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The Legend of Economist and the methodology of Economics

Economic Principle Guest Lecture and Open AMA by Prof. Gary Charness, Hosted by Luyao Zhang, Sunshine

Published onMay 10, 2022
The Legend of Economist and the methodology of Economics

Guest Lecture and Open AMA Documentary on YouTube

The Legend of Economist, Guest Lecture by Prof. Gary Charness, Hosted by Prof. Luyao Zhang

Introduction by Prof. Luyao Zhang:

Today, I am very honored to have Prof. Gary Charness here to have a talk about his personal legend and also about some methodologies of economics. Prof. Gary Charness is really a person who enlightens me when I almost wanted to give up in academia. I guess all of you can see the light in him today from his very warm-hearted personality and his intelligence. So let’s welcome Prof. Gary Charness.

Prof. Gary Charness’ Inspirations: Call for “Being a Warrior” and “Fight for What You Want”

I am delighted to be invited. This is an interesting occurrence. It’s something interesting that you are wondering how you can do this. As far as Luyao goes, yeah, you know, I always had to fight, I always had to fight. I have talents, but I always had to fight. And she was in a bad way: some bad things had happened and things were tough. I just had told her that you have to be a warrior; you just have to be a warrior; and you have to push your ways through it, you have to be a warrior. And that’s what I do, that’s what I do. I don’t know how this would work with people in China but if you want something in this life, I think you need to ask for it and it helps get it. And if you ask something and someone says “No”; Maybe you ask again! I was rejected at Berkeley for the Ph.D. program. And I said, what is this? And at the time, I was 41. So it turns out that in the United States, there is a something what they called age discrimination that you are not allowed to discriminate people who are old…They rejected me and I said to them: what do you mean by “No”? And I made it clear that I was not going to stand for this. And it turns out that there is a statue that if you are over 40, there is age discrimination issue. That’s what this was. And then they knew that I knew it and they knew that I was going to make troubles. And they also knew that it was important to me. If not, I wouldn’t bother going in like that. So I persuaded them to give me a chance. So they admitted me after they have rejected me…

Short bio of Prof. Gary Charness

Prof. Gary Charness is Professor of Economics and the Director of the Experimental and Behavioral Economics Laboratory in the Department of Economics at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Charness is an economist and social scientist, specializing in experimental and behavioral work; he is currently ranked 5th in the world by RePEc in the field of experimental economics and has published nearly 80 academic articles. Charness is a contributor to several areas of economic research, including social preferences, identity and group membership, communication and beliefs, behavioral interventions, group decision-making, social networks, gender, and individual decision-making. A centerpiece of his research has been to effect beneficial social outcomes in difficult economic environments. Charness's work has been discussed and published in The New York Times and Science, as well as in other media.

How Prof. Gary Charness has inspired the students about what  Economics and Economist are?

Darpan Barua 

Prof. Gary Charness inspired me in a quite non-traditional way. I tried my best to attend his lecture with 4 hours of sleep but could not continue. However, I watched the entire recorded video and now I  reflect on it. His study of behavioral economics is in itself inspiring as we continue to find how  Economics can be seen throughout our life in all aspects. However, in a more critical reflection- I find that he inspired me in aspects beyond Economics and that of an Economist. His experiences of  pushing to obtain something showed how Economists can be braver than others in many instances.  The courage does not come from tomfoolery or inherence, but from an educated, informed, and wise mindset. 

Naol Basaye 

His research in Promises and Partnership has shown me that economists are not money focused only,  that economics is a field that studies interactions of human beings. 

Yun-Yu Chen 

Professor Gary Charness has inspired me that Economics is a study to find out the pattern when people are making decisions, and Economist is someone who used methods(experimental games)  to give the answer to the question. 

Julia Ching 

Prof. Charness’s experience inspired me that I should always ask “why” others say “no” to me.

Giulia de Cristofaro 

To begin with, Professor Charness talked about fighting for what you want and not giving up because someone says no. He said that if something is important to you and you believe you are correct why not stand up for it even if it is against the authorities. This was important for me because it teaches a lot about having confidence. I appreciated his view of tackling problems as a challenge with yourself rather than doing it for merit or to gain acknowledgment. In the end, we are our biggest enemies. His thought of “If he could do it, why can’t I” really stuck with me. By sharing his journey he debunked the common belief that if you do not do things in your younger years you will never get it done and also reflected on the point that it is not the end of the world if you do not have a complete understanding of all economic theories since sometimes those do not even explain everything that occurs in the real world. In short, he inspired me to keep studying and not give up this track easily when I believe this journey is getting difficult. 

