Drew Fudenberg, Distinguished Fellow 2023


Drew FudenbergDrew Fudenberg is currently the Paul A. Samuelson Professor of Economics at MIT. He is one of the greatest game theorists of his generation, and his influential contributions spawn several areas of economic theory, including the theory of learning in games, repeated games, reputation effects, strategic firm behavior, and behavioral models of individual choice.

In work with Kreps and Levine, Fudenberg established the modern theory of learning in games. He introduced the concept of stochastic fictitious play, provided learning foundations for Nash equilibrium, and developed additional solution concepts, such as self-confirming equilibrium, to capture the behavior of interacting agents who learn from past experience. This pioneering and foundational work has revolutionized the way both theorists and practitioners think about equilibrium analysis, and it has served as a precursor to subsequent innovations, including the theory of mis-specified learning and learning foundations for equilibrium refinements, both topics on which Fudenberg has recently made important contributions.

Fudenberg has also made seminal contributions in the area of repeated games by establishing folk theorems when players discount the future (in his 1986 paper with Maskin) and with imperfect public monitoring (in his 1994 paper with Levine and Maskin). He has also made numerous contributions to the theory of reputations in repeated games, including his 1989 paper on reputation with a single long-run player and his 1992 paper on reputation effects when strategies are imperfectly observed.

While his main contributions develop deep theoretical and conceptual ideas that have had a long-lasting impact on economic theory, Fudenberg has also written influential applied theory papers. Some of these, such as his 1984 paper with Tirole arguing that firms may want to maintain a “lean and hungry look” to avoid the “fat-cat effect” have become classics in theoretical industrial organization.

More recently, Fudenberg has made contributions to topics in behavioral economics and decision theory, such as his 2006 dual-self model of self- control with Levine and a series of more recent papers studying stochastic choice.