences about a person’s personal characteristics from the person’s actions, “correspondence bias” is the tendency to overestimate the influence of those characteristics and underestimate the influence of situational factors, such as incentives the individual faces. We build a simple framework to formalize correspondence bias and test its predictions in an online experiment. Consistent with correspondence bias, subjects are, on average, willing to pay to receive the dictator-game givings of an individual with whom they are randomly assigned to play a game that encourages cooperation rather than one with whom they play a game that encourages selfish behavior.