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A Recent History of Behavioral and Experimental Economics in France (1990-2018)

Truc Alexandre, UCA CNRS GREDEG
Jullien Dorian, Centre d'Economie de la Sorbonne, Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne

An intriguing dimension of the history of behavioral and experimental economics is related to national traditions in the practice of economics. It is widely recognized that Maurice Allais' paradox is one important starting point in the history of behavioral and experimental economics. Although he presented his approach as a criticism of what he dubbed "the American school", the history of behavioral and experimental economics is mostly an American one. In particular, French economists did not develop experimental and/or behavioral programs until the late 1990s. A very late entrance especially when compared to other European countries. The present paper aims to investigate the emergence of behavioral and experimental economics in France. Our contribution is twofold. Our first goal is to write a new part of the history of French economics. We aim to document how the behavioral and experimental economics programs were received and adopted in France, and how they relate (or not) to the well-identified French tradition of decision theory founded by Allais. Our second contribution is to expand the history of behavioral and experimental economics beyond the already well-identified point of origin of the program in the USA and Germany by including late contributors to the programs that are often ignored in histories focused on the origins of the programs. To achieve our goal, we use quantitative data from publications by French economists. This approach allows us to pinpoint some of the most important research centers and actors that invested in these new approaches and to understand their connections to international research. We capture how behavioral and experimental research was uniquely structured within the French context. We show that the adoption of behavioral and experimental economics is not only embedded in some well-identified intellectual traditions (e.g., the French school of rational choice theorists, the German approach to pro-social behavior...), but also that it is structured by long-standing institutional and spatial forces (e.g., Parisian vs provincial universities...) that lead to the emergence of different networks of production. This analysis of scientific contributions is complemented by an analysis of the formation of French economists that allows us to identify who are the most important advisors of the past, present, and future generations of French behavioral and experimental economists.

Area: Eshet Conference

Keywords: interdisciplinarity, behavioral economics, experimental economics, psychology, Allais, scientometrics.

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