The summer school is intended to foster reflection on economic models of rational as well as bounded or irrational decision, focusing on their explanatory power as well as normative/policy implications. The status and interpretation of the parameters and variables of these models will also be a key issue: Are psychologistic interpretations of preferences and beliefs, for example, justified by experimental data? Or have traditional instrumentalist and behaviourist interpretations been unchallenged by the emergence of behavioural and experimental economics?
Some of these questions raise more general methodological issues of measurement. What is the implicit epistemology and what is the implicit ontology of the statistical methods that are used to estimate and test behavioural models? Are the econometric models to be interpreted realistically, or are they mere predictive tools? In the latter case, is it legitimate to infer policy advice from these models? Why should we, for example, care about people’s “preferences” if these parameters do not match any psychological construct? Can an axiomatic approach, such as the one used in measurement theory where parameters and variables are defined by axioms, solve this conundrum?
The summer school will tackle these questions as they arise, in particular, in decision theory, experimental economics, and behavioural economics, and will pay particular attention to the implications that the answers may have for normative issues in welfare economics, distributive justice, and behavioural policy-making.