Richard H. Thaler (/ˈθeɪlər/; born September 12, 1945) is an American economist and the Charles R. Walgreen Distinguished Service Professor of Behavioral Science and Economics at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. In 2015, Thaler was president of the American Economic Association.
He is a theorist in behavioral economics, and collaborated with Daniel Kahneman, Amos Tversky and others in further defining that field. In 2018, he was elected a member in the National Academy of Sciences.
In 2017, he was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for his contributions to behavioral economics. In its Nobel prize announcement, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said that his "contributions have built a bridge between the economic and psychological analyses of individual Decision-making. His empirical findings and theoretical insights have been instrumental in creating the new and rapidly expanding field of behavioral economics."
|Born||September 12, 1945|
|Education||Case Western Reserve University (BA)|
University of Rochester (MA, PhD)
|Awards||Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences (2017)|
|Fields||Behavioral economics, Behavioral finance, Nudge theory|
|Institutions||Graduate School of Management at the University of Rochester (1974–1978)|
Johnson School of Management at Cornell University (1978–1995)
Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago (1995–present)
|Thesis||The Value of Saving a Life: A Market Estimate (1974)|
|Doctoral advisor||Sherwin Rosen|
Herbert A. Simon
Thaler was born in East Orange, New Jersey to a Jewish family. His mother, Roslyn (Melnikoff, 1921–2008), was a teacher, and later a real estate agent while his father, Alan Maurice Thaler (1917–2004), was an actuary at the Prudential Financial in Newark, New Jersey, and was born in Toronto. He grew up with two younger brothers. His great-great grandfather, Selig Thaler (1831–1903) was from Berezhany, Ukraine. He is married to France Leclerc, a former marketing professor at the University of Chicago and avid photographer. He has three children from his first marriage.
He graduated from Newark Academy, before going on to receive his B.A. degree in 1967 from Case Western Reserve University, and his M.A. in 1970 and Ph.D. degree in 1974 from the University of Rochester, writing his thesis on "The Value of Saving A Life: A Market Estimate" under the supervision of Sherwin Rosen.
After completing his studies, Thaler began his career as a professor at the University of Rochester.
Between 1977 and 1978, Thaler spent a year at Stanford University collaborating and researching with Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, who provided him with the theoretical framework to fit many of the economic anomalies that he had identified, such as the endowment effect.
After gathering some attention with a regular column in the respected Journal of Economic Perspectives (which ran between 1987 and 1990) and the publication of these columns by Princeton University Press (in 1992), Thaler was offered a position at the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business in 1995, where he has taught ever since.
Thaler has written a number of books intended for a lay reader on the subject of behavioral economics, including Quasi-rational Economics and The Winner's Curse, the latter of which contains many of his Anomalies columns revised and adapted for a popular audience. One of his recurring themes is that market-based approaches are incomplete: he is quoted as saying, "conventional economics assumes that people are highly-rational—super-rational—and unemotional. They can calculate like a computer and have no self-control problems."
Thaler is coauthor, with Cass Sunstein, of Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness (Yale University Press, 2008). Nudge discusses how public and private organizations can help people make better choices in their daily lives. "People often make poor choices—and look back at them with bafflement!" Thaler and Sunstein write. "We do this because as human beings, we all are susceptible to a wide array of routine biases that can lead to an equally wide array of embarrassing blunders in education, personal finance, health care, mortgages and credit cards, happiness, and even the planet itself." Thaler and his co-author coined the term choice architect.
In 2015 Thaler wrote Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economics, a history of the development of behavioral economics, "part memoir, part attack on a breed of economist who dominated the academy—particularly, the Chicago School that dominated economic theory at the University of Chicago—for the much of the latter part of the 20th century."
Thaler gained some attention in the field of mainstream economics for publishing a regular column in the Journal of Economic Perspectives from 1987 to 1990 titled Anomalies, in which he documented individual instances of economic behavior that seemed to violate traditional microeconomic theory.
In a 2008 paper, Thaler and colleagues analyzed the choices of contestants appearing in the popular TV game show Deal or No Deal and found support for behavioralists' claims of path-dependent risk attitudes. He has also studied cooperation and bargaining in the UK game shows Golden Balls and Divided.
As a columnist for The New York Times News Service, Thaler has begun a series of economic solutions for some of America's financial woes, beginning with "Selling parts of the radio spectrum could help pare US deficit," with references to Thomas Hazlett's ideas for reform of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and making television broadcast frequency available for improving wireless technology, reducing costs, and generating revenue for the US government.
