Welcome to the International Max Planck Research School on Behaviorally Smart Institutions!

Institutions are ubiquitous. All human behavior is embedded in and guided by formal and informal institutions. Most institutions are legal; many non-legal institutions are regulated by law. The disciplines of both law and economics are therefore complementary for analysing the interplay of human behaviour and institutions, and to develop institutions that promise outcomes that are individually or socially more desirable. Yet (neoclassical) law and economics starts from a narrow definition of human behaviour. Addressing the key limitations of human behaviour and deriving implications for institutional design from these limitations is the task of the proposed school.

In our research program, the following questions guide us: How can one help institutional analysts and designers make more adequate definitions of the problems that call for intervention? And how can one help them design interventions that are more effective, and ideally also less intrusive? How can this program of making institutional design smarter come to life? The answers will not be found in the silo of one discipline. One needs behavioral research to deeply understand the determinants of human behavior. One needs comparative research to assess the variability of human behavior, and its plasticity. One needs the analysis of existing institutions: in which contexts have the interventions delivered on their promises? In which contexts have they been counter‐productive? And when have they been robust to which changes in the environment, or the political landscape? And one needs input from those who understand the existing arsenal of interventions: what has been used where, and for which purposes? Which are the framework conditions that must be respected?

The IMPRS BeSmart is jointly hosted by

International partners:

  • Norwegian School of Economics
  • ETH Zurich
  • University of California at San Diego
  • Hebrew University Jerusalem


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