Reading Between The Lines: The Why Axis

October 24. 2013
by Pablo Valdivia

It’s not every day you get to read a scene from the TV show “Friends” and accept it as dependable source, but when studying the conventional goings of daily life, “Friends” is as good as it gets. Rady School Professor Uri Gneezy and Booth School Professor John List have used this and various other personal and professional experiences in order to bring forth the idea that in order to do and be better, we must read between the lines.

As existential as it sounds, self-awareness and conscious decision making are the new waves of thinking in a world striving for productivity. Being efficient and successful isn’t by its own nature a simple linear formula that can be solved by adding x and y together; it must be interpreted from the inside out. Even the most mundane of days contains an intricate inner-working of inscribed human behavior. Our motivations and interactions with one another aren’t necessarily chosen roulette-style; but by the deep rooted script we as humans continue to write for ourselves.

This inside-out approach is something both Gneezy and List have attempted to unveil in their new book “The Why Axis.” By leaving the traditional lab and putting an anthropological lens on the incentives that motivate us, both Gneezy and List have decoded our behavior in order to bridge the gap between economics and conventional life. From visiting a business as small as a daycare to a corporation as large as Disney, these scholars use moments from our everyday lives in order to tap into conscious decision making that can not only broaden the entrepreneurial mind, but better society as a whole.

This form of experimental economics creates a dialogue between both the reader and the text that tackles tough issues in the fields of business, philanthropy, politics, healthcare, and education. From magnifying the root of gender inequality in the workplace to increasing productivity among workers, this kind of curiosity can potentially rewrite our actions.

To know why people behave in certain ways is applicable to the everyday person. As a professional looking to connect their vision with the consumer, it is vital. As a student myself not too familiar with the economics niche, this book was able to speak to me as clearly as it would a Nobel laureate. So next time you watch “Friends” or hang out with real ones, tap into the book’s core message of looking beyond the explicit because everything is a learning lesson if you allow it to be.

Written by marketing and communications intern Pablo Valdivia.