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A Psychological Perspective on Economics

  • Daniel Kahneman

My first exposure to the psychological assumptions of economics was in a report that Bruno Frey wrote on that subject in the early 1970's. Its first or second sentence stated that the agent of economic theory is rational and selfish, and that his tastes do not change. I found this list quite startling, because I had been professionally trained as a psychologist not to believe a word of it. The gap between the assumptions of our disciplines appeared very large indeed. Has the gap been narrowed in the intervening 30 years? A search through some introductory textbooks in economics indicates that if there has been any change, it has not yet filtered down to that level: the same assumptions are still in place as the cornerstones of economic analysis. However, a behavioral approach to economics has emerged in which the assumptions are not held sacrosanct. In the following I comment selectively on the developments with regard to the three assumptions, on both sides of the disciplinary divide.

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File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/000282803321946985
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Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal American Economic Review.

Volume (Year): 93 (2003)
Issue (Month): 2 (May)
Pages: 162-168

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Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:93:y:2003:i:2:p:162-168
Note: DOI: 10.1257/000282803321946985
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  1. Bruno S. Frey & Alois Stutzer, . "What can Economists Learn from Happiness Research?," IEW - Working Papers 080, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
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  7. David Genesove & Christopher Mayer, 2001. "Loss Aversion and Seller Behavior: Evidence from the Housing Market," NBER Working Papers 8143, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Alesina, Alberto & Di Tella, Rafael & MacCulloch, Robert, 2004. "Inequality and happiness: are Europeans and Americans different?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(9-10), pages 2009-2042, August.
  9. Matthew Rabin, 2000. "Risk Aversion and Expected-Utility Theory: A Calibration Theorem," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 68(5), pages 1281-1292, September.
  10. H. M. Shefrin & Richard Thaler, 1977. "An Economic Theory of Self-Control," NBER Working Papers 0208, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Cameron, Lisa A, 1999. "Raising the Stakes in the Ultimatum Game: Experimental Evidence from Indonesia," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 37(1), pages 47-59, January.
  12. Herbert A. Simon, 1955. "A Behavioral Model of Rational Choice," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 69(1), pages 99-118.
  13. Becker, Gary S & Murphy, Kevin M, 1988. "A Theory of Rational Addiction," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 96(4), pages 675-700, August.
  14. Brigitte C. Madrian & Dennis F. Shea, 2000. "The Power of Suggestion: Inertia in 401(k) Participation and Savings Behavior," NBER Working Papers 7682, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Colin Camerer & Linda Babcock & George Loewenstein & Richard Thaler, 1997. "Labor Supply of New York City Cabdrivers: One Day at a Time," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(2), pages 407-441.
  16. Ernst Fehr & Urs Fischbacher & Simon G├Ąchter, 2003. "Strong Reciprocity, Human Cooperation and the Enforcement of Social Norms," Microeconomics 0305008, EconWPA.
  17. Tversky, Amos & Kahneman, Daniel, 1986. "Rational Choice and the Framing of Decisions," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 59(4), pages S251-78, October.
  18. Guth, Werner & Schmittberger, Rolf & Schwarze, Bernd, 1982. "An experimental analysis of ultimatum bargaining," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 3(4), pages 367-388, December.
  19. Kahneman, Daniel & Knetsch, Jack L & Thaler, Richard, 1986. "Fairness as a Constraint on Profit Seeking: Entitlements in the Market," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(4), pages 728-41, September.
  20. Akerlof, George A & Yellen, Janet L, 1985. "Can Small Deviations from Rationality Make Significant Differences to Economic Equilibria?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(4), pages 708-20, September.
  21. Terrance Odean, 1998. "Are Investors Reluctant to Realize Their Losses?," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 53(5), pages 1775-1798, October.
  22. McCabe, Kevin & Houser, Daniel & Ryan, Lee & Smith, Vernon & Trouard, Ted, 2001. "A Functional Imaging Study of Cooperation in Two-Person reciprocal Exchange," MPRA Paper 5172, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  23. Arrow, Kenneth J, 1982. "Risk Perception in Psychology and Economics," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 20(1), pages 1-9, January.
  24. Daniel Kahneman & Peter P. Wakker & Rakesh Sarin, 1997. "Back to Bentham? Explorations of Experienced Utility," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(2), pages 375-406.
  25. James G. March, 1978. "Bounded Rationality, Ambiguity, and the Engineering of Choice," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 9(2), pages 587-608, Autumn.
  26. Ian Bateman & Alistair Munro & Bruce Rhodes & Chris Starmer & Robert Sugden, 1997. "A Test of the Theory of Reference-Dependent Preferences," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(2), pages 479-505.
  27. Daniel Ellsberg, 1961. "Risk, Ambiguity, and the Savage Axioms," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 75(4), pages 643-669.
  28. Shlomo Benartzi & Richard H. Thaler, 1995. "Myopic Loss Aversion and the Equity Premium Puzzle," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 110(1), pages 73-92.
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