Economic policymakers attempt to improve the welfare of their citizens, based on assumptions about how people think, feel, and behave, and on what they view as welfare-improving. Economists usually describe economic agents as fully informed and model them as striving to maximize a set of stable preferences. While these assumptions provide a simple framework for analyzing economic activity, actual human behavior has proved more complex. As a result, economists have started looking to psychologists and others who study human behavior for guidance on the decision-making process, the roles of motivation and emotion, and the determinants and measurement of happiness.
The 48th economic conference sponsored by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston brought together economists, behavioral scientists, and economic policymakers with the hope of applying insights from psychology and other behavioral disciplines to improve understanding of how people make decisions as individuals and, ultimately, in a macroeconomic setting. The goal of the conference was to help economists and policymakers discover new ways of improving their models, their forecasts, and their economic policy decisions. This article summarizes the conference proceedings.