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Some Contributions of Economics to the Study of Personality

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  • James J. Heckman

    () (The University of Chicago)

  • Tomas Jagelka
  • Tim Kautz

    (Mathematica)

Abstract

This paper synthesizes recent research in economics and psychology on the measurement and empirical importance of personality skills and preferences. They predict and cause important life outcomes such as wages, health, and longevity. Skills develop over the life cycle and can be enhanced by education, parenting, and environmental influences to different degrees at different ages. Economic analysis clarifies psychological studies by establishing that personality is measured by performance on tasks which depends on incentives and multiple skills. Identification of any single skill therefore requires isolation of confounding factors, accounting for measurement error using rich data and application of appropriate statistical techniques. Skills can be inferred not only by questionnaires and experiments but also from observed behavior. Economists advance the analysis of human differences by providing anchored measures of economic preferences and studying their links to personality and cognitive skills. Connecting the research from the two disciplines promotes understanding of the number and nature of skills and preferences required to characterize essential differences.

Suggested Citation

  • James J. Heckman & Tomas Jagelka & Tim Kautz, 2019. "Some Contributions of Economics to the Study of Personality," Working Papers 2019-069, Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Working Group.
  • Handle: RePEc:hka:wpaper:2019-069
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    Cited by:

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    3. Ferman, Bruno & Fontes, Luiz Felipe, 2020. "Discriminating Behavior: Evidence from teachers’ grading bias," MPRA Paper 100400, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    4. Dillon, Andrew & Karlan, Dean & Udry, Christopher & Zinman, Jonathan, 2020. "Good identification, meet good data," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 127(C).

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    preferences; psychology; behavioral economics; human diversity;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • D12 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis
    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making

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