Future Research in the Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences
6 Pages Posted: 9 Aug 2011
Date Written: September 20, 2010
This paper describes a research program organized around the theme of “What Makes Societies Work?” There are two stages. The first is a study of how context and institutions affect people’s incentives. Why do people’s preferences appear to be helpfully prosocial in some settings, and narrowly self-interested in others, and how can we design interactions to amplify the former? Why are institutions such as constitutions and courts effective in shaping social behavior in some settings but not others? Why are the relational incentives created by repeated interactions more effective in some settings than others? Addressing these questions will take a concerted effort on the part of economists and others from across the range of social sciences.
Next, these insights are to be put to work in addressing questions of how we can influence or even design social outcomes. How do we achieve a consensus on using future interactions to create current incentives? What institutions can we design that will induce people to coordinate on contributions to the public good rather than hoarding private wealth as the route to status? Questions such as these are fundamental to making economics and social science more generally a useful part of our intellectual arsenal.
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