‘The Conference is Open to Everyone'
On August 23rd the ICABEEP (International Confederation for the Advancement of Behavioral Economics and Economic Psychology) Summer School started its work at the Higher School of Economics. Alexis Belyanin, Co-Director of the School and Head of the Laboratory for Experimental and Behavioural Economics, spoke to us before the opening and told us about the School as well as about the conference which will take place afterwards.
— Alexis, who is the formal host of this Summer School?
— In fact, two parts can be called the organizers of this School. Firstly, it is the Higher School of Economics which is acting as the host university and bears responsibility for the major part of the costs. And secondly, a consortium of two international research societies: The International Association for Research in Economic Psychology (IAREP) and The Society for Advances in Behavioral Economics (SABE). These two organizations have similar missions, but the difference is that members of the first one are primarily psychologists who are into economics, and the second one consists of economists who are interested in psychology. Last year the relations between the two organizations were formally registered in the foundation of the International Confederation for the Advancement of Behavioural Economics and Economic Psychology (ICABEEP).
— Does this mean that this summer school will be the first?
— No, IAREP and SABE organized the first of these schools back in the 1990s. The founder of this tradition was Professor Hermann Branstetter from the University of Linz. We hoped to welcome him in Moscow, but unfortunately he wasn't able to come. Many of the participants of those early schools are today prominent experts in behavioural economics. One of them is Elena Tugareva, leading research fellow of our Laboratory: she was behind the idea to organize the Summer School here at the HSE.
Generally speaking, we are organizing an event which is absolutely in line with the aims of the University Development Programme. One such task is the sale of educational services in the international market, and the opening school lets us do it at the highest level - among young teachers and PhD and postgraduate students from leading world universities. Researchers from Harvard, Berkeley, Tilburg, Maastricht, Warsaw and other universities of Europe, Africa, North and South America are coming here. Russian researchers will make up about a fifth of the total number of participants.
— How actively are economists and psychologists in the world interested in behavioural economics?
— There are not so much work in this area as in the ‘canonic' areas of economics and psychology, but, for example, experimental and behavioural economics is one of the ten key topics of the Econometric Society World Congress which is taking place in Shanghai right now , and is one of the largest scientific economic forums. The term ‘behavioural economics' appeared only ten years ago, and now it is one of the fastest growing subject areas with a developing model and conceptual tools whose elaboration has been rewarded with more than one Nobel Prize. In my view, it is this paradigm in economics that is closest to answering the main question of all social sciences: what are the motives and principles of human behaviour in society. And in this sense the ‘mutual fertilization' by the two research fields - economics and psychology - is outstandingly productive. Such fertilization lets us, on one hand, not get trapped in the frames of customary formal dogmas, and on the other hand, not drift into total empiricism, which simply comes down to a description of facts without any attempt to comprehend them and define the motives which are affecting people during economic decision making.
— Are there many researchers in Russia who work in this area?
— I would say that the majority of Russian researchers studying these problems are somehow affiliated with our Laboratory. I mean Fuad Aleskerov, Head of the Department of Higher Mathematics and the Laboratory of Decision Choice and Analysis and the abovementioned Elena Tugareva, who has had some very interesting papers published in co-authorship with international colleagues, and also yours truly. Colleagues from the Russian Academy of Sciences and the Russian Economic School also work in this field, as well as some colleagues from Novosibirsk, Vladivostok, Saratov, Irkutsk, Omsk, Saint Petersburg and other cities. We believe that the number of Russian research works in this area will grow, and we shall contribute to this.
— Will the format of a summer school be traditional for such events?
— We are guided by the format started by Professor Brandstetter in the 90s, and it is different from traditional summer schools. In the beginning, each of the guest professors will read two lectures to the participants: a general one, on the problems of the research in this area, and a specialized one, aimed at suggesting some ideas, tasks and questions related to their direct competency of the participants which they could then research. After that the participants split into groups of two or three people, and in these groups they have about a week to discuss and elaborate the concept of an original research project on a chosen topic. We do not limit their academic freedom of choice of topic. We only want them to leave the School with not just new ideas, but with a specific knowledge of how those ideas can be implemented and probably even with a ready plan for an international research project. To elaborate and model such projects, they will have at their disposal an experimental laboratory equipped with all the necessary software.
We have also set ourselves another task - to distribute knowledge on this subject to the countries of Eastern and Central Europe. One of the reasons ICABEEP has given us the right to host this School is our Western colleagues' interest in the distribution of academic knowledge in these areas in new regions, particularly, in Eastern Europe. That's why economists and psychologists from Russian regions who did not have the opportunity to become official participants will come to the School as guests. They shall be able to listen to all of the lectures, to talk to guest professors and school participants and, so to say, soak up the spirit of this scientific work.
— At the end of the summer school, on September 1st - 3rd, another international scientific conference entitled ‘Rationality, Behaviour and Experiments' will take place at the HSE. Will these two events have different participants?
— We held this conference last year for the first time under the auspices of the HSE Center for Advanced Studies, and it was rather successful, so we decided to continue the experience this year and combine it with the ICABEEP summer school. I can say that this innovation pursues a triple goal. Firstly, the school participants will get the opportunity to speak before a broad audience and present the works they have previously sent to the selection committee. Secondly, a special group of speakers is coming to the conference which includes some very prominent names in the academic community, such as Professor Dan Levin, leading expert on the theory and experimental studies of auctions, and Maya Bar-Hillel, one of the classics of contemporary cognitive psychology. Other experts from American and European universities will also come and tell us about their research. We are particularly assigning a lot of time for personal communication between the speakers and other conference participants: such a format seems more productive to us than the usual 15-minutes presentations in large rooms which are rarely memorable.
And thirdly, we would like the specialists to get used to our annual conference - we want them to know that there is a center at the Higher School of Economics which works in this research area and there is an academic platform for presentation and discussion of works in behavioural economics. While the Summer School is a ‘chamber' event, the conference is open to everyone interested in this new and, in my view, very thrilling area of economic studies.
Oleg Seregin, HSE News Service