Amnon Rapoport (1936-2022)
It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our teacher, mentor, colleague, co-author and friend, Professor Amnon Rapoport, in Tucson Arizona on December 6, 2022. Professor Rapoport served on the faculty of the UCR School of Business, University of Arizona; UNC Chapel Hill; University of Haifa, Israel; and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology and philosophy from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, then went on to earn his M.A. and Ph.D. in quantitative psychology at UNC Chapel Hill.
Professor Rapoport was one of the pioneers and leaders in the experimental study and quantitative modeling of human decisions in social and interactive contexts. During his distinguished career, he published four books (and edited others) and more than 300 research papers and chapters in leading psychological, management, operation, marketing, decision theory, economics, and political science journals, and is recognized as a leading authority in many of these areas. His most important and influential work was on experimental studies of interactive decision-making behavior. This includes theoretical and empirical research on:
- Coalition formation
- Social dilemmas
- Behavioral operations management
- Behavioral game theory
- Dynamic pricing
- Behavior in directed networks
Professor Rapoport’s work was theory-driven, and, in most cases, the theory was represented formally by mathematical (primarily, but not exclusively, game theoretical) models. At the same time, he was a meticulous and rigorous, yet imaginative and creative experimentalist. In fact, he was one of the pioneers of computerized experimentation in the domain of individual and group decision making.
With a career spanning over 60 years, Professor Rapoport nurtured and supported the careers of generations of scholars and researchers. He will be greatly missed by his family, friends, colleagues, co-authors, and students.
In Memory of Jasmina Arifovic
by Curtis Eaton, Luba Petersen, and Nicolas Schmitt
A distinctive approach to understanding markets and the macro economy characterize all of Jasmina's research. Peoples' economic behavior is driven by their expectations concerning the future evolution of the economy, and in consequence the evolution of the economy is driven by those expectations. That is, the economy and peoples' expectations about it coevolve. The dominant approach in modeling the macro economy has ignored coevolution by imposing the condition that expectations are fulfilled, the rational expectations approach. From the very beginning of her research career Jasmina's work was driven by the conviction that coevolution itself was potentially a source of important economic phenomena, and that to understand them we needed to incorporate realistic modeling of the process by which expectations are formed in our economic models. To study the coevolution of beliefs and market outcomes she has needed to resort to computer simulation. As a result she has come to be one of the most prominent practitioners of the field of computational economics. To validate her models of learning she conducted experiments in which learning dynamics can be observed under more tightly controlled conditions. Both computational and experimental economics are relatively new, but they have grown in influence over recent decades. Jasmina was a pioneer in opening these fruitful new approaches, and a major contributor to their development.
Jasmina’s journey from Sarajevo to Simon Fraser University reveals much about her character. She was a star student in her undergraduate days at the University of Sarajevo. In her final examination she was awarded a mark of 11, on a 1 to 10 scale! We know this not from Jasmina, but from her husband Momo Deretic. And he learned about it, not from Jasmina, but years after the fact from the head examiner.
This speaks to one of Jasmina's remarkable characteristics, modesty. Despite her many accomplishments and honours there is not a bit of arrogance in her character. Quiet, deep confidence in her judgements and abilities, definitely, but not a hint of arrogance.
Despite her base in Sarajevo far from the center of power and influence in Yugoslavia, she won the Fulbright Fellowship to do graduate work in the United States. She was at the time quite interested in the rational expectations approach to macroeconomics. That naturally led her to the University of Chicago. There she first met Momo, an executive in a prominent Yugoslav corporation based in Chicago. Their romance was begun in the form an energetic argument over rational expectations -- ironically, given her subsequent path, Jasmina argued in favor of rational expectations, and Momo against. At some point in her time at Chicago, Jasmina decided that she wanted to follow a different path, to study the coevolution of expectations and markets.
This decision speaks to another of Jasmina's remarkable characteristics: independence, a determination to forge her own path.
