Behavioralists meeting in Trento
Interview by Francesca Menna to David Laibson

David Laibson, professor of Economics at Harvard University, was co-organizer of the Summer Institute in Behavioral Economics which was held in Trento from July 11 to July 23, 2004. At the end of the two week course we asked him some questions.

How would you define the Behavioral Economics?
Behavioral economics studies the psychological motives behind economics decisions.Some people refer to the field of behavioral economics as "Psychology and Economics." Behavioral economists take an interest in experimental methods (though we also use evidence from real-world markets).
Behavioral economists take inspiration from the fields of Social Psychology and Cognitive Psychology. Behavioral economists assume that people have psychologically rich motives (e.g., for fairness or equity) and make imperfect decisions because of their cognitive limitations.

Do students have a great interest for these topics? Why?
Students tend to enjoy psychology and economics because it describes real world passions and common real world mistakes. For example, behavioral economists study self-destructive behaviors like addiction, compulsive gambling, and procrastination.

Do the selected participants recognize, in your opinion and given your present and past experiences, the opportunity given by the Institute? Do you think they take advantages of this opportunity?
We are thrilled with the level of excitement and energy expressed by the students who attend these summer schools. Previous graduates of the school are now conducting research as faculty members at dozens of leading universities across the world, including Berkeley, Carnegie-Mellon, Harvard, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford, and UCLA.

How was the idea developed of realising the 2004 edition of the Institute in Trento?
The idea was first conceived by Axel Leijonhufvud. He runs a wonderful series of summer schools at the University of Trento for international economics graduate students. We copied his very successful model.

After this experience can you now weigh all the pros and cons of it? Are you satisfied of this choice? Would you repeat it in future?
In our experience this is the best possible place for a Summer School and we hope to be able to do this again. We were thrilled with the facilities, staff, faculty and students. We feel very lucky to have been able to organize this school with the help of the University of Trento. Thanks!