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
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
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
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!