As an Economist he inspired me to look outside of the box. As a beginner, I had a view of economics being all about numbers. Instead, he showed me through his work that you can still work as an economist and study people’s behaviors. Furthermore, his scope of understanding how people’s behavior may improve in a period of economic instability was very promising. In other words, he studies people and how to make the interaction between them better even in periods of conflict when they tend to be more selfish. In a year where things did not go well for people, hearing that someone is working hard to attempt to alleviate tension between parties in hard situations gives me hope. In the end, we all live in the same world, and yet there are constant conflicts between diverse countries. Ergo,  I believe his studies may have a big impact in the future and are worth looking into and expanding. His research using games made rather hard economic concepts easier to grasp and more enjoyable. I  now look forward to exploring different areas of economics as I continue my studies. 

Eyer Ding 

The professor has inspired me to find whatever interests me in daily life related to economics and just go for research with bravery and persistence. Economics is never too old to learn. It is never too old to be an economist. Economics can be associated with human behavior as well as social phenomenon. 

Yuming Gong 

He inspired me that economics not only does research on various economic theories and activities but also contributes to the welfare and well-being of human beings. Economists as individuals have broader horizons than ordinary people. They care about the national economy and people’s livelihood,  making benefits to the world. 

Meiyi Guo 

Be brave to ask why and to seek answers. 

Yuxi Jiang 

He inspired me by using his own experiences, both successful and failed to convey that economists should always be passionate and interested in economics to do researches. Economics is very close to our daily life and can be translated into mathematical models for economists to analyze. I can feel his curiosity and the spirit to explore in-depth to economics. His positive attitude and determination toward his major are what I need with my learning process in the future. 

Qinyue Lei 

As Prof. Gary puts it, we need to speak out our doubts when we think something is unreasonable or unexpected to us. We should have the courage to ask the authority about what they are unsatisfied with and improve the imperfection through efforts and endeavor. So I think an economist should first be a questioner, who is willing to challenge both the outside world and him/herself, and then he/she can be an expert in his/her own professional field, who studies the relationship between a society’s resources and its production or output. 

Economics is more than a major or a discipline which is defined as the social science about how to allocate limited resources most effectively to meet the unlimited demand in society. It is applied in our daily life and used everywhere. It can be a useful tool with which we solve problems about economics or some small things like demand and supply in everyday life. With some economics knowledge in mind, we will better adapt to this rapidly changing world where economics scenes are different every moment. 

Jingwei Li 

He gave me a basic overview of how economists conduct their researches and what really impressed me is his attitude towards academia and life.

Peihan Li 

Learning from the experience of Prof. Gary Charness of applying for his Ph.D. program, I think that one rule I learn from is that, by no means, we should fight for the thing that we want and we think we deserve, which can be applied for both daily life and Economy. 

Weiran Li 

Economists are great and brave because they have the courage and patience to devote themselves to research for many years. Economics is also a discipline that measures people’s behavior. Now I  believe that learning more knowledge of economics, both macro and micro can help me make choices in life. In addition, I am more convinced that the best time to plant an apple tree was 10 years ago and now. No matter what your background or age, you can become an economist. 

Hengchen Liu 

In my opinion, the economy is a subject that makes people’s lives better. It is closely related to the development of society and has something to do with money and interests. And economists are people who study economic development, but economists do not only study the economy, they also apply their own knowledge to the public and serve the public. 

Josh Manto 

Prof. Charness talked a lot about his intuition for people in the economy; he actually considers himself more of a social scientist, a “psychology” person, rather than an economist as what people would term him to be. 

In the end, what struck me as most wise and inspiring in the lecture was how he doesn’t even know if he was giving us bad advice on “looking for your interests” and “following the grind”. At first, I asked myself if I should go for my passion and interests, and disregard the happenings in society’s economy  (a.k.a “following the grind”), but I later realized that this is the “essence” of Economics and its relationship with life, for me. 

There is no one definite answer, nor a correct option, that gives the best results. The option of choosing to follow your interests has a large opportunity cost, such as a chance to get rich from following consumer trends. But the option of grinding, on the other hand, may make one unhappy. This is also based on the well-known Chinese teaching of the “Yin and Yang”, where there should be a balance in life, in interests, the same way that one should maintain Ceteris Paribus in the economy. 

Prof. Charness has taught me to always associate my interests in economics, the same way he incorporates his interest in social science (psychology) in Economics. Economists are micro and macro thinkers (that is why there are macro and microeconomics); micro in the sense that they analyze critically the details in a specific economy, and macro in the sense that they also study the relationships of other academic disciplines to economics. 

