Research Unit Research Unit
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Economics of Change

David AusserhoferFull view
Gebhard Glock (office)

Fon: 030 25 491 420
Fax: (030) 254 91 423
Email: gebhard [dot] glock [at] wzb [dot] eu
Reichpietschufer 50
D-10785 Berlin

Change can be exhilarating and it can be terrifying. It can happen incredibly fast or painfully slow and sometimes nothing changes at all which can be good news or bad. Change can occur through the interplay of many people's choices or through the intervention of a few. There is only one thing that is for certain. Understanding change is one of the most exciting endeavors in the social sciences.

Our research into change is currently focusing on four larger themes.

Beliefs, Empathy & Choice. Decision making relies often on expectations of others’ behavior, in particular in social contexts where outcomes are determined by the actions of multiple individuals. Thinking about others sharpens forecasts about the consequences of own actions but can also change the way we evaluate other’s fortunes. The more we think about others, the more likely we are to internalize their well-being, so the empathy-altruism hypothesis posited in philosophy and psychology. Within this section of our research, we study to what extent changes in our expectations are causal for changes in actions and how expectations influence pro-social behavior, for example, in the context of charitable giving. (More information & publications)

The Economics of Power. Making change happen requires power. Power means that one can change things. In many cases, power rests in the hand of committees and on the international parquet power is increasingly shifted to supranational organizations. Our unit examines the rules that govern national and supranational committees and how the design of such rules affects possibilities for change. We also study how the media is influenced and instrumentalized by democratic and autocratic governments and plan to investigate the fundamental principles underlying the emergence of power. (More information & publications)

The Dynamics of Competition and Cooperation. How do individuals and groups achieve cooperation when the short-run incentives are not aligned? Which external conditions foster or hamper cooperation? While these are some of the oldest questions in the social sciences they are as relevant as ever (carbon emissions, peace processes, … the list of applications is as long as depressing). We study the foundations of cooperative behavior, in particular, how simple heuristics can achieve cooperative outcomes in repeated interactions. In parallel, we examine how interventions and regulations can help protect groups such as consumers from the adverse consequences of competition. (More information & publications)

Culture & Economics. In economics, culture is often seen as ‘noise’, some disturbance beyond economic explanation. It is this view more than anything else that hampers a dialogue between economics and the humanities, a dialogue that is a prerequisite for any serious attempt of establishing the unity of the social sciences. Our unit fosters this dialogue by creating platforms for exchange between the arts and the social sciences. In addition, we are engaging in a number of research projects, explore how economics can contribute to the humanities and how the arts reflect and shape economic processes. (More information & publications)