Nobel laureate Robert Shiller ate cat food while doing research for his latest book

Nobel laureate Robert Shiller is dedicated to his work.

In a Q&A with The Wall Street Journal’s Jason Zweig discussing his new book “Phishing for Phools” — which he co-wrote with George Akerloff, Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen’s husband and himself a Nobel winner — Shiller disclosed that he ate cat food to see if the different flavours marketed to cat owners really tasted any different.

They didn’t.

Here’s the exchange:

Q: You ate cat food to research a common way you think consumers may be phished by marketers.

RS: The labels on the cans said things like ‘roast beef paté’; things that we would see in a restaurant. So I said, if they say that, it must be something like that. I tried tasting it, and they all tasted pretty much the same. They tasted like cat food. There is an artificial reality that is created by marketing.

The book’s basic argument is that free markets creative incentives for businesses to “phish.”

This means that markets incent these businesses to sell bad products or peddle misinformation to customers.

And so in the cat food example, Shiller’s argument is basically that you, the customer, come to think there is something different about cat food that is, say, “roast beef paté” or “turkey dinner” when in fact there might be nothing meaningful to distinguish them.

The caveat, of course, Shiller isn’t the target audience. If only.

Read the whole Q&A here »

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