Article | Journal of Economic Perspectives

Adam Smith, Behavioral Economist

by Nava Ashraf, Colin Camerer and George Loewenstein


Adam Smith's psychological perspective in The Theory of Moral Sentiments is remarkably similar to "dual-process" frameworks advanced by psychologists, neuroscientists, and more recently by behavioral economists, based on behavioral data and detailed observations of brain functioning. It also anticipates a wide range of insights regarding phenomena such as loss aversion, willpower, and fairness that have been the focus of modern behavioral economics. This essay draws attention to some of these connections.

Keywords: Behavior; Economics;


Ashraf, Nava, Colin Camerer, and George Loewenstein. "Adam Smith, Behavioral Economist." Journal of Economic Perspectives 19, no. 3 (Summer 2005): 131–145. (Read an interview about this article in HBS Working Knowledge.)