Adam Smith, Marriage Counselor

In today’s New York Times Styles section, Jenny talks about what writing a book about marriage did to (and for) her own marriage:

No sooner had we started interviewing couples, polling strangers and diving into the research than our marriages became petri dishes for testing our theories (or having them tested on us).

Week No. 8 of writing, week No. 2 of my first daughter’s life: My husband promises he’ll be home at 7 p.m. He walks in at 9. I combust. Why can’t he ever be on time, I ask in an acid-laced tone…. I kept fighting, despite knowing that I was wrong….

At the time, I was knee-deep in research about a concept called loss aversion. Economists have documented this phenomenon: in a nutshell, we have to win $200 to make up for the pain of losing $100. And this fear makes us behave irrationally, like betting more money when we’re already losing it hand over fist. Or entering a bidding war for an early 20th-century American flag that we will tuck away in the attic just because we don’t want to lose to the guy in the back with the bad khakis. Or escalating a fight with a spouse when we sort of know we’ve already lost. Read More…

Posted in arguing

4 Responses to Adam Smith, Marriage Counselor

  1. Ben Ho says:

    But there is good economic reason you want to yell at your spouse for apologizing. The sociologist Tavuchis calls it the Paradox of apologies. From my perspective http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=944161 , we punish those who apologize to us in order to make it costly, so that the apology has signaling value (see also the cartoon here http://www.benho.org/apology-poster.pdf ). It’s like in Christmas when there are lots of columns about why gift giving is bad economics, because people don’t get what they want, whereas as Camerer formalized nicely, gift giving conveys lots of information, and thus may have quite a bit of economic value.

    Assistant Professor of Economics
    Cornell University

  2. Lillian says:

    Although we are in our early 50s, the main objective of our marriage is finance, nothing more. As far as our sex market, I thought it was just too big to fail, but it did. We continue to scramble about for “dinero”!; as we always seem to capture snapshoted faces of smirks all around town that really know the trade secrets to our demise, but won’t tell. In order to stay focus on our long term planning agenda, I’ve decided to castrate my husband and become a nun.

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