In the best-selling series of pop-economic books Freakonomics, a ‘rogue’ economist Stephen Levitt partners with veteran journalist Stephen Dubner to uncover the hidden side of everything. Posing such provocative questions as ‘why do drug dealers still live with their moms?’ and ‘how are the Ku Klux Klan like a group of real estate agents?’ the two set about to examine a wide swath of social issues through the lens of behavioral economics, the discipline of psychology that studies how economic decisions are made with the recognition that people do not always make rational decisions.

At its core, behavioral economics is driven by incentives, the levers which policy makers, parents of young children, or in this case, security leaders, push or pull to influence a desired behavior. Will taxing carbon motivate corporations to pollute less? Will taking away your kids iPad compel them to do their chores? Does restricting an employee’s access to certain websites or devices reduce the risk of a security breach? 

The value of ‘thinking like a Freak’ isn’t necessarily in definitively answering these types of questions but rather in challenging the conventional wisdom through a combination of quantitative analysis and the quest to understand the often unpredictable power that incentives have in shaping human behavior.

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