Prof. Ernst Fehr

University of Zürich

Ernst Fehr has been Professor of Microeconomics and Experimental Economics at the University of Zürich since 1994. He is presently chairman of the Department of Economics at the University of Zürich, where he also serves as director of the UBS International Center of Economics in Society. He has been a Global Distinguished Professor at New York University since 2011 and was an affiliated faculty member of the Department of Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) from 2003 to 2011. Despite many offers from internationally leading universities, such as Berkeley, Princeton, Cambridge, Oxford, and New York University, he stayed in Zürich and transformed this place into one of the leading places for interdisciplinary approaches to economics in the world.


Ernst Fehr receives Gutenberg Research Award 2013 from Georg Krausch, President of JGU (l.), and Matthias Neubert, Chair of the GRC Executive Committee (r.) (photo: Simon Büttner, brikettfilm)

Fehr is clearly one of the best-known and most highly cited economists of the world. He is a pioneer in the interdisciplinary approach to economics who was among the first to cross disciplinary boundaries. His research extends far into the realms of psychology, sociology, biology, medicine and neuroscience. He has numerous top publications in economics. But his interdisciplinary breadth and excellence are particularly evident in the fact that he has published a total of 18 articles in Nature and Science. He also regularly publishes in top psychological and neuroscientific journals, such as Psychological Science or Neuron.

Fehr has conducted extensive research on the impact of social preferences on competition, cooperation and on the psychological foundations of incentives. He has shown that fundamental economic and social questions, such as the functioning of markets and organizations or the design of contracts, institutions, and incentives cannot be answered without a deeper understanding of the behavior of individuals and economic actors. Fehr’s research focus is in the areas of social science and economics, but he successfully goes a step further and examines the biological, hormonal, genetic, and neuronal foundations of human behavior. In particular, he was able to demonstrate the importance of no longer viewing people as "Homo Oeconomicus", i.e. as rational and egoistic people whose only motivation lies in maximizing profits.