Ernst Fehr

Ernst Fehr

Economist Less

Ernst Fehr

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Ernst Fehr (born June 21, 1956) is an economist from Austria. He is chairman of the Department of Economics at the University of Zürich, Switzerland. His research covers the areas of the evolution of human cooperation and sociality, in particular fairness, reciprocity and bounded rationality.

He is also well-known for his important contributions to the new field of neuroeconomics, as well as to behavioral finance and experimental economics. According to the Handelsblatt, Fehr is the second-most influential German-speaking economist.

Why Social Preferences Matter

In his 2002 collaboration with Urs Fischbacher, Why Social Preferences Matter — The Impact of Non-Selfish Motives on Competition, Cooperation and Incentives, he begins with the abstract:

<blockquote>A substantial number of people exhibit social preferences, which means they are not solely motivated by material self-interest but also care positively or negatively for the material payoffs of relevant reference agents. We show empirically that economists can fail to understand fundamental economic questions when they disregard social preferences, in particular, that without taking social preferences into account, it is not possible to understand adequately (i) effects of competition on market outcomes, (ii) laws governing cooperation and collective action, (iii) effects and the determinants of material incentives, (iv) which contracts and property rights arrangements are optimal, and...
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