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Is Behavioral Economics Doomed?

David K. Levine


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1I owe an immeasurable intellectual debt to my coauthors Michele Boldrin, Drew Fudenberg, Salvatore Modica, Zacharias Maniadis, Tom Palfrey, and Jie Zheng with whom I’ve worked, discussed and debated the issues discussed here for many years. Tim Sullivan encouraged me to write this up in the form of a book, and took the time to read and comment on the first draft. Rupert Gatti, economics editor of Open Book Publishers, Alessandra Tosi and two exceptional referees have enormously improved that original draft. Juan Block proofread the book – for sense as well as typos – and provided the index.

2This book originated as a Max Weber lecture presented at the European University Institute. Much of it was written while on sabbatical leave in the Economics Department there. I am grateful to the EUI and the Economics Department. I also owe a special debt of gratitude to the Max Weber program and to Ramon Marimon, Karin Tilmans and the Weber fellows for the invitation to speak, for a very constructive presentation, and for encouragement and assistance in writing up the lecture.

3I have presented variations of this lecture in various venues including FUR, the NYU Experimental Workshop, the Neuroeconomics Meetings and the Milan Neuroeconomics Conference. I am grateful to Glenn Harrison, Guillame Frechette, and Colin Camerer for those invitations and to them and the meeting participants for helpful comments and criticism. Like Guillame and Colin, Rosemarie Nagel disagrees with practically everything written here – but her constant provocation has resulted in a much more coherent book. In the other dimension – Charlie Plott’s work in a direction similar to mine has been an example and an inspiration.

4Although we may disagree – hopefully with respect – I could not have written this book without my many behavioral, neuroscientific and psychological friends. George Ainslie, Gary Charness, Ernst Fehr, Paul Glimcher, Len Green, Joel Myerson, David Laibson, Camillo Padoa-Schioppa, Drazen Prelec, Aldo Rustichini and Klaus Schmidt have through their careful research contributed to my understanding of behavioral economics.

5I am also grateful to my daughter Milena Davidson-Levine, to Catharina Tilmans and to my many students both graduate and undergraduate at Washington University in St. Louis. To the outstanding faculty there and the fine research organization at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis I am also indebted for constant feedback and support.

6Finally, I would like to thank the National Science Foundation and grants SES-03-14713 and SES-08-51315 for financial support.


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