Vernon L. Smith 101: Pioneer of Experimental Economics
Zatrun Published at July 11, 2023

Vernon L. Smith is an American economist. He is currently a professor of business economics and law at Chapman University. Smith is one of the pioneers of experimental economics, a field that uses laboratory experiments to test economic theories and policies. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2002, along with Daniel Kahneman, for his contributions to behavioural economics and his work on alternative market mechanisms. If you are interested in learning more about Smith, keep reading this article on

Vernon L. Smith

Who is Vernon L. Smith?

Vernon L. Smith was born in Wichita, Kansas, on January 1, 1927. He grew up on a farm during the Great Depression, which sparked his interest in how things work. He attended Wichita North High School and Friends University, then earned his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Caltech in 1949. He switched to economics for his master’s degree from the University of Kansas in 1952 and his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1955.

Smith’s first teaching position was at Purdue University, where he stayed from 1955 to 1967 and started his experiments on market behaviour. He also taught at Stanford University, Brown University, Massachusetts Amherst University, Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioural Sciences, and Caltech. He did most of his influential research at the University of Arizona, where he worked from 1976 to 2002. He then moved to George Mason University and later to Chapman University, where he founded the Economic Science Institute.

Smith has also been involved in various academic and public organizations, such as the International Foundation for Research in Experimental Economics, the Independent Institute, the Cato Institute, the Mercatus Center, and the Center for Growth and Opportunity at Utah State University. He has received many honours and awards, including honorary degrees from several universities. In 2005, he revealed that he has Asperger syndrome, a mild form of autism.

Vernon L. Smith

Vernon L. Smith’s Major Works

Vernon L. Smith is best known for his groundbreaking experiments on market design, efficiency, and behaviour. He demonstrated that markets can reach equilibrium even with limited information and rationality, as long as there is enough competition and feedback. He also showed that different market institutions, such as auctions, can have different effects on outcomes and incentives. He applied his experimental methods to various topics, such as public goods, bargaining, asset bubbles, trust, reciprocity, and environmental issues.

Smith also contributed to the development of behavioural economics, which incorporates insights from psychology into economic analysis. He explored how human emotions, preferences, and biases affect decision making and market performance. He collaborated with other prominent behavioural economists, such as Daniel Kahneman, Amos Tversky, Colin Camerer, and Charles Plott.

Vernon L. Smith has published numerous articles and books on experimental economics and behavioural economics. Some of his notable works include:

  • Smith, V.L. (1976). Experimental Economics: Induced Value Theory. American Economic Review.
  • Smith V.L., Suchanek G.L., & Williams A.W. (1988). Bubbles, Crashes, and Endogenous Expectations in Experimental Spot Asset Markets. Econometrica.
  • Smith V.L., & Walker J.M. (1993). Monetary Rewards and Decision Cost in Experimental Economics. Economic Inquiry.
  • Smith V.L., & Wilson B.J. (2019). Humanomics: Moral Sentiments and the Wealth of Nations for the Twenty-First Century. Cambridge University Press.


In conclusion, Vernon L. Smith is a remarkable economist who has contributed to the fields of experimental economics and market design. He has shown how human behaviour and institutions can affect the outcomes of markets and social dilemmas, and how laboratory experiments can be used to test and improve economic theories and policies. He has also applied his insights to various real-world problems, such as electricity markets, water allocation, environmental regulation, and organ donation.

He has received numerous awards and honours for his work, including the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2002. He is currently a professor of economics and law at Chapman University, where he continues to conduct research and teach. He is also a prolific author, speaker, and mentor, who has inspired many students and colleagues with his passion and curiosity. Vernon L. Smith is undoubtedly one of the most influential and innovative economists of our time.

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