Thaler was the 2017 recipient of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics for "incorporat[ing] psychologically realistic assumptions into analyses of economic decision-making. By exploring the consequences of limited rationality, social preferences, and lack of self-control, he has shown how these human traits systematically affect individual decisions as well as market outcomes."
Immediately following the announcement of the 2017 prize, Professor Peter Gärdenfors, Member of the Economic Sciences Prize Committee, said in an interview that Thaler had "made economics more human".
After learning that he had won the Nobel Prize, Thaler said that his most important contribution to economics "was the recognition that economic agents are human, and that economic models have to incorporate that." In a nod to the sometimes-unreasonable behavior he has studied so extensively, he also joked that he intended to spend the prize money "as irrationally as possible."
Paul Krugman, the 2008 winner of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics, tweeted "Yes! Behavorial econ is the best thing to happen to the field in generations, and Thaler showed the way." However, Thaler's selection was not met with universal acclaim; Robert Shiller (one of the 2013 laureates) noted that some economists still view Thaler's incorporation of a psychological perspective within an economics framework as a dubious proposition. And, an article in The Economist simultaneously praised Thaler and his fellow behavioral colleagues while bemoaning the practical difficulties that have resulted from causing "economists as a whole to back away a bit from grand theorising, and to focus more on empirical work and specific policy questions."
In chronicling Thaler's path to Nobel laureate, John Cassidy notes that although Thaler's "nudge" theory may not overcome every shortcoming of traditional economics, it has at least grappled with them "in ways that have yielded important insights in areas ranging from finance to international development".
Thaler also is the founder of an asset management firm, Fuller & Thaler Asset Management, which believes that investors will capitalize on cognitive biases such as the endowment effect, loss aversion and status quo bias. Since 1999, he has been the Principal of the said firm, which he co-founded in 1993. Russell Fuller, in charge of the firm's daily operations, said Thaler has changed the economics profession in that: "He doesn't write papers that are full of math. He writes papers that are full of common sense."
Thaler made a cameo appearance as himself in the 2015 movie The Big Short, which was about the credit and housing bubble collapse that led to the 2008 global financial crisis. During one of the film's expository scenes he helped pop star Selena Gomez explain the 'hot hand fallacy,' in which people think that whatever is happening now will continue to happen into the future.
Thaler was instrumental in the creation of the UK’s Behavioural Insights Team (BIT), originally a No 10 unit, back in 2010.
| President of the American Economic Association
Robert J. Shiller
| Laureate of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics
Adam Davidson (born 1970) is an American journalist focusing on business and economics issues for National Public Radio. He was a co-founder of NPR's Planet Money program. Previously he has covered globalization issues, the Asian tsunami, and the war in Iraq, for which he won the Daniel Schorr Journalism Prize. He and Adam McKay were former co-hosts of Surprisingly Awesome from Gimlet Media. Davidson worked as an economics columnist for The New York Times Magazine and in 2016 took a position at The New Yorker.American Economic Association
The American Economic Association (AEA) is a learned society in the field of economics, headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. It publishes one of the most prestigious academic journals in economics: the American Economic Review. The AEA was established in 1885 in Saratoga, New York by younger progressive economists trained in the German historical school, including Richard T. Ely, Edwin Robert Anderson Seligman and Katharine Coman, the only woman co-founder; since 1900 it has been under the control of academics.The purposes of the Association are: 1) The encouragement of economic research, especially the historical and statistical study of the actual conditions of industrial life; 2) The issue of publications on economic subjects; 3) The encouragement of perfect freedom of economic discussion. The Association as such will take no partisan attitude, nor will it commit its members to any position on practical economic questions.
Once composed primarily of college and university teachers of economics, the Association now attracts an increasing number of members from business and professional groups. Today the membership is about 18,000, over half of whom are academics. About 15% are employed in business and industry, and the remainder largely by federal, state, and local government or other not-for-profit organizations.Amos Tversky
Amos Nathan Tversky (Hebrew: עמוס טברסקי; March 16, 1937 – June 2, 1996) was a cognitive and mathematical psychologist, a student of cognitive science, a collaborator of Daniel Kahneman, and a figure in the discovery of systematic human cognitive bias and handling of risk.
