Early Interest in Economics Inspired Career and Research
July 18, 2013
Dr. Gary Bolton's research focuses on how people negotiate, make decisions and build trust.
When Dr. Gary Bolton started college, inflation was at its highest point in decades. U.S. manufacturing was on the decline. And an oil shortage forced rising gas prices and long lines at the pump.
“As a kid growing up in the ‘70s, I would read the newspaper and wonder why the economy was so messed up,” he said, adding that he wanted to improve things.
Bolton’s interest in the economic conditions as a youth inspired an academic career that has been distinguished by prestigious academic appointments, multiple National Science Foundation grants, dozens of articles in top economic journals and speaking engagements around the world.
Last fall, Bolton, a professor of managerial economics, was named O.P. Jindal Chair and co-director of the Center and Laboratory for Behavioral Operations and Economics in the Naveen Jindal School of Management. He runs the center with Dr. Elena Katok, his wife, an Ashbel Smith Professor of Operations Management.
The pair came to UT Dallas last year to open the new center and expand their research, he said. The center features laboratory methods, using simulated business situations on computer games, to study how student volunteers make decisions, bargain and negotiate.
“We found it to be an exciting opportunity,” Bolton said. “I think what’s exciting about UT Dallas is that it’s growing fast and has a goal of being a Tier One institution, which I think will happen soon.”
Dr. Gary Bolton
TITLE: O.P. Jindal Chair of Management Economics, co-director, Center and Laboratory for Behavioral Operations and Economics, Bolton also sits on the board of advisors of the UT Dallas Negotiations Center
RESEARCH INTERESTS: Decision-making: negotiation, trust, reputation-building, social utility, strategic learning
PREVIOUSLY: Schwartz Professor of Business, Pennsylvania State University
Bolton’s vast research is focused on decision-making, negotiations and trust-building. He said his graduate school mentor, Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences winner Dr. Alvin Roth, now Craig and Susan McCaw Professor of Economics at Stanford University, has been a major influence.
“He taught me game theory, which concerns itself with how people make decisions — especially when they interact with one another,” he said. “He also introduced me to experimental economics, which provides a way of testing the ideas we develop in game theory.”
Bolton worked on a consulting team for eBay in 2006 that redesigned a problematic feedback system used to gather information on the reputation of sellers and buyers. Bolton’s articles have been published in such journals as the American Economic Review, Management Science, Journal of Mathematical Psychology and Games and Economic Behavior. He was featured in a History Channel documentary, “Seven Deadly Sins: Greed.” He is on the editorial board of Experimental Economics.
Bolton has received research funding from the National Science Foundation and IBM. Bolton and Dr. Axel Ockenfels, professor of economics at the University of Cologne, developed the Theory of Equity, Reciprocity and Competition, which is explained in their highly cited paper in the American Economic Review. The premise of the theory is that people are not only motivated by their financial payoff but also how their monetary gain compares to the relative payoff of others.
Dr. Hasan Pirkul, Jindal school dean and Caruth Chair of Management, said that Bolton is an influential and renowned scholar whose innovative research contributions are expanding the field of economics.
“We are honored to have Dr. Bolton on our faculty,” Pirkul said. “He is a highly accomplished scholar whose expertise is a tremendous benefit to our students. We are excited about the research that will result from Dr. Bolton and Dr. Katok’s work at the new behavioral research center.”