Economics 2035: Psychology and Economic Theory

Semester: 

Spring

Offered: 

2021

 This course explores ways that psychological research indicating systematic departures from classical economic assumptions can be translated into formal models that can be incorporated into economics. Topics include ways utility theory can be improved--such as incorporating reference dependence, news utility, social preferences, self image, and other belief-based tastes--and ways we can relax assumptions of perfect rationality--such as incorporating focusing effects, limited attention, biased prediction of future tastes, present-biased preferences, biases in probabilistic judgment, and errors in social inference. The course will emphasize (a) careful interpretation and production of new evidence on relevant departures,(b) formalizing this evidence into models that can, with discipline and rigor, generate sharp predictions using traditional economic approaches, and (c) exploring economic implications of those models presented. Although we will primarily emphasize (b), the course is meant to be useful to students whose interests lie anywhere in this spectrum, under the premise that all such research will be improved by a greater appreciation of the full spectrum. The course is intended for PhD students in the Business Economics and Economics programs and others who have a solid background in microeconomic theory at the level of introductory PhD courses in these programs. While obviously appropriate to those wishing to specialize in "behavioral economics", the course is also designed for those interested in doing research in particular fields of economics. And while the course centers on theoretical models (learning and evaluation will center around solving formal problem sets), the theory is focused towards its empirical implementability and economic relevance, so that the course is also designed for those interested in theory-influenced empirical research. Syllabus for 2019 is forthcoming. The course will be similar to 2018. Please see the attached 2018 syllabus for guidance, or contact Professor Rabin or the Teaching Fellow John Macke, jmacke@g.harvard.edu.

 

 

2035_syllabus_fall_2018.pdf204 KB