John List Visits NTU

Prof. John List Visits National Taiwan University


The Department of Economics of National Taiwan University had its first SunZhen lecture; presented by the professor of Kenneth Griffin and Director of the Department of Economics at the University of Chicago, USA, Professor John List. He gave a speech on “How to Make the World Better Through Field Experiments”


The Department of Economics of National Taiwan University has set up SunZhen lectures since the beginning of this year to promote economic researches and encourage the experience exchange of scholars within the economic community. SunZhen lectures are sponsored by O-Bank; its chairman, Luo Jinming, is an outstanding alumni of NTU Economics , Class of 1964. He founded this lecture in the name of the former president of National Taiwan University.


The first SunZhen lecture was presented by Professor John List. He is a distinguished service professor, and the Director of the Department of Economics at Kenneth C. Griffin of the University of Chicago, in addition, he is also a senior economist at the US President’s Council of Economic Advisers. Professor List is an iconic character in the field of experimental economics, and is known for his innovative experimental design. He has published more than 200 academic papers, in which 37 of them have been published in the top five Economic Research Journals. In 2015, Professor List was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Economics for his contribution to field experiments, his works were cited 35,000 times in Google. Professor List explores important economic issues with his innovative designs for experiments, including market competition, philanthropy, and education; at the same time, he tests how the economic theories are related to the real world. Professor List and Uri Gneezy co-authored “The Why Axis: Hidden Motives and the Undiscovered Economics of Everyday Life”, which introduced the results of many field experiments.


Professor List’s speech aims to convince the audience that field experiments can make the world a better place. He recalled his first economic course, where in his textbook, Samuelson and Nordhaus read that “economists cannot conduct controlled experiments.” Until the early 2000’s, economists’ research norm was to write out models, and infer causality by using a large amount of data and basing on many assumptions. Professor List used his research to refute the old ways and stereotypes, thinking about economists conducting controlled experiments. His experiments in Chicago successfully narrowed the learning gap between people. His experiments with the Smile Train, an international charity that helps children with cleft lip and palate, has also helped him raise more donations. Professor List also used field experiments to examine the gender wage discrimination, and found that the right advertisement can enhance women’s willingness to participate in competition. He further suggested that the different working hours, work experience, and driving speed are the reasons why Uber male drivers gain more than female. Professor List worked with the UK Behavioral Insights Team to use descriptive norms as a guide to issue effective reminders to taxpayers and successfully reimbursed the UK government for more than $20 million unpaid taxes. They further conducted similar experiments on small businesses, and the results were amazing. Professor List reaffirmed his point of view: our world is complex and is always changing, but randomization can balance the unobservable variables between the experimental and control groups, and we can make a good use of it and infer the relationship in between.


After the speech given by Professor List, Dr. Dina Suskind also shared her research experience. Dr. Suskind is a Pediatrics and a Professor of Surgery and Pediatrics at the Medical School of the University of Chicago, she is also the founder and CEO of the Thirty Million Words Initiative. Dr. Suskind is working on behavioral and experimental economics as well as a programs to promote children’s brain development. Her goal is to help children develop their language potential to the extreme, and narrow the gap between the advantaged and the disadvantaged groups. She recommends parents to actively talk to their babies in complex languages, which can not only expand children’s vocabularies, but also enhance their understanding of these topics.


Friday morning, June 22nd of 2018, Professor List shared how he fell in love with economics in the Principles of Economics class, he inspired and encouraged students to work hard to make the world a better place. In the afternoon, Professor List and Dr. Suskind visited the Vice President, Chen Jian-Ren, along with the Director of the Department of Economics of National Taiwan University, Lin Ming-Jen, and the Professor of Economics of the National Taiwan University, Professor Liu Jin-Tian and Professor Jiang Yi-Fang. Professor List shared the experience he had with the UK and Australian governments on behavioral economics. Dr. Suskind also interacted with the Vice President, who also has a medical background.