Ted O’Donoghue

Ted O’Donoghue is one of the leaders of the generation of behavioral economists who helped bring research into mainstream economics in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. He holds degrees from Dartmouth (A.B. in Economics modified with Psychology, 1990) and the University of California at Berkeley (Ph.D. in Economics, 1996). He worked as a post-doctoral fellow at Northwestern for one year before joining the faculty at Cornell in 1997.

O’Donoghue’s research covers a broad swath of behavioral economics, and has been published in many top economics journal including the American Economic Review, the Quarterly Review of Economics, and the Journal of Economic Literature. He is perhaps best known for his research with Matthew Rabin on immediate gratification (aka hyperbolic discounting). Economists studying immediate gratification were initially predisposed to assume that people accurately predict their own future propensity for immediate gratification. O’Donoghue and Rabin’s work was instrumental in convincing economists that people often underestimate their own future propensity for immediate gratification, initiating a long line of research on this theme. O’Donoghue has also studied another error in choice over time: people tend to understand qualitatively the directions in which their tastes change over time, but underestimate the magnitudes of those changes. He has investigated the implications of such errors for several economic applications, and has indeed identified the existence of this error in data on catalog orders of winter clothing items. O’Donoghue is also working with George Loewenstein to develop a two-system model of human behavior, in which a person’s behavior is the outcome of an interaction between a deliberative system that assesses options with a broad, goal-based perspective and an affective system that encompasses emotions and motivational drives. Finally, O’Donoghue has been active in debating the public-policy implications of behavioral decision research and behavioral economics.

O’Donoghue brought to this theme project the skills of an economist trained in developing rigorous mathematical models of behavior, as well as a serious concern for the psychology that underlies these models and a desire to test these models on economic field data. At Cornell, he teaches Behavioral Economics at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. He is also a co-organizer of the Behavioral Decision Research Workshop and the founder and co-organizer of the Behavioral Economics Workshop. Outside Cornell, he serves as an associate editor of the Quarterly Journal of Economics, and is a member of the Russell Sage Foundation’s Behavioral Economics Roundtable. Recently, he has co-founded and co-organized a new annual conference in Behavioral Economics (first meeting May 2009).

Ted Formal for CMU



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