Discussion 1: the error of omission

Watch the following video:

https://www.ted.com/talks/laurie_santos_a_monkey_economy_as_irrational_as_ours?language=en Links to an external site. 

In class, we have discussed the “error of omission”; namely, the fact that 2/3 of households end up at age 65, typical retirement age, with little or no money or assets.

In the video, Prof. Santos seeks to understand why people are so bad at saving. Her premise is that this is a genetic, inherited trait – she argues that the similar behavior seen among a monkey economy is proof of this – specifically, monkeys don’t save and they make irrational decisions about risk versus return. However, Santos says that we differ from monkeys in one very important respect – human beings can learn to do better in making financial decisions (whereas monkeys and other animals cannot).

Question: (a) Do you believe Santos’ argument that the observed behavior in her monkey economy is evidence that the bad financial behavior of human beings is inherently genetic? (b) Do you think that the Santos experimental monkey economy provides some explanation of why 2/3 of households end up poor at age 65? (150-250 words)

comment in these two posts, each comment could be 50-100 words. 


a) I do believe that the observed behavior in Santos’ monkey economy is true evidence that the bad financial behavior of human beings is inherently genetic. My reasoning for this is that Santos used unbiased subjects, the monkeys, and introduced them into the monkey market where they are put in similar positions that us humans tend to struggle with. In the video, the monkeys committed the same errors as humans when it comes to risk taking and loss aversion in the financial example provided. It may not be a complete guarantee that these two results mean that our financial behavioral flaws are inherently genetic, but the observations that Santos provides are not bad either.

b) I do believe that the Santos experimental monkey economy provides some explanation of why 2/3 of households end up poor at age 65. Santos only provides an experiment on these monkeys for one financial situation, but one situation does bring some explanation. If the monkeys were to be put in more situations where humans make financial mistakes, it might be possible that they make these mistakes again as well. It might not provide enough information to fully explain why 2/3 of households end up poor at age 65, but it does provide enough to where I believe that we should keep experimenting and finding out if there is more evidence supporting this.


a) After watching Prof. Santos Ted Talk, i have to disagree that her monkey economy is evidence that financial behavior is inherently genetic. Although she was able to get the monkeys to replica some form of human behavior it is not substantial to conclude that financial behavior is genetic. I do believe that both your emotions and your environment in your primitive years affects your financial behavior. From an environment perspective it is similar to the example where two children in a household with an alcoholic father can both grow up to be completely different. One mimicking the fathers behavior and the other never touching a drop of alcohol. From this example both emotions and environment play a factor, in which i believe is the same financially. i believe that financial behavior can be learned and implemented, however if never seeking this knowledge and solely relying on circumstance such as environment this then determines your financial perspective and how you manage your money. 

b) Santos experiment misses several factors that humans face when making money and the decisions to spend money. These monkeys do not have jobs, face taxes, have homes that they have to pay for. Nor do they have monthly reoccurring bills or even the unexpected financial expenses that life just throws on you regardless of your current financial standing. someone could be financially responsible and still end up poor at the age of 65 for several reasons. These monkeys relied on survival instincts and that is what both animals and humans have in common. I expected nothing less as this comparison and experiment only reassured that in new environments we all know how to adapt to get good outcomes. 

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