The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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No topic left unturned by best-selling ‘Freakonomics’ author Stephen Dubner

Photo by Photo by: Ethan Dias

Stephen Dubner is the best-selling author behind “Freakonomics” and his new book “Think Like a Freak.”


The reproduction of turkeys, feeding an increasing world population and the statistics of soccer penalty kicks were just some of the many examples award-winning author Stephen Dubner touched on as part of his lecture in Rudder Auditorium Thursday evening.
Dubner, co-author of the bestselling book “Freakonomics” and his latest book “Think like a Freak,” explained different incentives and how they dictate personal behaviors.
“When you come up with any idea and it has incentives attached to it, you’ve got to think, ‘what kind of incentives are we going to do?’” Dubner said. “There are all different types of incentives — there is financial, there is social incentives, moral incentives, reputation is a huge incentive or a huge motivator for a lot of people.”
Dubner tied the methods of incentives to an anecdote about a hospital in Los Angeles that was working to improve the percentage of health professionals in the facility that washed their hands. The hospital dedicated a committee to its goal.
“They had to decide, ‘are we wanting to catch them doing the bad thing and punish them,’ and that was their initial idea,” Dubner said. “They wanted to wait in the patient’s room and when a doc failed to wash their hands, they were going to jump out and like scold them and then they were going to publicly post their name for all to see. Instead of a negative incentive, they went for a positive incentive. The committee members would hide behind a wall or piece of equipment and literally crouch down and whenever they heard the doctor turn on the water or hit the disinfectant pump, they would pop out and clap and then give them a $10 Starbucks giftcard.”
MSC Bethancourt, the organization that hosted the lecture, was excited with the event’s turnout.
“We blew our attendance goal out of the water,” said Amy Brooke, MSC Bethancourt chair and English senior. “We were defining success as getting people here and getting them interested, and based on how many people were hanging around afterwards to meet him, I feel like it was a huge success.”  
For wildlife and fisheries sciences senior Kaitlyn Forks, the lecture was not what she was expecting.
“I learned too many things on too many different ends of the spectrum — things that I never expected to learn from a talk like this definitely,” Forks said. “I don’t even care about soccer but I think suddenly I do now.”

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