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Adam Smith, Behavioral Economist

Ashraf, Nava and Camerer, Colin F. and Loewenstein, George (2005) Adam Smith, Behavioral Economist. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 19 (3). pp. 131-145. ISSN 0895-3309. doi:10.1257/089533005774357897.

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In The Wealth of Nations, published in 1776, Adam Smith famously argued that economic behavior was motivated by self-interest. But 17 years earlier in 1759, Smith had proposed a theory of human behavior that looks anything but self-interested. In his first book, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, Smith argued that behavior was determined by the struggle between what Smith termed the “passions” and the “impartial spectator.” The passions included drives such as hunger and sex, emotions such as fear and anger, and motivational feeling states such as pain. Smith viewed behavior as under the direct control of the passions, but believed that people could override passion-driven behavior by viewing their own behavior from the perspective of an outsider—the impartial spectator—a “moral hector who, looking over the shoulder of the economic man, scrutinizes every move he makes” (Grampp, 1948, p. 317).

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Camerer, Colin F.0000-0003-4049-1871
Additional Information:© 2005 American Economic Association. Thanks to Kim Border for an apt Adam Smith quotation; to Eric Angner, James Hines, Jesse Shapiro, Jeremy Tobacman, Timothy Taylor and Michael Waldman for helpful comments; and to Ed Glaeser and Andrei Shleifer for encouragement.
Issue or Number:3
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20110204-074751695
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Official Citation:Ashraf, Nava, Colin F. Camerer, and George Loewenstein. 2005. "Adam Smith, Behavioral Economist." Journal of Economic Perspectives, 19(3): 131–145. DOI:10.1257/089533005774357897
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:21998
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:11 Feb 2011 23:15
Last Modified:09 Nov 2021 16:02

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