Research unit Economics of Change
David Ausserhofer
Research unit
Main content

Why do people act change their behavior from day to the next? As large as the number of specific reasons for behavioral change may be, in the end they can be grouped into four categories. The four basic types of explanations are: 1) because they have learnt something new about how the world functions, that is, about the relation between actions and consequences; 2) because the consequences of their actions have changed themselves; 3) because their aims have changed; and 4) because their experience teaches them to try out new ways.

All four categories can be translated into economic concepts that postulate behavioral changes when there are changes 1) in expectations, 2) in incentives, 3) in preferences, or when 4) decision makers use learning rules in order to adapt their behavior.

Orthodox (“neoclassic”) economists confined themselves to the study of beliefs and incentives, strictly assuming the rationality of all decision makers. Modern behavioral economists relax these assumptions when investigating beliefs and incentives and study adaptation of preferences and the role of bounded rational learning rules. The program of the research unit “Economics of Change” is built on all four basic mechanisms of change. It is part of the broader behavioral economics movement that has been changing the field of economics for over thirty years.

The research fellows of the unit are mainly interested in dynamic processes. How do decision makers adapt to new circumstances? How do they create new circumstances? General (micro-) economic mechanisms of change are identified and linked to a broad range of applications relevant to society, from fostering pro-social behavior, to entrepreneurship and political economy.

David Ausserhofer
David Ausserhofer

Natalia Linke (office)

Fon: 030 25 491 420
Fax: (030) 254 91 423
Email: natalia.linke [at]

Reichpietschufer 50
D-10785 Berlin

New research articles

Editorial: Honesty and moral behavior in economic games. Steffen Huck et al. in Frontiers in Psychology.

Discrimination, Narratives and Family History: An Experiment with Jordanian Host and Syrian Refugee Children. Steffen Huck et al. in Review of Economics and Statistics

The Standard portfolio choice problem in Germany. Christoph Breunig et al. in The Economic Journal



New working papers

Kai Barron, Tilman Fries (2023): Narrative Persuasion

Teresa Backhaus, Steffen Huck, Johannes Leutgeb and Ryan Oprea (2022): Learning through period and physical time

Kai Barron et al. (2022): Alcohol, violence and injury-induced mortality: Evidence from a modern-day prohibition



Research in context

Economist Steffen Huck about the impact of fake news on decisions.

Maja Adena

Research in context

Economist Maja Adena about charitable giving and calculating donors.

Research in context

Economist Kai Barron about beliefs and expectations.

Reading recommendation

Jana Friedrichsen and Steffen Huck (Eds.):

Nicht-Orte der Fleischindustrie – Fakten und Hintergründe zum Schlachten in Deutschland, Selbstverlag, 2018 (in German).

The booklet can be ordered at wzb [at]

Brexit snap

Abschied für immer? Der Brexit und die Folgen für Gesellschaft und Wissenschaft

Panel discussion with Jutta Allmendinger, Ulrike Guérot, Steffen Huck, and Daniel Auer, moderated by Shelly Kupferberg.

Ein Abend mit Tom Fontana

“Good Men Don’t Understand” - An Evening with Tom Fontana and Jörg Winger

TV, Economics and Society - A WZB series organized by Steffen Huck, Sir Peter Jonas, Anna Winger, and Jörg Winger.

“S’all good, man!” An Evening with Jenn Carroll, Gordon Smith and Anna Winger

“S’all good, man!” An Evening with Jenn Carroll, Gordon Smith, and Anna Winger

TV, Economics and Society - A WZB series organized by Steffen Huck, Sir Peter Jonas, Anna Winger, and Jörg Winger.


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