In the 1970s Smith published two papers on “Experimental Economics” and “Microeconomic Systems as an Experimental Science” that provided the formal groundwork for using controlled laboratory experiments to study economic decision making. For this work, Smith shared the 2002 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences with psychologist Danny Kahneman for pioneering contributions to the development of experimental techniques to study microeconomic systems, market principles and economic outcomes in laboratory settings. He has credited his success, in part, to having Asperger syndrome, which allows him to concentrate deeply, think “outside the box,” resist social pressures and look at economic problems in different ways.
Smith has held numerous editorial positions and served in many private and public advisory and consultancy roles on privatization and deregulation. He has held a number of faculty appointments and has been a Ford Foundation Fellow, a Fellow of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences and a Distinguished Scholar at the California Institute of Technology. He is a Fellow of the Economic Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the National Academy of Sciences.
Smith grew up in Wichita and earned a master’s degree in economics from KU in 1954 before completing a doctorate in economics at Harvard. He has received the CLAS Alumni Distinguished Achievement Award.