Update: Here is a link to the slides for our presentation "How Do Subjective Consumption Vectors Vary with Age?"

I can't be at the conference advertised above this year, but it is the Well-Being Measurement Initiative team I am on (and that accounts for by far the bulk of my research effort) that is organizing the conference whose program you see above. Let me talk a little about the field of study for our paper that my coauthors Dan Benjamin, Kristen Cooper and Ori Heffetz are presenting at the conference. 

"Tropozoic" and "Tropozoics." To maximize your utility, you need to make good decisions about your interactions with the market and good decisions about interactions with others in your household. But there are also many other important decisions you face in running your life. I want to propose and road-test a word for the study of the full range of decisions people face in running their lives, including private individual decisions that don't involve anyone else, except quite indirectly. 

In searching for a word for the study of the full range of decisions people face in running their lives, I looked for an analog to the word "household" in Gary Becker's phrase "household production function." Notice that in the phrase "household production function," the word "household" functions as if it were an adjective. I looked first and foremost for an adjective. 

For the concept of "having to do with the management of an individual life in all its dimensions, including things of the heart, mind and spirit as well as outward things," I propose the adjective "way-of-life" or its Greek-derivative equivalent "tropozoic." Thus, for example, I might say something like:

Understanding the nature of tropozoic production functions is important for helping people to have rich and abundant lives. 

Let me justify my choice of a Greek equivalent for "way-of-life." First, I think that for a technical term, using a Greek derivative is an easy way to avoid making people think of secondary meanings of an English word or phrase that are not relevant. Put "way of life" into Google Translate; you will get back the Greek τρόπος ζωής, which can be transliterated as trópos zoís. Tropos means "a turn, direction, course, way, and shows up in words such as "phototropic," which means "turning toward the light." Zoís is one of the Greek words for "life," and is behind the name Zoe. Tropozoic is the obvious form for an English adjective based on trópos zoís. As far as I know, in English, "tropozoic" is a new coinage.

With the adjective tropozoic in hand, it is easy to find a name for the study of tropozoic optimization and suboptimal tropozoic decision-making. Let me call it tropozoics, a noun for a field of social science at the point where economics, psychology, sociology and anthropology meet. 

Let me know what you think. 


Note: The philology of the three Greek roots for "life": bios, psuche and zoe and their derivatives in other languages is complex. Christian theology sometimes distinguishes zoe as a higher kind of life. (To be clear, as a nonsupernaturalist, I view religious practice as much more central to tropozoics than theoretical theology. Live: Teleotheism and the Purpose of Life, which has links to other key religion posts, is a good place to start if you are interested in my views on religion.) I think what is going on here is this: because zoe puts the focus on being alive as opposed to dead, metaphorically it can be used to express the idea of having a desirable life. This is akin to the way English phrase "I feel alive" points to a desirable life, while the English phrase "I feel dead inside" points to an undesirable life. This connotation of a desirable life in zoe or zoís is appropriate for the study of optimization and failures to optimize in relation to one's way of life. 

Bios can refer to "human lifestyles and activities" but it is not obvious how to make an attractive English adjective out of tropos bios. Bios has an English derivative "biography" in which it has exactly the right meaning, but in "biology" it has the same focus on the physical that zois has in "zoology."


On failures to optimize, don't miss "Cognitive Economics."