We propose that words can be an object of systematic study in the field of economics and outline an approach to the study of word choice in behavioral economics. We consider words as strategic instruments of influence and review how they can impact behaviors in several subtle and distinctive ways, namely through their capacity to elicit affect, support identity and social belonging, evoke linguistic associations, and generate bias arising from variations in fluency. We provide a variety of examples to illustrate the behavioral impacts of words through these mechanisms and provide practical recommendations regarding how words can be harnessed by policymakers to reach socially desirable goals through a consideration of how word-related behavioral anomalies shape incentives.
What in the word! The scope for the effect of word choice on economic behavior
26 October 2018