Associate Professor of Economics
Mark Foley was a double major at William & Mary-mathematics and economics-but he chose to pursue economics in graduate school. "It just seemed more applied to me-more connected to the real world." When the Soviet Union dissolved during his first year of graduate school, it became a great time to study transitional economics. "The economies of numerous countries were changing dramatically."
Today, Foley is intrigued with "behavioral economics," an interdisciplinary subfield that blends psychological insights with economic models. His syllabus for a seminar in this new area of study-"It's not even in the textbooks yet"-consists of journal articles, which the students are responsible for presenting to the class in their weekly meetings.
$100 or $101?
Behavioral economics tweaks the standard economic model, one that has no answer for economic responses that seem to be grounded in human behavior-like disappointment, for example. Studies show that stocks go down in a country the day after its team loses an important World Cup Soccer game. "Standard economic models can't account for that, but behavioral economics does." Or how about this: would you rather I give you $100 today or $101 tomorrow? "Most people will take 100 bucks today." But the answer changes if the deal is $100 a year from today or $101 a year from tomorrow: "People say $101."
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Foley believes it's important for students to be able to write well, but he's also an advocate of the "O-course"-one centered on class participation, with oral tests and exams. His Behavioral Econ Seminar operates just that way. Students are required to come up with their own research proposals, with the emphasis on learning the "state of knowledge" about a given topic, and then proposing an original idea. But they don't have to write the paper-it's an O-class! One such proposal touched on The Davidson Trust: "How Do Changes in Financial Aid Policy Affect Alumni Giving?"
The Honor Code
"I take full advantage of my students' dedication to the Honor Code, by giving take-home, closed-book, closed-note exams with no time limit."