In his book “Behavioral Economics Saved My Dog,” Dan Ariely tells the story of how he used principles of behavioral economics to improve the health and happiness of his beloved dog, Rufus.
Ariely, a professor of psychology and behavioral economics, had always been fascinated by the ways in which humans make decisions, particularly when it comes to money and value. When Rufus was diagnosed with pancreatitis, Ariely knew that he needed to make changes to Rufus’s diet and lifestyle in order to improve his health. However, he found that he was struggling to get Rufus to follow his recommended treatment plan.
Ariely realized that he needed to consider Rufus’s behavior and decision-making processes in order to create a plan that would actually work. He turned to behavioral economics, a field that studies how people make decisions and how those decisions are influenced by various factors, including emotions, social norms, and cognitive biases.
One of the key principles of behavioral economics is that people often make irrational decisions due to cognitive biases, which are errors in judgment that are caused by the way our brains process information. Ariely used this understanding to come up with a plan to help Rufus eat healthier food and exercise more.
One of the first things Ariely did was to make Rufus’s food more appealing by adding small amounts of cheese and other treats to his meals. This helped to increase Rufus’s motivation to eat, as he was more likely to eat something that was more desirable to him.
Ariely also used a technique called “nudging” to encourage Rufus to eat healthier food. Nudging is a way of influencing behavior by making small changes to the environment or context in which a decision is made. For example, Ariely made sure that Rufus’s healthy food was always within easy reach, while the unhealthy food was hidden away. This made it easier for Rufus to make the healthier choice.
Another important principle of behavioral economics is that people are more likely to follow through with a task if they feel a sense of commitment to it. Ariely used this idea to help Rufus exercise more regularly. He set up a schedule for Rufus’s walks and made sure to stick to it, and he also gave Rufus a special collar that tracked his activity level. This helped Rufus feel like he was part of a team and that he had a sense of purpose, which made it easier for him to follow through with the exercise plan.
Overall, Ariely’s use of behavioral economics principles helped to significantly improve Rufus’s health and happiness. By understanding how Rufus made decisions and using techniques like nudging and commitment, Ariely was able to create a plan that worked for both of them.
The story of how Ariely used behavioral economics to help his dog serves as a powerful example of the ways in which this field can be used to improve our lives and the lives of those around us. By understanding how our brains process information and how our emotions and social norms influence our decisions, we can make better choices and lead happier, healthier lives.