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Information für die Wissenschaft Nr. 22 | 15. Mai 2014
Priority Programme „Experiences and Expectations: Historical Foundations of Economic Behaviour” (SPP 1859)

The Senate of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) has granted a Priority Programme titled „Experiences and Expectations: Historical Foundations of Economic Behaviour” (SPP 1859). The programme will run for an initial period of three years and may be extended for another three years.

Economic decision-making takes place in a complex environment under considerable uncertainty. To reduce this uncertainty economic actors rely on expectations about the future development of key economic variables. The central purpose of this Priority Programme is to investigate how these expectations are formed. Underlying the programme is the basic hypothesis that the formation of expectation is not a uniform, standardised and time-invariant process but depends on specific historical contexts.

The Priority Programme aims at a close integration of historical and economic methods. Three questions shall dominate our research: First, how does historical experience shape expectations of the future? Second, do expectations change across space and/or time because of differences in culture, institutions, or technology? Third, how do expectations change in the short-term due to economic crises or exogenous shocks? To answer these questions, we invite scholars from behavioural science, law, psychology and sociology to participate. The common goal of this interdisciplinary approach is the study of historical processes of expectation formation.

A central task of this programme will be to identify new historical sources which will help us reconstruct empirically processes of expectation formation. For example, diaries, letters and other personal records will provide insights into how people interpret certain economic situations and how they form their expectations. Private household books and consumption surveys allow conclusions on the timing and causes of actual changes in economic behaviour. Comparable sources such as minutes of board meetings or business correspondence can also be found for companies, central banks, research institutes, or governments. Media analysis promises to provide yet unmined information about how public narratives have influenced individual expectations in the past. It might be also possible to analyse actual economic behaviour in order to understand the underlying expectations. For example, the changing composition of corporate patent portfolios provides information about which technological development paths managers and researchers anticipated for the future.

The core research areas in which the programme invites proposals are:

  • financial markets, crises and phenomena of speculation
  • firms, innovation and technological change
  • households and consumer behaviour
  • economic policy and regulation
  • experts and scientific forecasting

The programme was initiated by Sibylle Lehmann (Hohenheim), Alexander Nützenadel (Berlin), Louis Pahlow (Frankfurt/Main), Werner Plumpe (Frankfurt/Main), Ute Schneider (Duisburg-Essen), Moritz Schularick (Bonn) and Jochen Streb (Mannheim).

While the Priority Programme focusses on economic history, its goals are best met by a broad collaboration involving researchers from different disciplines. The programme therefore invites researchers in the fields of economics, history, behavioural science, law, and sociology to submit proposals.

Proposals for the first three-year period have to be submitted by 5 November 2014 through the DFG’s electronic processing system “elan”. In this system, please select “SPP 1859” from the menu when submitting your proposal. Those applicants who do not yet have an account on “elan” (from earlier proposal submissions or from review tasks accomplished for DFG) need to register. The registration of a new account needs to be confirmed manually by DFG and should thus be requested no later than 29 October 2014. The proposals, which should indicate how they fit into this programme as a whole, have to be submitted in English, and need to be prepared using the respective forms and guidelines in English language.

General information on proposals in the framework of a Priority Programme (in particular concerning eligibility and admissible funding requests) can be found in guideline 50.05 (part B). See also guideline 54.01 for instructions how to prepare a proposal. The specific proposal has to be structured according to form 54.012.

Note that the senate of DFG has recently relaxed the rules for publication lists: Beside the general bibliography of the proposal, any proposal and any curriculum vitae must include a list of up to ten publications specific to the planned project/applicant. These publications need to be classified as a) refereed publications (published articles and monographs; accepted articles with note of acceptance by the journal) or b) other publications (e.g. preprints on repositories).

The review of the proposals is planned to be held in March 2015.

Further Information

The DFG’s electronic portal “elan” can be found at:

If you intend to submit a proposal within the Priority Programme, please send a short message to the programme’s coordinator soon. Later on, in addition to the DFG submission via “elan”, please send a copy of the full project proposal to the programme’s coordinator.

Proposal guidelines and preparation instructions are outlined in DFG forms 54.01en and 50.05en, part B, which can be found on the DFG’s website at:

For further information on the Priority Programme, please contact the coordinator:

Vice coordinator:

For administrative enquiries please contact:

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