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Experiences and Expectations: Historical Foundations of Economic Behaviour (SPP 1859)
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)
The Senate of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) has granted a Priority Programme titled ,,Experiences and Expectations: Historical Foundations of Economic Behaviour" (SPP 1859). The programme will run for an initial period of three years and may be extended for another three years.
Economic decision-making takes place in a complex environment under considerable uncertainty. To reduce this uncertainty economic actors rely on expectations about the future development of key economic variables. The central purpose of this Priority Programme is to investigate how these expectations are formed. Underlying the programme is the basic hypothesis that the formation of expectation is not a uniform, standardised and time-invariant process but depends on specific historical contexts.
The Priority Programme aims at a close integration of historical and economic methods. Three questions shall dominate our research: First, how does historical experience shape expectations of the future? Second, do expectations change across space and/or time because of differences in culture, institutions, or technology? Third, how do expectations change in the short-term due to economic crises or exogenous shocks? To answer these questions, we invite scholars from behavioural science, law, psychology and sociology to participate. The common goal of this interdisciplinary approach is the study of historical processes of expectation formation.
A central task of this programme will be to identify new historical sources which will help us reconstruct empirically processes of expectation formation. For example, diaries, letters and other personal records will provide insights into how people interpret certain economic situations and how they form their expectations. Private household books and consumption surveys allow conclusions on the timing and causes of actual changes in economic behaviour. Comparable sources such as minutes of board meetings or business correspondence can also be found for companies, central banks, research institutes, or governments. Media analysis promises to provide yet unmined information about how public narratives have influenced individual expectations in the past. It might be also possible to analyse actual economic behaviour in order to understand the underlying expectations. For example, the changing composition of corporate patent portfolios provides information about which technological development paths managers and researchers anticipated for the future.
The core research areas in which the programme invites proposals are:
- financial markets, crises and phenomena of speculation
- firms, innovation and technological change
- households and consumer behaviour
- economic policy and regulation
- experts and scientific forecasting

Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft e.V.
Kennedyallee 40
53175 Bonn

Prof. Dr. Alexander Nützenadel
History Department
Humboldt University Berlin
Unter den Linden 6
phone: +49302093-70616

Further Information: