Economics of Change
"Für eine Neuaufstellung der Sozialwissenschaften in Zeiten der Krise"
"Auch die Verhaltensökonomie muss aus der Corona-Krise lernen"
"Wir brauchen mehr künstliche Freunde! Je besser lernende Maschinen uns kennen, desto mehr profitieren wir von ihrer Intelligenz."
Essay by Steffen Huck in DIE ZEIT , 43/2020, 41.
Why do people act change their behavior from day to the next? As large as the number of specific reasons for behavioral change may be, in the end they can be grouped into four categories. The four basic types of explanations are: 1) because they have learnt something new about how the world functions, that is, about the relation between actions and consequences; 2) because the consequences of their actions have changed themselves; 3) because their aims have changed; and 4) because their experience teaches them to try out new ways.
All four categories can be translated into economic concepts that postulate behavioral changes when there are changes 1) in expectations, 2) in incentives, 3) in preferences, or when 4) decision makers use learning rules in order to adapt their behavior.
Orthodox (“neoclassic”) economists confined themselves to the study of beliefs and incentives, strictly assuming the rationality of all decision makers. Modern behavioral economists relax these assumptions when investigating beliefs and incentives and study adaptation of preferences and the role of bounded rational learning rules. The program of the research unit “Economics of Change” is built on all four basic mechanisms of change. It is part of the broader behavioral economics movement that has been changing the field of economics for over thirty years.
The research fellows of the unit are mainly interested in dynamic processes. How do decision makers adapt to new circumstances? How do they create new circumstances? General (micro-) economic mechanisms of change are identified and linked to a broad range of applications relevant to society, from fostering pro-social behavior, to entrepreneurship and political economy.