Doelenzaal, AmsterdamNetherlands

5th Tinbergen Institute Conference, 2010

The conference was held in the Doelenzaal, Amsterdam, on September 24-25

Local organizers: Arthur Schram, Aljaz Ule, Matthijs van Veelen (University of Amsterdam). This conference brought together the world‘s best researchers from a variety of fields where the nature of preferences and decision-making is a main area of research. These include economists with an interest in evolution and experiments, as well as evolutionary biologists and psychologists. Although the Tinbergen Institute is named after Jan Tinbergen, the conference is meant to be equally inspired by his brother Niko.

Conference Theme:

Individual preferences are at the foundation of the economic theory of behavior. They are the corner stones determining individual decision-making. For decades, economists showed only sporadic interest in the origin of preferences, their development and their dynamics. Mainstream economics assumed that preferences are exogenously given. More recently, however, the study of preferences themselves has gained momentum. In addition, the relationship between preferences and the decisions agents make has come under much closer scrutiny than before. Two strands of the literature where these developments are visible are evolutionary game theory and experimental economics.

Evolutionary game theory focuses on theories about the origin of preferences and behavior, and how they develop under selective pressures. A better understanding of these processes can increase our insights into how economic decisions are made. The standard example is that if selection favors altruistic preferences, then this raises doubts about the realism of an assumed selfish homo economicus. Spite, reciprocity, and punishment are also deviations from indifference that some economists are interested in. Finally, understanding why non-standard preferences for taking risks survive evolutionary pressures would help build economic models of behavior under risk.

Experimental Economics aims to detect the preferences and valuations of humans in economic environments and analyze how they affect decision-making in interactive environments or in isolation. Laboratory observations have led to a landslide of models describing (interpersonal) preferences. Moreover, experimental data on choices in risky environments have sparked alternatives to the standard expected utility model of valuation.

The following researchers presented their papers:

Colin Camerer (California Institute of Technology)
Mark Machina (UCSD)
Simon Gachter (University of Notthingham)
Dave Rand (Harvard University)
David Levine (Washington University, St. Louis)
Martin Nowak (Harvard University)
Karl Sigmund (University of Vienna)
Leda Cosmides (UCSB)
Jorgen Weibull (Stockholm School of Economics)
John Tooby (UCSB)
Drew Fudenberg (Harvard University)