Ernst Fehr and Michèle Lamont receive Gutenberg Research Award 2014

Recognition of outstanding research achievements and invitation to strengthen ties with Mainz University

27.05.2014

The Gutenberg Research College (GRC) of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) decided to give this year's Gutenberg Research Award to two internationally renowned academics. One award went to the economist Professor Ernst Fehr, Chairman of the Department of Economics at the University of Zurich; the other was given to Professor Michèle Lamont, a cultural sociologist from Harvard University. "We are proud to welcome two truly exceptional scholars to receive the Gutenberg Research Award in Mainz," said Matthias Neubert, GRC Director and head of the Theoretical High Energy Physics work group at JGU. "This prize represents Mainz University's recognition of their magnificent research achievements and is also intended to help strengthen the ties between the award winners and JGU." Fehr is one of the most eminent economists in the world. His innovative and exciting research digs deep into the disciplines of psychology, sociology, biology, and neurosciences. Michèle Lamont's work crosses the standard disciplinary boundaries and has produced trailblazing scholarship which is now being used to shape a new approach to cultural sociology. The Gutenberg Research Award 2014 comes with a prize money of EUR 10,000.

For several years, Ernst Fehr has been considered a possible future winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics. Since 1994, the native Austrian has been Professor of Microeconomics and Experimental Economics at the University of Zurich, where he currently heads the Department of Economics and the UBS International Center of Economics in Society. Since 2011, he has also been Global Distinguished Professor at New York University.

Fehr's leading role in the field of economics is demonstrated both by the numerous articles he has produced for leading economic journals and in the series of offers of posts at internationally renowned universities such as Berkley, Princeton, Cambridge, Oxford, and New York University, all of which he has turned down. Numerous high-ranking publications in major psychology and neuroscience journals as well as 18 articles in the journals Nature and Science testify to the interdisciplinary breadth and excellence of Fehr's work.

In his work, Fehr examines various non-economic factors, such as fairness and reciprocity, and investigates the influence they have on modern economic life. Another focus is on research into human altruism, social preferences, and social norms. In the discipline known as neuroeconomics, the neurobiological bases of economic decision-making are considered. By examining the biological, hormonal, genetic, and neural basis for human behavior, Fehr was able to demonstrate how important it is for economists to no longer view people in terms of the "Homo Oeconomicus" concept; in other words to postulate that they are rational and egoistic decision makers whose only motivation lies in maximizing profits. His work has numerous potential links with JGU's newly established research unit "Interdisciplinary Public Policy." Close contacts are already in place thanks to the KIDS-WIN study, a large-scale interdisciplinary field study involving 1,200 first graders, jointly carried out by the universities of Mainz and Zurich.

Michèle Lamont is a particularly outstanding scholar in the fields of the humanities and sociology; her work resonates far beyond the boundaries of her specific field. She is Professor of Sociology, European Studies, African and African American Studies at Harvard University, where she currently also serves as Acting Director of the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs. In addition to her posts at Harvard, she is a Fellow at the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research. Lamont is a regular guest at leading research institutions such as Sciences Po and the EHESS in Paris, Tel Aviv University, and the WZB Berlin Social Science Center.

Lamont examines how symbolic boundaries and boundary-making stand for practices of distinction and processes of negotiating cultural hierarchies between individuals and groups. Lamont has published more than 80 papers and is the editor of twelve collections and author of three award-winning books. Her works compare conceptions of worth, morals, and class among upper-middle class individuals in France and the United States, the self-image of members of the working class, and the practices for determining academic 'excellence.' She has had a significant influence on cultural sociology in the U.S. and is renowned for her comparative cultural approach.

Lamont has a unique perspective that combines the study of European and African American cultures. She is essentially responsible for the theoretical basis now employed for the study of inequality across different cultures. Sociology, political science, anthropology, and science studies have all been advanced by her scholarship, but her work has also attracted attention outside the academic community. Among her other posts, Michèle Lamont was a member of the French government's Haut Conseil de la Science et de la Technologie and the Academic Advisory Council at Sciences Po Paris. She is also an advisor to the World Bank and UNESCO.

Lamont is currently working on a project on the work of interdisciplinary research groups and their ways of defining and realizing success. Furthermore, she is conducting a comparative study about experiences of and responses to racial stigmatization in Brazil, Israel, France, Sweden, South Africa, and the U.S. This study offers an excellent opportunity for collaboration with the research unit "Social and Cultural Studies Mainz" (SOCUM) at JGU.