Meet the Lecturers: Amrish Patel

Can you tell us a little bit about your background and what brought you to UEA?

I studied in Cambridge and Kent, then moved to Sweden for my first academic job. UEA’s great reputation in behavioural economics pulled me back to the UK. The Norfolk countryside is a bonus.

What are you passionate about outside of economics?

Isn’t everything economics? Figuring out how to optimize raising my little boy currently takes much of my passion… babies do not seem to follow game-theoretic reasoning.

millionaire-chris-tarrant
Chris Tarrant – A pivotal figure on Amrish’s path as an economist

What inspired you to pursue a career in economics?

Economics has always felt like common sense to me. I like that it allows one to study (almost) anything, no matter how crazy. In my undergraduate dissertation I used the game show “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” to estimate differences in risk-aversion by gender and ethnicity. This was probably the first time I realized that I really like doing economics research. Thankfully my research no longer involves recording game show episodes on VHS tapes!

 

What excites you the most about economics at the moment?

There is so much behavioural economics around us today, think Brexit, think Trump, think climate change or fake news. It’s refreshing to see the relevance of the subject you study – lots of interesting issues out there to think about and help resolve.

What modules do you teach on?

Intermediate Microeconomics (2nd year undergraduate) – Core micro is never going to be the most exciting module to teach, but it is a great challenge. Trying to enthuse students to get interested in and see the value of constrained optimization; coming up with innovative ways to get to understand abstract ideas; trying to motivate my teaching team – all fun. Microeconomics (a PhD course) – I teach the fundamental game theory component on this technically demanding course. The nice thing about such material is I learn something new each time I teach it. There is so much depth to a subject that you can only begin to appreciate after teaching it for many years.

AmPat - PullquoteWhat are you researching at the moment?

Much of my research is on a field called “Psychological Game Theory”. We develop models of belief-dependent preferences or emotions (e.g. guilt, reciprocity, anger, shame or status-seeking) and study the implications of such motivations in economic interactions (e.g. between politicians). Having Indian heritage, I am all too aware of how important such motivations are in driving behaviour in families and communities. I love that there are mathematical tools to actually predict how these emotions compel us to act. If understanding the implications of emotions doesn’t seem important to you, there’s a chance you might be a robot!

What do you enjoy most about the School of Economics at UEA?

The sense of community. Both with my fellow academics and with the students. It’s a fun place to work. I love how forthcoming students are with their questions during office hours and seeing their faces light up when I help them get to that “eureka” moment after wading through a jungle of maths.

What advice would you give to a student interested in a career in behavioural economics?

If you want to work as a behavioural economist (either in the policy world or academia) don’t “throw the baby out with the bathwater”. Make sure you study enough microeconomics in tandem to your behavioural interests.

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