University of Chicago academic described as a pioneer of behavioural economics whose work had made a ‘profound impact’
The 2017 Nobel prize in economics has been awarded to the US academic Richard Thaler of the University of Chicago for his contribution to behavioural economics.
The prize, worth 9m Swedish kroner (£845,000), is not among the Nobel Foundation’s official awards for literature, peace, medicine, physics and chemistry, but was established separately by Sweden’s central bank, Sveriges Riksbank, in memory of the Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel.
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences described Thaler as a pioneer of behavioural economics, which had progressed in recent years from a fringe and somewhat controversial field of research into a mainstream component of the economics profession.
He is a leading proponent of “nudge theory”, a concept of behavioural science that suggests small interventions in the environment, or incentives, can encourage people to make different decisions. Thaler co-authored a book, Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness, with the US professor Cass Sunstein, which brought the subject to a wider audience in 2008.
The prize-givers said his research was often cited in marketing literature, while his insights helped people recognise marketing tricks and avoid bad economic decisions. They said his work had made a “profound impact on many areas of economic research and policy”.