During my recent travels, I cleaned 315 typed pages of research notes, which I’ve been accumulating since early grad school days. Some of them weren’t really “research ideas” but just questions or thoughts. Many were boring and/or poorly articulated, some had been done, others were clearly important questions that I had no idea how to answer. A few were good ones that I’m going to pursue in the medium run. I deleted most of the text so that I’m not plagued by the notion that maybe I came up with something Nobel-prize worthy that I didn’t appreciate or couldn’t develop sufficiently at the time (I’m down to 29 pages). I also found a few funny one-liners that I thought I’d share (trust me, I didn’t write them down for entertainment, I really thought it might go somewhere). Overall, I highly recommend writing your research ideas down – at the very worst, you’ll get a laugh out of them later!

Very specific research questions (feel free to use at your own risk):

    • Chain letter experiment (Facebook). Length of chain letter – if sent to 1 person, 2 people, etc
    • What is the return to being able to do math? 
    • Solving the mafia game – who to kill?
    • Supply and demand of underwear [I don’t know what I was thinking there, but I did write it down]
    • Does the threat of climate change create stress? How much disutility do we get from the threat itself? [This one is closest to being a real research idea, but hard to answer!]
    • Playing the lottery and not claiming your winnings – what’s up with that?
    • What is the optimal divorce rate?
    • Is it more costly to be male? Necessities, such as eating [based on the idea that males need more calories.]

Meta questions/statements:

    • What are we really maximizing?
    • Where does uncertainty come from?
    • What is “wealth”?
    • Death: the other certainty.
    • If everyone’s wrong, but the average is right, the welfare losses are big!
    • Effect of war/disease àwhy do wars happen? How much is disease prevention worth?
    • Fear=risk aversion, or something else?
    • How happy are hypocrites – individuals that participate in activities they believe to be wrong?
    • How do you know which game you’re playing? Or that you’re playing a game? What is a game? Where does it end? And can you choose not to play? Defined v. undefined games.
    • Optimal number of people with the “wrong” beliefs about life. They help others think, but they’re harmful for the world.
    • How are people supposed to “know” things about the world (rational individual, perfect information) if so much info is confidential?
    • Morals and economics – what are morals? Are they fundamentals of preferences or something else?
    • Can we get rid of the epsilon? What fraction of the variation remains unexplained, in a typical study? (RSS, R squared).
    • Do people try to manipulate their own preferences? Get themselves to like something?
    • How well does economics explain behavior?

I also found my first-ever paper presentation, but that’s a story for another post.