June 6, 2016, by Suzanne

NIBS 2016 conference: Assessing well-being when preferences are incoherent

From 4 to 6 April, the Centre for Behavioural and Experimental Social Sciences (CBESS) at the University of East Anglia hosted the 2016 NIBS international conference on the topic of ‘Assessing well-being when preferences are incoherent’. This was a major event with more than 130 delegates from many parts of the world.

The conference topic is an under-researched aspect of behavioural economics. Traditionally, there has been a broad consensus in economics in favour of using preference-satisfaction as the main criterion when evaluating alternative economic policies, but this approach has been undermined by recent work, which shows that individuals’ revealed preferences are often influenced by contextual and framing factors that seem unrelated to well-being.  A lot of work has been done to uncover the causal mechanisms behind these effects and to explore how policy-makers can use these effects to promote specific behaviour changes that are deemed desirable, but there has been much less progress in developing general criteria for evaluating alternative policy options when individuals lack coherent preferences.

Networking during break time at NIBS 2016

Networking during break time at NIBS 2016

The conference attracted contributions by scholars working in different disciplines, including economics, psychology, public policy, and philosophy which reflected the strong interdisciplinary flavour of the NIBS research agenda.  Different views on the topic were presented by eight distinguished keynote speakers:

  • Gerd Gigerenzer – Rethinking Behavioural Economics: Towards a Rational Theory of Heuristics
  • Till Grüne-Yanoff – Consistency as the Basis of Behavioural Welfare Economics?
  • Daniel Hausman – Well-Being, Preferences, and Public Policy
  • David Laibson – Myopia and Discounting
  • Julian Le Grand – Can ends-related paternalism be justified?
  • Paola Manzini and Marco Mariotti – Bounded rationality, the revealed preference method and welfare economics
  • Robert Sugden – The Opportunity Criterion

We also had four equally distinguished round table participants (Francesco Guala, Richard Layard, George Loewenstein and Albert Weale), and 55 speakers distributed across seven parallel sessions.  The feedback from participants was uniformly positive, praising the interest of the topic, the quality of the talks, the openness of the discussions, and the efficiency of the organisation.

Videos of the plenary sessions are available on the NIBS website.

Report by Gerardo Infante & Bob Sugden

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