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Charles R. Plott

William D. Hacker Professor of Economics and Political Science
Charlie Plott headshot
Contact information for Charles R. Plott
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B.S., Oklahoma State University, 1961; M.S., 1964; Ph.D., University of Virginia, 1965; D.Lit.h.c., Purdue University; D.h.c., Universite Pierre Mendes. Professor of Economics, Caltech, 1971-87; Harkness Professor, 1987-2013; Hacker Professor, 2013-.

Research Interests

Mechanism Design; Voting Theory; Social Choice Theory; Experimental Economics and Political Science; Behavioral Foundations of Economics and Political Science; Laboratory Experimental Methods; Regulation; Deregulation and Institutional Design


Charles Plott is a pioneer in the field of experimental economics and political science. In the 1970s, he developed laboratory experimental methods for economics and political science and produced many of the basic experiments that set the stage for using laboratory methods to test and to better understand economic and political theories. The use of his methods has now exploded, and the laboratory that Plott founded at Caltech, the Laboratory for Experimental Economics and Political Science (EEPS), serves as a model for others around the world. By testing theories in a controlled laboratory setting in which real-life participants are motivated by real-world rewards like money, researchers can revise, hone, or discard theories that would otherwise be impossible to evaluate. His research has produced some of the most fundamental discoveries in economics and political science, including principles governing convergence and stability of multiple market systems and voting processes. In addition, he developed methods for applying laboratory tools to complex policy issues.

Most recently, Plott's research has focused on two areas. The first is the design of information aggregation mechanisms, which are related to the classical notions of rational expectations and are used for gathering useful information that's otherwise scattered among individuals in the form of intuitions and opinions. The second issue is the design and execution of experiments with complex systems that can operate successfully under conditions that often cause market processes  to fail, such as externalities, public goods, non-convexities, asymmetric information and complex coordination. Such research includes methods for testing systems when operating at large scale. He was the first to conduct experiments in which people from around the globe participate in a single market.

Plott was on the faculty at Purdue University from 1965 to 1970 and has held visiting appointments at the University of Chicago in 1980, the University of Southern California Law Center in 1976, and Stanford University from 1968 to 1969. He has been the director of Caltech's Laboratory for Experimental Economics and Political Science since 1987. Among his numerous awards and honors are membership in the National Academy of Sciences (2007) and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1985) and honorary degrees from L'Université Pierre-Mendès-France (1996) and Purdue University (1995). He is a Distinguished Fellow of the American Economic Association (2008), a fellow of the Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (2011), and a fellow of the Econometric Society (1985). He was a Guggenheim Fellow in 1981–1982 and a Fulbright Scholar in 2006. He was inducted into the College of Business Administration Hall of Fame at Oklahoma State University in 1988. He has served as president of the Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory, the Economic Science Association, the Southern Economic Association, the Public Choice Society, and the Western Economic Association.

Selected Awards

  • L'université Pierre Mendès France diplôme Docteur honoris causa, 1996
  • Purdue University Doctor of Letters honoris causa, 1995
  • University of Melbourne Doctor of Commerce, honoris causa, 2018
  • National Academy of Sciences, 2007
  • American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1985
  • American Economic Association, Distinguished Fellow, 2008
  • The Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory, Fellow, 2011
  • Econometric Society Fellow, 1985
  • Honorary Professor of Zhejiang University, 2014
  • College of Business Administration Hall of Fame, Oklahoma State University, 1988
  • Guggenheim Fellow, 1981-1982
  • Fulbright Scholar, 2006
  • Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences Fellow, 1981-1982
  • Georgescu-Roegen Prize, Southern Economic Association, 1995
  • National Science Foundation Principal Investigator, 1972-present
  • Ford Foundation Faculty Research Fellow, 1968
  • Hooker Distinguished Professor, McMaster University, 1983
  • Institute for Policy Reform: Senior Research Fellow, 1992-1993
  • Journal of Finance Markets Award, 1994
  • Journal of Financial Markets 2003 Best Paper Award
  • GSAM Quant Best Paper Prize, Review of Finance, 2004
  • Economic Inquiry 2006 Best Article Award
  • GAIM Research Paper of the Year 2006 Award

Professional Societies

American Economic Association; Royal Economic Society; Econometric Society; American Political Science Association; Centre for Market Design Board, Victoria, Board Member; Public Choice Society, President 1976-1978; Southern Economic Association, Executive Committee 1977-1978, vice president 1985-1987, president 1989- 90; The Mont Pelerin Society; Economic Science Association, president 1987-1988; Western Economic Association International, president 1998/9; Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory, President June 2009-2010.

Selected Publications

Click here for a complete list of Professor Plott's publications.