Much of his early work concerned the foundations of measurement. He was co-author of a three-volume treatise, Foundations of Measurement (recently reprinted). His early work with Kahneman focused on the psychology of prediction and probability judgment; later they worked together to develop prospect theory, which aims to explain irrational human economic choices and is considered one of the seminal works of behavioral economics. Six years after Tversky's death, Kahneman received the 2002 Nobel Prize in Economics for the work he did in collaboration with Amos Tversky. (The prize is not awarded posthumously.) Kahneman told The New York Times in an interview soon after receiving the honor: "I feel it is a joint prize. We were twinned for more than a decade."
Tversky also collaborated with many leading researchers including Thomas Gilovich, Itamar Simonson, Paul Slovic and Richard Thaler. A Review of General Psychology survey, published in 2002, ranked Tversky as the 93rd most cited psychologist of the 20th century, tied with Edwin Boring, John Dewey, and Wilhelm Wundt.Behavioral economics
Behavioral economics studies the effects of psychological, cognitive, emotional, cultural and social factors on the economic decisions of individuals and institutions and how those decisions vary from those implied by classical theory.Behavioral economics is primarily concerned with the bounds of rationality of economic agents. Behavioral models typically integrate insights from psychology, neuroscience and microeconomic theory. The study of behavioral economics includes how market decisions are made and the mechanisms that drive public choice. The three prevalent themes in behavioral economics are:
Heuristics: Humans make 95% of their decisions using mental shortcuts or rules of thumb.
Framing: The collection of anecdotes and stereotypes that make up the mental filters individuals rely on to understand and respond to events.
Market inefficiencies: These include mis-pricing and non-rational decision making.In 2002, psychologist Daniel Kahneman was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences "for having integrated insights from psychological research into economic science, especially concerning human judgment and decision-making under uncertainty". In 2013, economist Robert J. Shiller received the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences "for his empirical analysis of asset prices." (within the field of behavioral finance) In 2017, economist Richard Thaler was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for "his contributions to behavioral economics and his pioneering work in establishing that people are predictably irrational in ways that defy economic theory."Cass Sunstein
Cass Robert Sunstein FBA (born September 21, 1954) is an American legal scholar, particularly in the fields of constitutional law, administrative law, environmental law, and law and behavioral economics, who was the Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the Obama administration from 2009 to 2012. For 27 years, Sunstein taught at the University of Chicago Law School. Sunstein is the Robert Walmsley University Professor at Harvard Law School.
Studies of legal publications between 2009 and 2013 found Sunstein to be the most frequently cited American legal scholar by a wide margin, followed by Erwin Chemerinsky and Richard Epstein.Choice architecture
Choice architecture is the design of different ways in which choices can be presented to consumers, and the impact of that presentation on consumer decision-making. For example, the number of choices presented, the manner in which attributes are described, and the presence of a "default" can all influence consumer choice. As a result, advocates of libertarian paternalism and asymmetric paternalism have endorsed the deliberate design of choice architecture to nudge consumers toward personally and socially desirable behaviors like saving for retirement, choosing healthier foods, or registering as an organ donor. These interventions are often justified by the fact that well-designed choice architectures can compensate for irrational decision-making biases to improve consumer welfare. These techniques have consequently become popular among policymakers, leading to the creation of the UK's Behavioural Insights Team and White House "Nudge Unit" for example. While many behavioral scientists stress that there is no neutral choice architecture and that consumers maintain autonomy and freedom of choice despite manipulations of choice architecture, critics of libertarian paternalism often argue that choice architectures designed to overcome irrational decision biases may impose costs on rational agents, for example by limiting choice or undermining respect for individual human agency and moral autonomy.Cryptocurrency bubble
Predictions of a collapse of a speculative bubble in cryptocurrencies have been made by numerous experts in economics and financial markets.
Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have been identified as economic bubbles by at least eight laureates of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, including Paul Krugman, Robert J. Shiller, Joseph Stiglitz, Richard Thaler, James Heckman, Thomas Sargent, Angus Deaton, and Oliver Hart. Professor Nouriel Roubini of New York University has called Bitcoin the "mother of all bubbles". Central bankers, including former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, financial and business executives such as Warren Buffett, George Soros, Jamie Dimon, and Jack Ma have stated similar views, as well as current South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-yeon.In 2018, there was a large sell-off of cryptocurrencies. From January to February 2018, the price of Bitcoin fell 65 percent, and by the end of the first quarter of 2018, the entire cryptocurrency market fell by 54 percent, with losses in the market topping $500 billion. By September 2018, the MVIS CryptoCompare Digital Assets 10 Index had lost 80 percent of its value, making the decline of the cryptocurrency market, in percentage terms, larger than the bursting of the Dot-com bubble in 2002. In November 2018, the total market capitalization for Bitcoin fell below $100 billion for the first time since October 2017, and the Bitcoin price fell below $4,000, representing an 80 percent decline from its peak the previous January.Economic cost
Economic cost is the combination losses of any goods that have a value attached to them by any one individual. Economic cost is used mainly by economists as means to compare the prudence of one course of action with that of another. The goods to be taken into consideration are e.g. money, time and resources.
