A Sense of Mission: The Alfred P. Sloan and Russell Sage Foundation's Behavioral Economics Program (1984-1992)

by Floris Heukelom

Jan 1, 2010
Between April 5th and April 9th 2010 I had the opportunity to investigate at the Rockefeller Archive Center the Russell Sage Foundation's files on the Behavioral Economics Program. The research has been tremendously helpful and will result in an article and find a place in my forthcoming book on the history of behavioral economics. Behavioral economic program recipient Richard Thaler (1945 -) described the role of the program as follows: [In 1983-84] behavioral economics essentially did not exist. Kahneman and Tversky had written their Econometrica paper on prospect theory, but not very many economists had taken much notice. There was no dialogue between psychology and economists, and there hadn't been since Herb Simon's days as an economist. Now much of the credit for what has happened since must go to K&T who were so brilliant that economists simply could not ignore them. But I think that the value of the Sloan-Sage program should not be neglected. Simply by having such a program, a sense of mission was created (Thaler's letter to Wanner, 27 May, 1992, Russell Sage Foundation Archives at the Rockefeller Archive Center, Sleepy Hollow, New York (RAC).
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