Behavioural Economics of Co-operation and Social Interaction

Program Lead: Professor Benno Torgler   |   Deputy Program Lead: Dr Ho Fai (Ben) Chan

Humans do not always behave the way we would expect, making decisions based on emotions, beliefs, biases, feelings, or habits.  Our program applies behavioural economics to understand how humans cooperate, interact and comply.

  • How do individuals behave in groups, social institutions and complex systems?
  • What are the factors that affect compliance and cooperation in society?
  • How does a better understanding of human cognitive architectures incentivise innovation and creativity?
  • How does an empirical understanding of history create effective formal and informal institutions?

These are some of the research questions being investigated by the BEST Centre.

Research highlights


Current Projects

Past Projects

Non-Market Behavioural Economics

Economics is no longer what it used to be. In the past, economics was contained to the sphere of commercial life, revolving around topics such as money, taxes, tariffs, stocks and bonds. In recent years behavioural economics has helped to significantly expand economists’ areas of concern. As a consequence the boundaries of economics as a discipline are rapidly expanding outward, exploring areas that have historically been the exclusive domain of other social sciences. In this research program we will look at extraordinarily important areas of inquiry, covering topics such as academia, sports, crime, sex, war, and politics, the understanding of which will benefit from a behavioural economics perspective. At the core of the endeavour is to understand human nature and human behaviour. As McKenzie and Gordon Tullock once said: “crimes cannot be committed, children cannot be reared, sex cannot be had, and government cannot operate without people “behaving” in one respect or another”. For this, the Behavioural Non-Market Economics program will take advantage of a broad set of methods applied in behavioural economics such as laboratory, field, and natural experiments. Beyond that, a common theme is to find controlled settings to understand how humans behave and interact. It will look at scientists, artists, sports athletes, or innovators. Such environments offer a unique arena for career path investigation, one in which we can easily identify names, measure performance, how people communicate and interact, follow life histories, and pinpoint the precise environmental conditions and changes of a large number of observations over time. In this arena, the incentive structure (e.g. publish, win a game or tournament, enhance knowledge, build a reputation, gain a crowdfunding project, develop innovative ideas and projects etc.), the constraints, and the job profiles are clearly spelled out, making it akin to a real-world laboratory in which all else can approximately be held equal. Hence, the data produced, although drawn using real incentives in an actual field setting, are relatively clean and subject to low measurement error. The next sections discuss the core sub-programs that will guide the research agenda.

Working Papers & Data:

Professor Benno Torgler and Dr Ho Fai (Ben) Chan have prepared a repository for working papers and data for the Behavioural Economics and Non-Market Interactions programs’ developing publications. We believe it’s a great opportunity to share ongoing research and allow other interested parties to provide feedback and access open-source data on a range of topics. The links to both pages are below.