The comparison includes the gains and losses precluded by taking a course of action, as those of the course taken itself. Economic cost differs from accounting cost because it includes opportunity cost.Hersh Shefrin
Hersh Shefrin (born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada) is an economist best known for his pioneering work in behavioral finance.
Shefrin received his B.S. from University of Manitoba in 1970. At the University of Waterloo in 1971 he received his M.S. in mathematics. He then obtained a Ph.D. in economics from the London School of Economics in 1974, after which he became assistant professor at the University of Rochester. In 1979 he was appointed professor at the Santa Clara University, first in the department of economics and then in 1990 to the department of finance.
Shefrin holds an honorary doctorate from the University of Oulu, Finland. He has long standing collaborations with Richard Thaler and Meir Statman on behavioral finance, being one of the first economists to have incorporated ideas from psychologists like Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman into working theories.Shefrin's research articles have been published in many economics and finance journals, in particular: the Journal of Finance, the Journal of Financial Economics, the Review of Financial Studies, the Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis, Financial Management, the Financial Analysts Journal, and the Journal of Portfolio Management. Shefrin has written a number of influential books on behavioral finance and its applications to corporate finance and corporate culture.
Shefrin and his wife, Arna, were married in 1970.Libertarian paternalism
Libertarian paternalism is the idea that it is both possible and legitimate for private and public institutions to affect behavior while also respecting freedom of choice, as well as the implementation of that idea. The term was coined by behavioral economist Richard Thaler and legal scholar Cass Sunstein in a 2003 article in the American Economic Review. The authors further elaborated upon their ideas in a more in-depth article published in the University of Chicago Law Review that same year. They propose that libertarian paternalism is paternalism in the sense that "it tries to influence choices in a way that will make choosers better off, as judged by themselves" (p. 5); note and consider, the concept paternalism specifically requires a restriction of choice. It is libertarian in the sense that it aims to ensure that "people should be free to opt out of specified arrangements if they choose to do so" (p. 1161). The possibility to opt-out is said to "preserve freedom of choice" (p. 1182). Thaler and Sunstein published Nudge, a book-length defense of this political doctrine, in 2008 (new edition 2009).Libertarian paternalism is similar to asymmetric paternalism, which refers to policies designed to help people who behave irrationally and so are not advancing their own interests, while interfering only minimally with people who behave rationally. Such policies are also asymmetric in the sense that they should be acceptable both to those who believe that people behave rationally and to those who believe that people often behave irrationally.Matthew B. Hammond
Matthew Brown Hammond (1868 – 1933) was an American economist. He was a professor of economics and sociology at Ohio State University since 1904.Hammond earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Michigan in 1891, and PhD in economics from Columbia University in 1898.Mental accounting
A concept first named by Richard Thaler, mental accounting (or psychological accounting) attempts to describe the process whereby people code, categorize and evaluate economic outcomes. Mental accounting deals with the recollection and perception of our various expenditures; its purpose is to keep track of our money-related decisions so as to give us a model with which to evaluate future financial decisions. It is a way of making sense of the world. Like many other cognitive processes, it can prompt biases and systematic departures from rational, value-maximizing behavior, and its implications are quite robust. Understanding the flaws and inefficiencies of mental accounting is essential to making good decisions and reducing human error.
