Has Homo economicus Evolved into Homo sapiens from 1992 to 2014: What Does Corpus Linguistics Say?

  • Yawen ZouEmail author
  • Shu-Heng Chen
Part of the Computational Social Sciences book series (CSS)


Thaler (Journal of Economic Perspectives 14:133–141, 2000) predicted that the paradigm of Homo economicus, which basically formulates the rationality of economic behavior in an ideal mathematical optimization framework and had dominated orthodox economics for a substantial period of the entire twentieth century, would “evolve” into the paradigm of Homo sapiens, which emphasizes the consideration of the psychological, cultural, and social factors that constrain a human’s rationality. We applied a corpus linguistic approach to examine whether this prediction is true. To this end, we built a corpus using the abstracts of 51,285 economics research articles published from 1992 to 2014 in 42 mainstream economics journals. By analyzing the upward-trending and downward-trending words in this corpus, we found the Homo sapiens paradigm to have expanded significantly, while there was no clear evidence of the concession of the Homo economicus paradigm. From the analysis of increasingly used words related to Homo sapiens we can further attribute the expansion of the Homo sapiens paradigm to the research attention increasingly drawn to the interdisciplinary integration of the social sciences, human heterogeneity and (cognitive) constraints, and the complexity of economic behaviors. Likewise, from the analysis of words related to Homo economicus that are less and less used, we found that the research attention directed to the concept of equilibrium was gradually drawn away. Our main finding based on the corpus linguistic analysis was further supported and consolidated by the co-word network analysis.


Homo economicus Homo sapiens Richard Thaler Corpus linguistics Digital humanities Econometrics Co-word network analysis 



The second author is grateful for the research support in the form of Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) Grants, MOST 106-2410-H-004-006-MY2.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Biology and SocietyArizona State UniversityTempeUSA
  2. 2.The Chinese University of Hong KongShenzhenChina
  3. 3.AI-ECON Research Center, Department of EconomicsNational Chengchi UniversityTaipeiTaiwan

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