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Ernst Fehr

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Ernst Fehr
Born (1956-06-21) 21 June 1956 (age 68)
NationalityAustria, Switzerland[1]
Academic career
InstitutionUniversity of Zürich
FieldBehavioral economics
Alma materUniversity of Vienna
Armin Falk
AwardsGossen Prize (1999),
Marcel Benoist Prize (2008)
Information at IDEAS / RePEc

Ernst Fehr (born 21 June 1956 in Hard, Austria) is an Austrian-Swiss[1] behavioral economist and neuroeconomist and a Professor of Microeconomics and Experimental Economic Research, as well as the vice 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[citation needed], as well as to behavioral economics, behavioral finance and experimental economics. According to IDEAS/REPEC, he is the second-most influential German-speaking economist[citation needed], and is ranked at 75th globally.[2]

In 2010 Ernst Fehr founded, together with his brother, Gerhard Fehr, FehrAdvice & Partners, the first globally operating consultancy firm completely dedicated to behavioral economics.[citation needed]

In 2016, Fehr was ranked as the most influential economist in Germany,[3] Austria,[4] and Switzerland.[5]

Awards and prizes[edit]

In 2008, Fehr won the Marcel-Benoist science prize of 100,000 Swiss francs[citation needed]. In 2011, he was awarded the Vorarlberg Science Prize (10,000)[citation needed]; in 2012, he received the Austrian Decoration for Science and Art and on 9 April 2013 he was awarded the Gottlieb Duttweiler Prize "for his pioneering research on the role of fairness in markets, organisations and in individual decisions".[6]

Fehr is an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a member of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences and visiting professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.[citation needed]

In 2016, Fehr received the honorary doctorate of the University of Graz.[citation needed]

In 2017, Fehr was appointed as lifelong foreign honorary member of the American Economic Association, AEA, together with Philippe Aghion, an economics professor at Harvard University.[7] The number of honorary members is limited. The election is made by the Executive Committee of the American Economic Association and will only take place if a former honorary member dies.[8]

Why Social Preferences Matter[edit]

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:

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 (v) important forces shaping social norms and market failures.

He conjectures that we could call economics "the dismal science" because it consistently assumes the worst in human motives, which contrasts sharply with the pervasive idea that consumer tastes are heterogeneous. He attacks the idea on two fronts. First, because a great amount of evidence has contradicted the selfishness hypothesis; second, because failure to regard other-concerning behavior ignores central market activities.[9]

See also[edit]

Selected bibliography[edit]

  • Fehr, Ernst; Henrich, Joseph; Boyd, Robert; Camerer, Colin; Bowles, Samuel; Gintis, Herbert (2004). Foundations of human sociality: economic experiments and ethnographic evidence from fifteen small-scale societies. Oxford New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199262052.
  • Fehr, Ernst; Gintis, Herbert; Bowles, Samuel; Boyd, Robert (2005). Moral sentiments and material interests: the foundations of cooperation in economic life. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press. ISBN 9780262572378.


  1. ^ a b Ernst Fehr, Internationales Biographisches Archiv 21/2016 vom 24. Mai 2016 (fl). Ergänzt um Nachrichten durch MA-Journal bis KW 14/2018, in Munzinger-Archiv, Retrieved 18 July 2018.
  2. ^ "Top 10% Authors, as of June 2024". IDEAS/REPEC. Retrieved 2024-06-07.
  3. ^ FAZ.net / Patrick Bernau: Ernst Fehr an der Spitze der Ökonomen
  4. ^ Top 23 - diese Ökonomen prägen Österreich / die Presse.com: http://diepresse.com/home/wirtschaft/economist/4813687/Top-23_Diese-Okonomen-praegen-Osterreich
  5. ^ Diese Ökonomen prägen die Debatte in der Schweiz / www.nzz.ch: http://www.nzz.ch/wirtschaft/oekonomen-einfluss-ranking-2016-diese-oekonomen-praegen-die-debatte-in-der-schweiz-ld.114203
  6. ^ Gottlieb Duttweiler Award
  7. ^ AER Foreign Honorary Members aeaweb.org, 15. April 2017.
  8. ^ [1] aeaweb.org, 14. April 2017, 15. April 2017.
  9. ^ The Economic Journal, "Why Social Preferences Matter – The Impact of Non-Selfish Motives on Competition, Cooperation and Incentives" (Blackwell Publishers, Oxford and Malden, 2002) Vol. 112, No. 489 C1–C33

External links[edit]