Mitch and Phil Play Chicken

 

Claire and Cam want to flip a house, but Phil and Mitch are against it. Phil pretends he is for it leaving Mitch to put his foot down, but eventually Mitch decides to play the good cop as well and leave Phil to put the brakes on the house.

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Trying New Things

 

Jay is shocked that Manny won’t eat pickles, so he won’t let him leave the table until he tried one. Gloria thinks Jay is being a hypocrite and forces him to try blood sausage. Then Jay decides Gloria need to try something new too: scratching the dog, Stella’s, belly. While they all seem to hate what they try at the time, we see Gloria petting Stella’s belly voluntarily and Manny surreptitiously eating a pickle at the end of the episode. This highlights the need for full information in order to know your true preferences.

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Fiberoptic vs Natural Trees

 

Manny puts up a fiber optic Christmas Tree, because it is better for the environment, but Jay thinks it is ugly and does not want it in his house. This clip highlights both positive externalities of the fiber optic tree (environmental benefits) and negative externalities of the tree (Jay’s psychic costs). Jay and Manny have been trying to cut down their own Christmas tree for hours, but it is not budging and keeps ruining their tools. Jay has finally had enough and says Pritchetts know when to give up. All their previous effort is a sunk cost, and it would take too much effort relative to the reward of a half burned tree to keep going.

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What Would Santa Do?

 

Lily lost her first tooth and got $100 from the Tooth Fairy. Cam and Mitch are trying to convince her that the Tooth Fairy made a mistake and she should give the money back, but Lily wants to keep the money until Hayley tells her this would almost certainly put her on Santa’s naughty list. Now Lily has to decide what she values more: $100 or Christmas presents.

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Special Gift Delivery

 

Cam and Mitch have decided to get Jay and Gloria a special gift off registry for their new baby’s nursery. Mitch seems concerned that they will not appreciate it.

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Asymmetric Toaster

 

Luke and Manny’s class is having a yard sale to benefit UNICEF, but Jay hates when people haggle. Someone goes into Jay’s house and tries to buy his toaster, but isn’t willing to commit because it’s a used toaster and he’s unsure of its quality.

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Framing a Yard Sale

 

Luke and Manny’s class is having a yard sale to benefit UNICEF. When Mitchel doesn’t want to donate Cam’s pants, Luke tries to re-frame the charity attempt to guilt his uncle into donating more money. Framing is one tactic to get people to do something they may not have done under the original design.

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Prom Signals

 

Claire believes Alex’s boyfriend is gay, but Alex doesn’t think that’s the case. She believes that since he invited her to prom and then they kissed, that it must mean he can’t be gay. Signaling is when one party has more information about a transaction than another, but displays some traits or “signals” to convince the other party of the true outcome.

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Limitations of a Lifetime Supply

 

Phil went on a gameshow in his early 20s and won a lifetime supply of dual blade razors, which was cutting edge razor technology at the time, though now it is not uncommon to find razors with 3, 4, or 5 blades. Phil is very disappointed to see that his “lifetime supply” has run out.

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College Interviews

 

Alex is practicing her college interview for Princeton in the mirror when Haley comes in to style her hair. Princeton is an Ivy League school that is very prestigious and gets a lot of applications. Princeton does not know which applicants it should let in so it screens them. Screening is an action taken by an uninformed party in a situation characterized by adverse selection. There are many things that colleges do to screen applicants. They require high school transcripts, a certain GPA, test scores and they conduct an interview. When someone is interviewed, it’s an opportunity for them to send a signal. A signal is an action taken by an informed party in a situation characterized by adverse selection. Alex wants to signal to Princeton that she’s a good candidate for admission into the university. Haley shares her thoughts about the message that Alex is actually sending.

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Mother Daughter Tattoos

 

It’s Haley’s 21st birthday. She and Claire have decided to get coordinating tattoos. Claire got hers first and now Haley is having a change of heart. In this scene, we see time inconsistency and imperfect information. Haley is concerned that her preferences will change over time so she decides against getting the tattoo. Meanwhile, Claire already regrets her tattoo because Haley won’t be getting one – but it’s too late for Claire. Tattoos do not have a return policy! If Claire had known that Haley would change her mind, she would not have gotten a tattoo (imperfect information). This clip can also be used to compare and contrast two types of games in game theory – sequential games and simultaneous games. If you decide to get a tattoo with a friend but only because you’re doing it with a friend, make sure you get them simultaneously!

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A Magic Shop for Phil

 

Claire surprises Phil by purchasing the magic shop of his dreams. The previous owner sold it for very cheap, but then Claire starts to wonder if the magician had information she was unaware of. Despite the concern, this is a unique opportunity for Phil to become an entrepreneur.

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Beauty and the Beast

 

It’s Halloween. Jay and Gloria usually coordinate their costumes. Use this scenario to setup a payoff matrix for picking costumes. Gloria and Jay are the players. What choices would you like to give Gloria? What choices would you like to give Jay? What are the payoffs for each possible outcome? What’s the most likely outcome given your matrix? There isn’t a single correct answer. Just have fun with it and discuss.

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Ms. Crank

 

Lily has the tough teacher but Cam and Mitch just learned of an opening in the nice teacher’s class. In this scene, they approach Ms. Plank about transferring Lily into Ms. Sparrow’s classroom. Education is one of the markets where consumers have little choice. Some argue that this creates inefficiencies in the market. Others argue that education consumers may not have enough information to make optimal decisions so giving consumers more choice would not necessarily lead to an improvement in efficiency. This sort of problem is discussed at many levels in education – from school choice to book choice.

