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Understanding Preferences: Measurement, Prevalence, Determinants and Consequence


Principal Investigator

Prof. Dr. Armin Falk
Center for Economics and Neuroscience
Zentrale wissenschaftliche Einrichtung der Universität Bonn
Nachtigallenweg 86
53127 Bonn



This project analyzes the distribution, origin, determinants and consequences of human preferences. Preferences are key building blocks of any economic model and fundamentally determine human behavior both at an individual and a country wide level. Four particularly important types of preferences, which will be studied in this research project, are risk preferences, time preferences, social preferences and preferences for work and leisure. Despite their fundamental importance, empirical knowledge regarding the nature of preferences is still very limited. Crucial open questions include: the pervasiveness of different degrees of risk aversion, impatience and social preferences in the population; the extent to which different preferences vary systematically with personal characteristics, such as gender, age, and educational background; the correlation between preferences within person, e.g., whether individuals who are risk averse also tend to be impatient; the relation between economic preferences and other non-cognitive skills, such as personality (e.g., Big Five) and cognitive skills measured in terms of IQ; the origin of preferences, e.g., the extent to which preferences are passed on from one generation to the next; the possibility that preferences and attitudes vary systematically with the social and institutional environment; and the degree to which individual preference endowments differ across populations and countries. Answering theses questions is of great importance, both from a general research perspective as well as from a policy oriented point of view. This project is highly innovative as it combines experimental and survey techniques and because it bridges insights from many disciplines.