Monthly Archives: February 2007

Teaching vs Research

Greg Mankiw’s blog has an interesting post on the importance of teaching merits versus research performance in tenure decisions.


On Measuring Happiness

James Farrell on Club Troppo nicely summarizes Richard Layard’s thesis on happiness (see Happiness: Lessons from a New Science). The comments to the post are also very interesting.
Crooked Timber offers one such comment on the measurement of happiness. Here’s an excerpt:

I’ve long argued that these questions can’t really tell us anything, and an example given by Don Arthur gives me the chance to put it better than I’ve done before, I hope.

Suppose you wanted to establish whether children’s height increased with age, but you couldn’t measure height directly.

One way to respond to this problem would be to interview groups of children in different classes at school, and asked them the question Don suggests “On a scale of 1 to 10, how tall are you?”. My guess is that the data would look pretty much like reported data on the relationship between happiness and income.

That is, within the groups, you’d find that kids who were old relative to their classmates tended to be report higher numbers than those who were young relative to their classmates (for the obvious reason that, on average, the older ones would in fact be taller than their classmates).

But, for all groups, I suspect you’d find that the median response was something like 7. Even though average age is higher for higher classes, average reported height would not change (or not change much).

So you’d reach the conclusion that height was a subjective construct depending on relative, rather than absolute, age. If you wanted, you could establish some sort of metaphorical link between being old relative to your classmates and being “looked up to”.

But in reality, height does increase with (absolute) age and the problem is with the scaling of the question. A question of this kind can only give relative answers.

Undergraduate research

Traditionally, undergraduate education has taken place in the classroom, while research has been for graduate students and faculty. No more. College and universities are pushing hard to get many more undergraduates involved in research.

Occasionally, undergraduates make genuinely important research contributions — such as the University of Michigan students involved in the discovery of a key breast cancer gene.

It’s also good for a college’s reputation, which depends on students progressing. Undergraduate research has become almost a prerequisite for top graduate programs.

Source: Undergrad research grows popular, pointer by the Environmental Economics blog.

Behavioral Economics (Nobel Prize) Lecture

There is a bounty of useful teaching materials for economics lecturer on the net nowdays. Today, I want to point out to the lectures of and interviews with Nobel laureates in economics. For instance, students could learn more about bounded rationality, intuitive judgement, and choice by following Daniel Kahneman’s 2002 Nobel prize lecture on webcast. They could listen to 2002 economics Nobel laureate Vernon Smith, lecturing on Constructivist and Ecological Rationality in Economics.
Listen also to the joint interview with both Kahneman and Smith.