Siqi Mao 

Economics is far more than a subject. It is a way of life that can not only make money but also benefit people around. Everyone can be an economist as long as people are tried to make the best use of time and things. Economists are the kind of people who make efforts to change people’s lives.

Gloria Mu 

Prof. Charness inspired me with his colorful life experience. People are never too old to explore new things. When you get rejected, do not hesitate to ask again for the reason, which turns out to be a way to improve yourself. Perhaps people admire the value of not quitting and give you another chance. I  asked the question of what he realized in traveling; his answer was that people do not need language to the community. I truly feel the same.  

Yutong Quan 

Economics deals with the production, distribution, consumption of goods, and services. Economist studies the relationship between a society’s resources and its production or output.  An economist should always be confident and positive when facing some difficulties and he/she should keep exploring and care about social welfare. 

Le Zhuo 

Economics is a subject to learn about the flow of money in society and its impacts. tells Economists are persons that study the concepts of economics and tell people the function behind the external phenomenon. 

Junyu Shi 

Economics studies the law of human economic activities, that is, the law of value creation,  transformation, and realization. Among them, models and methods are only tools to solve problems.  The real significance of economics lies in translating theories into practical applications, including explaining the economic operation of a country and the living conditions and willingness of individuals  to invest. Economists discover the underlying logic, discover the truth of the market, and defend its bedrock — voluntary trading, which helps people make the most of their market potential. 

Jianing Tian 

In my point of view, I think the economy is the connection between production and consumption which makes everyone better off. It meets the demand for materials and the culture of human beings. It is essential for the development of society. Economists are people who engaged in the research of  economy. They develop essays, texts, and economic principles. They play an important role in making the society better. 

Lewis Tian 

Academically, Prof. Charness inspired me to realize that economics is such a broad field that has much more than the theoretical aspect. His experiments are the cornerstone for developing not only economic but also behavioral theories. And his passion for combining mathematics, statistics,  behavioral science, and economics are in line with my ideal interdisciplinary study path. As an economist, his life story is simply legendary and resonates with me in many ways. For example, the bravery and confidence he displayed when he was rejected by Berkeley encourage me to speak up and ask for changes rather than waiting for them. And such perseverance or even stubbornness can be crucial for the success of the enduring pursuit of academic studies as well as life.

Economics is to study how to arrange the sources reasonably, and economists need to find potential rules between different things. 

Ruohan Wang 

He made me realize that economics has various fields and they are all pretty interesting. They can be pretty close to our life. Also, even famous economists like him have blind spots. 

Yuqi Wang 

Economics is not only an academic discipline that studies market and value but also a practical discipline created to bring benefits to people’s daily life and help them spend money more reasonably and effectively. Economists are such a group of scholars who not only study economic laws but also apply them to life and face the public. Economics is such a practical and useful subject that learning it can make our life more beautiful and colorful. 

Yuxuan Wang 

In the past, I thought economics focus only on how the market works, which has nothing to do with our daily lives. His research shows vividly how economists apply economic knowledge to the analysis of people’s daily interactions. 

Zi Xun 

Economists use some theoretical research to prove their argument. 

Chenzhao Yan 

Economics is something that researches how society manages its scarce resources. An economist is a kind of professor that keeps thinking objectively. 

Jiaheng Zhang 

We have to push ourselves to be better. 

Jinchen Zhao 

I used to think Economics is only about how production and consumption interact, but Prof. Charness inspired me that Economics sometimes is more like a study of humanity and people. His simple but well-designed games and insightful explanations make me interested in studying the emotional and cognitive underpinnings of economic behavior. 

Queena Zhong 

He has taught me that economics is based mostly on theories and economists study, develop, and apply theories in their work. 

Ziang Zhou 

The biggest inspiration from Professor Gary Charness is that he showed me that experiments can also be carried out in such a systematic and rigorous way in Economics, just like any of the other natural science subjects. He overturned my thought that economists were a group of people who like to sit around and discuss certain phenomena or make policies. His sharing and experiences proved his own saying, that “I am absolutely a social scientist, but I am more of a behavioral scientist”. I think this is probably the reason that he is able to successfully discover and summarize these behavioral patterns that are easily ignored in our daily economic lives.

The Gallery

The poster

The Lecture Hall at Duke Kunshan University with 6 Screens

The Lecture Hall at Duke Kunshan University with Pioneering Students

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