Prof. Ernst Fehr


Directory details

Institution : University of Zurich
Department : Institute for Empirical Research in Economics


I am Professor in Microeconomics and Experimental Economics at the University of Zürich. In addition, I have the following positions or affiliations: Director of the Institute for Empirical Research in Economics at the University of Zürich, fellow at the Collegium Helveticum, affiliated faculty member of the Department of Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, director of the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for the Analysis of Economic Growth in Vienna, member of the German Academy of Natural Scientists Leopoldina and, currently, Vice President of the European Economic Association.I graduated at the University of Vienna in 1980 where I also earned my doctorate in 1986. I am a member of the board of reviewing editors at Science, on the editorial board of the Quarterly Journal of Economics, Games and Economic Behavior, the Journal of the European Economic Association, the Journal of Public Economics, Experimental Economics and the Journal of Socio-Economics. I won the Gossen Prize of the German Economic Association in 1999, the Hicks-Tinbergen Medal of the European Economic Association in 2000, received an honorary doctorate from the University of St. Gallen in 2004 and won the Cogito Prize in 2004.

Current Research

My research focuses on the proximate patterns and the evolutionary origins of human altruism and the interplay between social preferences, social norms and strategic interactions. I have conducted extensive research on the impact of social preferences on competition, cooperation and on the psychological foundations of incentives. More recently I have worked on the role of bounded rationality in strategic interactions and on the neuroscientific foundations of social and economic behaviour. My work is characterized by the combination of game theoretic tools with experimental methods and the use of insights from psychology, sociology, biology and neuroscience for a better understanding of human social behavior.

Selected Publications

  • Baumgartner, T., Heinrichs, M., Vonlanthen, A., Fischbacher, U., Fehr, E. (2008) Oxytocin shapes the neural circuitry of trust and trust adaptation in humans. Neuron 58, 639-650.
  • Kosfeld, M., Heinrichs, M., Zak, P., Fischbacher, U., Fehr, E. (2005) Oxytocin increases trust in humans. Nature 435, 673-676.
  • de Quervain, D., Fischbacher, U., Treyer, V., Schellhammer, M., Schnyder, U., Buck, A., Fehr, E. (2004) The Neural Basis of Altruistic Punishment. Science 305, 1254-1258.
  • Morishima, Y., Schunk, D., Bruhin, A., Ruff, Ch., Fehr, E. (2012) Linking Brain Structure and Activation in Temporoparietal Junction to Explain the Neurobiology of Human Altruism. Neuron 75(1), 73-79.
  • Knoch, D., Pascual-Leone, A., Meyer, K., Treyer, V., Fehr, E. (2006) Diminishing Reciprocal Fairness by Disrupting the Right Prefrontal Cortex. Science 314, 829-832.