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Portrait image for M. Keith Chen

M. Keith Chen

Bing (’86) and Alice Liu Yang Endowed Term Chair in Management and Innovation; Professor of Behavioral Economics and Strategy
“In my research I try to find basic, simpler, and more general drivers of human behavior when prevailing explanations are unnecessarily complex.”
Entrepreneurs Hall C-513
Areas of Expertise:
  • Behavioral Decision Theory
  • Behavioral Economics
  • Competitive Strategy
  • Game Theory
  • Industrial Organization
  • Intertemporal Choice


Keith Chen is a professor of economics with tenure at the UCLA Anderson School of Management. His research blurs traditional disciplinary boundaries in both subject and methodology, bringing unorthodox tools to bear on problems at the intersection of economics, psychology and biology.

In early work examining the evolutionary origins of economic behavior, he has shown that when monkeys are taught to use money, they display many of the hallmark biases of human economic behavior, suggesting that some of our most fundamental biases are evolutionarily ancient. Chen's most recent work focuses on how people's economic choices are influenced by the structure of their language. His work has shown that how a person's language encodes future events influences future-oriented behaviors as diverse as saving, smoking and safe sex.

Chen also consults and advises numerous companies on topics at the intersection of behavioral economics, business strategy and dynamic pricing. Most recently he was the head of economic research for  Uber, where, among other projects, he redesigned Uber's dynamic "surge" pricing model.

At Anderson, Chen teaches the MSBA core course in competitive analytics and Ph.D. behavioral economics.


Ph.D. Economics, 2003, Harvard University
B.S. Mathematics, 1998, Stanford University

Grants and Awards

2013: Science, Editors' Choice for "The Effect of Language on Economic Behavior"

2011: Yale SOM Alumni Association, Annual Teaching Award

2008: Roger F. Murray Prize, The Institute for Quantitative Research in Finance

2008: American Law and Economics Review, Distinguished Article Prize

2006–2011: National Science Foundation Research Grant

Select Published Papers

The Effect of Language on Economic Behavior: Evidence from Savings Rates, Health Behaviors, and Retirement Assets, American Economic Review, April 2013

The Evolution of Decision-Making Under Risk: Framing Effects in Monkey Risk Preferences , Joint with Venkat Lakshminarayanan & Laurie Santos, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, May 2011

How Choice Affects and Reflects Preferences: Revisiting the Free-Choice Paradigm, Joint with Jane Risen, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, October 2010

The Endowment Effect in Capuchin Monkeys, Joint with Venkat Lakshminarayanan & Laurie Santos, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences, December 2008

Do Harsher Prison Conditions Reduce Recidivism? A Discontinuity-Based Approach, Joint with Jesse Shapiro, American Law and Economic Review, June 2007

How Basic are Behavioral Biases? Evidence from Capuchin-Monkey Trading Behavior, Joint with Venkat Lakshminarayanan & Laurie Santos, Journal of Political Economy, June 2006

Give Unto Others: Genetically Unrelated Cotton-Top Tamarin Monkeys Preferentially Give Food to Those Who Altruistically Give Food Back, Joint with Marc Hauser, Frances Chen & Emmeline Chuang, Proceedings of the Royal Society, Nov 2003


Could your language affect your ability to save money?

What can economists learn from linguists? Behavioral economist Keith Chen introduces a fascinating pattern from his research: that languages without a concept for the future — "It rain tomorrow," instead of "It will rain tomorrow" — correlate strongly with high savings rates.


Hidden Brain: This Is Your Brain on Uber
TED Radio Hour: The Money Paradox