As Thaler puts it, “All organizations, from General Motors down to single person households, have explicit and/or implicit accounting systems. The accounting system often influences decisions in unexpected ways”. We often see consumer behavior deviate from the standard economic prediction; mental accounting is a framework that seeks to further explain consumer behavior, and describe when consumers might violate standard economic principles. Particularly, individual expenses will usually not be considered in conjunction with the present value of one’s total wealth; they will be instead considered in the context of two accounts: the current budgetary period (this could be a monthly process due to bills, or yearly due to an annual income), and the category of expense. People can even have multiple mental accounts for the same kind of resource. A person may use different monthly budgets for grocery shopping and eating out at restaurants, for example, and constrain one kind of purchase when its budget has run out while not constraining the other kind of purchase, even though both expenditures draw on the same fungible resource (income).One detailed application of mental accounting, the behavioral life cycle hypothesis (Shefrin & Thaler 1988), posits that people mentally frame assets as belonging to either current income, current wealth or future income and this has implications for their behavior as the accounts are largely non-fungible and marginal propensity to consume out of each account is different.Misbehaving (book)
Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economics is a book by Richard Thaler, economist and professor at the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business. He won the Nobel Prize for economics in 2017.The book builds on Thaler's work as a Behavioral Economist in trying to present an alternate view point that humans bring along behavioral biases, are error prone, and are not always rational. This view point builds on his work from his previous book, Nudge published in 2008. Thaler ties this to the effect on markets, which are otherwise expected to be efficient.
Thaler uses the book to talk to readers about how behavioral economic analysis can help look at areas ranging from household finance, to TV shows, NFL drafts and emerging disruptive businesses like Uber, in a new light.Nudge theory
Nudge is a concept in behavioral science, political theory and behavioral economics which proposes positive reinforcement and indirect suggestions as ways to influence the behavior and decision making of groups or individuals. Nudging contrasts with other ways to achieve compliance, such as education, legislation or enforcement. The concept has influenced British and American politicians. Several nudge units exist around the world at the national level (UK, Germany, Japan and others) as well as at the international level (e.g. World Bank, UN, and the European Commission).Omicron Delta Epsilon
Omicron Delta Epsilon (ΟΔΕ or ODE) is an international honor society in the field of economics, formed from the merger of Omicron Delta Gamma and Omicron Chi Epsilon, in 1963. Its board of trustees includes well-known economists such as Robert Lucas, Richard Thaler, and Robert Solow. ODE is a member of the Association of College Honor Societies; the ACHS indicates that ODE inducts approximately 4,000 collegiate members each year and has more than 100,000 living lifetime members. There are approximately 700 active ODE chapters worldwide. New members consist of undergraduate and graduate students, as well as college and university faculty; the academic achievement required to obtain membership for students can be raised by individual chapters, as well as the ability to run for office or wear honors cords during graduation. It publishes an academic journal entitled The American Economist twice each year.The Big Short (film)
The Big Short is a 2015 American biographical comedy-drama film directed by Adam McKay. Written by McKay and Charles Randolph, it is based on the 2010 book The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis showing how the financial crisis of 2007–2008 was triggered by the United States housing bubble. The film stars Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt, Melissa Leo, Hamish Linklater, John Magaro, Rafe Spall, Jeremy Strong, Finn Wittrock, and Marisa Tomei.
The film is noted for the unconventional techniques it employs to explain complex financial instruments. Among others, it features cameo appearances by actress Margot Robbie, chef Anthony Bourdain, singer-songwriter Selena Gomez, and economist Richard Thaler, who break the fourth wall to explain concepts such as subprime mortgages and collateralized debt obligations as a meta-reference. Several other actors directly address the audience, most frequently Gosling, who serves as the narrator.
The film began a limited release in the United States on December 11, 2015, followed by a wide release on December 23 by Paramount Pictures. The film was a commercial success, grossing $133 million against a $50 million budget. The film was also highly praised by critics, with many highlighting the cast's performances (particularly Bale, Carell and Gosling), McKay's direction and the screenplay. The film won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay in addition to nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (Bale), and Best Film Editing.The Undoing Project
The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds is a 2016 nonfiction book by American author Michael Lewis, published by W.W. Norton. The Undoing Project explores the close partnership of Israeli psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, whose work on heuristics in judgment and decision-making demonstrated common errors of the human psyche, and how that partnership eventually broke apart. The book revisits Lewis' interest in market inefficiencies, previously explored in his books Moneyball (2003), The Big Short (2010), and Flash Boys (2014). It was acclaimed by book critics.Werner De Bondt
Werner F.M. De Bondt is one of the founders in the field of behavioral finance. He is also the founding director of Richard H. Driehaus Center for Behavioral Finance at DePaul University in Chicago. Previously, he was the Frank Graner Professor of Investment Management at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
2017 Nobel Prize laureates
Kazuo Ishiguro (United Kingdom)
International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (Switzerland)
|Physiology or Medicine|
Richard Thaler (United States)