Reinhard Selten - A short overview of the research work#

Professor Reinhard Selten was awarded the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1994 for two Publications from the years 1965 and 1975. With these papers Selten achieved a decisive breakthrough in game theory: The introduction of the concepts of sub-game perfect and perfect equillibria reduced the set of Nash equillibria drastically by excluding threats that are not credible. Thus, more percise and sensible predictions can be made for many games, e.g. markets. Selten's work contributed greatly to the applicability of game theory to large parts of economic theory. Today, most of the leading scientific journals are dominated by game theoretic articles. Additionally, game theory has found applications in all of social sciences and even in biology.

Selten calls himself a "methodic dualist". Next to his work on normative theory, in which subjects are presumed completely rational, he always also was - and recently has even been more - concerned with research on descriptive theories, with which the observed boundedly rational behavior of subjects is explained. 30 years ago, Selten was first to introduce experimental economics in Germany. He ran experiments in which subjects made economic decisions in a controlled environment. The goal of these - and of the various other experiments he ran later - was to construct positive theories with which the subjects' boundedly rational behavior could be better described and predicted than with traditional theory. Quite a number of such descriptive theories have evolved in the years in which Selten and his team at the Laboratorium für experimentelle Wirtschaftsforschung have been doing experimental work.

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