DP11786 Behavioral Economics and the Atheoretical Style

Author(s): Ran Spiegler
Publication Date: January 2017
Keyword(s):
JEL(s): D03
Programme Areas: Industrial Organization
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=11786

Behavioral economics is perceived by many to be part of a general shift in the culture of economics toward a less theoretical style. I present a critical discussion of certain manifestations of this trend: a preference for an anecdotal style of exposition (illustrated by Akerlof and Shiller's Phishing for Phools), reduced-form modeling (illustrated by Campbell's Ely Lecture), and the method of capturing psychological forces using parametric modifications of conventional functional forms. I argue that the subject of "psychology and economics" is intrinsically foundational, and that a pure-theory component is essential for it to realize its transformative potential.