Sam Bowles and Herb Gintis, Professors of economics at the University of Massachusetts, pictured during a press conference at the Teachers Federation Building in Sydney, Australia, during two day conference on the topic "what to do about schools in NSW." June 21, 1976. (Photo by Peter John Moxham/Fairfax Media via Getty Images).

SFI Professor Sam Bowles and External Professor Herb Gintis have been selected as 2022 Citation Laureates by the Web of Science group for providing evidence and models that broaden our understanding of economic behavior to include not only self-interest but also reciprocity, altruism, and other forms of social cooperation.”

Bowles and Gintis have collaborated since the late 1960s when they responded to a request from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as he began to incorporate economic issues more deeply into his activism. They went on to publish not only in economics, but also in biology, psychology, anthropology, and archaeology. Most notably, their 1976 work “Schooling in Capitalist America: Educational Reform and the Contradictions of Economic Life” has been published in several languages and its English-language version cited more than 18,000 times. 

Stepping outside the traditional bounds of economics, Bowles and Gintis have studied the ways that our environments and cultures, and especially how we make our living, have shaped our social values — questions that had typically been left to psychologists and sociologists. In their 2012 book “A Cooperative Species: The Evolution of Human Reciprocity” they provide models and evidence from population genetics, archaeology, and anthropology, suggesting that our “better angels” — altruism and ethical motivations — may have a genetic basis.

“As far back as John Stuart Mill, economists have taken the amoral and self-interested Homo economicus as the model of an economic actor. But nobody – including Mill — believed that people are really like that,” says Bowles. “In recent years, behavioral experiments implemented across the world's cultures and evolutionary game theory have added a new set of economic actors, exotically named Homo altruisticusHomo egualis, and Homo reciprocans.”

Bowles and Gintis join 18 other 2022 Citation Laureates from four countries. According to the Web of Science, the Laureate designation celebrates world-class researchers whose work is typically in the top 0.01% most-cited publications — demonstrating research influence comparable to Nobel Prize recipients.

See the full press release from the Web of Science.