nudgeMany years ago, Thaler was hosting dinner for some guests (other then-young economists) and put out a large bowl of cashew nuts to nibble on with the first bottle of wine. Within a few minutes it became clear that the bowl of nuts was going to be consumed in its entirety, and that the guests might lack sufficient appetite to enjoy all the food that was to follow. Leaping into action, Thaler grabbed the bowl of nuts, and (while sneaking a few more nuts for himself removed the bowl to the kitchen, where it was put out of sight.

When he returned, the guests thanked him for removing the nuts. The conversation immediately turned to the theoretical question of how they could possibly be happy about the fact that there was no longer a bowl of nuts in front of them … In economics (and in ordinary life), a basic principle is that you can never be made worse off by having more options, because you can always turn them down. Before Thaler removed the nuts the group had the choice of whether to eat the nuts or not – now they didn’t. In the land of Econs, it is against the law to be happy about this!