Man's search for meaning: The case of Legos

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2008-09-01

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We investigate how perceived meaning influences labor supply. In a laboratory setting, we manipulate the perceived meaning of simple, repetitive tasks and find a strong influence on subjects' labor supply. Despite the fact that the wage and the task are identical across the conditions in each experiment, subjects in the less meaningful conditions exhibit reservation wages that are consistently much higher than the subjects in the more meaningful conditions. The result replicates across different types of tasks. Moreover, in the more meaningful conditions, subjects' productivity influences labor supply more strongly. © 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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10.1016/j.jebo.2008.01.004

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Ariely, D, E Kamenica and D Prelec (2008). Man's search for meaning: The case of Legos. Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, 67(3-4). pp. 671–677. 10.1016/j.jebo.2008.01.004 Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/6324.

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Scholars@Duke

Ariely

Dan Ariely

Professor of Business Administration

HI, I'M DAN ARIELY. I do research in behavioral economics and try to describe it in plain language. These findings have enriched my life, and my hope is that they will do the same for you.

My immersive introduction to irrationality took place many years ago while I was overcoming injuries sustained in an explosion. The range of treatments in the burn department, and particularly the daily “bath” made me face a variety of irrational behaviors that were immensely painful and persistent. Upon leaving the hospital, I wanted to understand how to better deliver painful and unavoidable treatments to patients, so I began conducting research in this area.

I became engrossed with the idea that we repeatedly and predictably make the wrong decisions in many aspects of our lives and that research could help change some of these patterns.

Irrationally YoursPredictably IrrationalThe Upside of Irrationality,The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty, the movie Dishonesty and the card game Irrational Game are my attempt to take my research findings and describe them in non academic terms, so that more people will learn about this type of research, discover the excitement of behavioral economics, and possibly use some of the insights to enrich their own lives.

In terms of official positions, I am a Professor of Business Administration at Duke University and a founding member of the Center for Advanced Hindsight.

My free time is spent working on a guide to the kitchen and life—Dining Without Crumbs: The Art of Eating Over the Kitchen Sink—and of course, studying the irrational ways we all behave.


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