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Am J Prev Med. 2013 Feb;44(2):185-9. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2012.10.008.

Behavioral economics: merging psychology and economics for lifestyle interventions.

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Department of Society, Human Development, and Health, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.


The field of behavioral economics combines psychology and economics to investigate how individuals actually behave as opposed to how they would behave if they were being perfectly rational (as in the sense of maximizing their utility). Although initial applications focused on consumer behavior, such as explaining why people failed to save adequately for retirement, the field has moved increasingly into the area of explaining health behaviors as well as the design of lifestyle interventions, such as weight loss and smoking-cessation programs. This article provides an overview of several important behavioral economics concepts of relevance to public health and health behavior change.

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