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One in a Million Steve Jobs

 

Haley, Phil and Luke are participating in a psychology study. Luke has convinced Phil that they should push the big red button that says “DO NOT PUSH” but Haley stops them. She says one in a million college drop outs go on to become Steve Jobs. The other 99 thousand don’t (her math is a little off). She recently dropped out of college and is having a crisis. This demonstrates several economic concepts including the importance of human capital and time inconsistency. Human capital comes from going to college but Phil reminds her that there are other sources of human capital. Time inconsistency occurs when you regret a decision in the past.

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Selling a Lemon

 

Phil is trying to sell the family’s station wagon, but it has some issues. Phil words the advertisement in a way to make the car seem unique instead of defective.

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Opposite’s Attract

 

Mitchell complains to Jay about Cam being too nice, and Jay complains to Mitchell about Gloria not liking his dog butler. Jay notes that they are both with people who are very different and that maybe that makes their relationships better.

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Everyone Confess!

 

When Claire and Phil cancel Christmas after finding what looks like a cigarette burn in the sofa, Alex suggests she and her siblings all confess so that their parents will reinstate Christmas and go easy on them for protecting their siblings. Unfortunately there is an incentive to cheat, but Luke isn’t smart enough and ends up confessing to something he didn’t do.

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Ugly Christmas Sweaters

 

The Dunphy’s call Phil’s parents in the sweaters they were given as gifts. The call goes awry when Claire sees what looks like a cigarette burn in the sofa. In her anger she calls the sweaters ugly while still on the phone with Phil’s dad.

Summer Journal

 

Luke was supposed to keep a journal all summer, but when school starts again, he realizes he only did one day. Luke’s focus on the present (at the beginning of the summer) imposes large negative externalities on his back when it’s time to turn in the work later in the summer.

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Earrings vs an Exercise Equipment

 

Cam gives his mother in-law a pair of diamond earrings, but she reciprocated by giving him exercise equipment and salad drier. Cam doesn’t appear to think that the two gifts were of equal value, which shows how gift giving can be considered inefficient.

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Stealing a Commodity

 

Claire tried to make friends with the owner of Closets, Closets, Closets, Closets (CCCC) but Jay convinced her that the friendship was just a ruse to steal information about the business. In retaliation, Claire and Jay decide to “poach” CCCC’s most valuable employee, Lazlo. While trying to recruit him to their closet business, they learn that the friendship was genuine. But now, they really can’t trust each other and both businesses will be hurt.

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Only Bees in the Home

 

Phil is desperate to sell this house. The buyer loves it but is afraid that it is haunted. Phil brings in Gloria to cleanse the house of unfriendly spirits. What they find isn’t spirits – it’s not ghost. It’s only bees! This demonstrates adverse selection and screening. Economics suggests that a market where the buyers know less than the sellers will result in adverse selection. That is, there will be more “bads” (haunted) houses on the market than “goods” (non-haunted). One way the ways that the problem of adverse selection can be reduced is through signaling. Phil (the seller) takes an action (asks Gloria to inspect the home) in order to reveal that this home is a “good” (not haunted) home.

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Unhealthy Competition

 

Economics often suggests that competition improves efficiency. Jay seems to agree. He fosters competition within his family to help them achieve their goals. But are they really achieving those goals? The truth comes out in this clip. It turns out that they’re a family of cheaters and not a family of winners.

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Winning at all costs

 

Cam is desperate to win the football game and be a winner. He overhears the opposing team’s coach plans for the next play. Does he act on this insider information? Yes. Using insider information in buying and selling financial securities is illegal because it gives someone an unfair advantage. Similarly, many would consider Cam’s actions cheating. In fact, Cam feels really guilty about it but Mitch encourages him to keep up the facade because winning is also important to him.

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Joe is in a Tree?

 

Luke is baby-sitting for Gloria. She expects him to care for her son in a responsible way. When Luke posts a selfie on social media, Gloria worries that her son might be in danger. This represents the principal-agent problem. Luke is the agent and Gloria is the principal. Is he acting in her best interest? Of course not! He’s shirking. To cover up his shirking, Luke tells Gloria that he has a series of photographs of her son in dangerous situation but they’re all fake. Now, he needs a series of photoshopped pictures but doesn’t use photoshop. So, he decides to only give Manny something that he wants if he photoshops Gloria’s younger son in to dangerous situations. This represents trade through barter. Luke has a pass that Manny wants. Manny has a skill that Luke needs. They trade because they have a double coincidence of wants.

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Gasp in 20 Pages

 

In order to get some alone time from their partners, Mitchell and Jay decide to head to the desert, but they didn’t think they’d run into each other at the same spa. In the middle of reading the same book, Mitchell comes across a shocking detail and spoils part of the book for Jay who is sitting across the pool.

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2 Failed Marriages

 

Rainer proposes to Haley at dinner, but then the weather turns outside and he’s unsure if he made the right decision. In his back-and-forth about whether this was the right move, he brings up the fact that he’s already messed up one marriage. He notes that messing up one marriage is okay, but if you mess up two marriages then it sends a signal that he’s the problem in the relationship and it will lead to losing a potential sponsorship.

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A Terrible Gift

 

Cam and Mitch go on vacation and bring Jay illness and a cheesy gift. The gift is so bad that Jay considers the illness a better gift.

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Time Will Tell

 

It’s time for Jay and Gloria to exchange gifts and Jay is anxious about his gift from his wife. He struggles finding the right gift because it always seems like a competition. If the two didn’t exchange gifts then the extra psychic costs wouldn’t exist. It turns out that Gloria actually really loves Jay’s gift, but Jay really wanted that watch.

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One Bouquet is Enough

 

Cam and Mitch have been married 3 months, but it seems like their honeymoon will never end. Cam continues to give Mitchell flowers even though he clearly doesn’t enjoy them as much as he used to. He may have loved the first bouquet, but eventually he may start to hate them.

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