Robert Lucas, one of her referees in the early 1990s writes that the University of Chicago was not at all a center of expertise on the learning processes and genetic algorithms that were essential to Jasmina's program, forcing Jasmina to do `her initial work almost without guidance'. Upon learning that other economists were working on similar issues, she arranged to write part of her dissertation as a fellow of the Santa Fe Institute and finished her work at the Hoover Institution at Stanford, `where a group headed by Tom Sargent was interested in the same class of problems'.
This speaks to another of her remarkable characteristics: resourcefulness, the willingness and indeed determination to seek out the people and ideas necessary to develop her approach.
When it came time to find a job, because she was a Fulbright Scholar the US market was not open to her. So she looked north to Canada. John McCallum was instrumental in attracting her to McGill. Subsequently, her work on modeling learning in the cobweb model to study coevolution in that framework came to the attention of people at SFU. They thought they saw a brilliant young economist pioneering a novel approach to the study of markets, and luckily for SFU they managed to hire her.
In the past two and half decades, Jasmina has published nearly 50 articles all of which contribute in some fashion to the research program she first developed in her graduate work. Some of the more prominent contributions are hers alone, others are joint work. She is perhaps best known for using the "genetic algorithm" (GA) as a model of learning in economic settings. Her 1996 JPE paper in which she uses GA learning in a model of exchange rate determination is particularly impressive. She shows how GA learning alters the predictions of an otherwise standard model. She discusses how the predictions of her model illuminate actual exchange rate behavior. She validates her model in laboratory experiments. In addition to her methodological/conceptual contributions to the understanding of markets, her work has contributed to a better understanding of macro and monetary policy. A good example is her 2013 EJ paper, coauthored with J. Bullard and O. Kostyshyna, on "Social Learning and Monetary Policy Rules".
In recent years her contributions have garnered a number of important honours. She was President of the Society for Computational Economics. She became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 2021. She currently holds the distinguished Bank of Canada Fellowship. Despite this recognition, there is a feeling, well expressed in Arthur Robson's comment on this website, that "she was just beginning to find top gear in her research". In this and so many others ways, her death is a tragic loss.
Her dedication to her research program and determination to acquire the skills and make the contacts needed to advance it jumps from the pages of her CV. Over the years she held visiting positions in the US, France, China, Spain, Germany, Singapore, the Netherlands, the UK, and Italy. She has co-authored work with more than 30 economists from Canada and the countries listed above. She actively taught summer school programs throughout Europe and North America in experimental macroeconomics and computational economics. Her work was supported by numerous grants from SSHRC and the National Science Foundation. She was heavily engaged in graduate supervision. Those with neighboring offices will remember her endless stream of appointments with graduate students and research assistants, and her running back and forth to the lab for experiments. Jasmina supervised over a dozen PhD students at SFU and was an external member of dissertation committees of students around the world, many of whom went on to research careers at leading academic institutions and central banks.
Jasmina was an ardent advocate for women in economics and played an integral role in the Society for Computational Economics' initiatives to further the careers of academic women. She was an inspiration to many young academic women in the field, with her trailblazing early work in agent-based macroeconomics in the 1990s propelling the research agendas of later generations. Jasmina's research was a `brave departure from mainstream macroeconomics and had a lasting impact on people around her. Her determination in promoting more contrarian views resulted in numerous recognitions. Jasmina became the first woman to preside over the Society for Computational Economics.
In preparation for writing this memorial piece, we talked to a number of former SFU graduate students. One impression stands out. Ken Carlaw conveys this well: "Everyone I have been in contact with is in shock and grief over the news. It would seem that most everyone was as fond of her as I was. I always found that she treated everyone, but, perhaps most particularly graduate students, with kindness, decency and respect that is not always found in those relationships. I am grateful to have known her. "
That can be said of the entire SFU community. We are grateful to have known Jasmina. Over the days we have been thinking about her and preparing to write this piece, a line from a Joni Mitchell song keeps running through our head. It is not perfectly apt, because she is singing about an environmental not a personal tragedy. "Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you got 'til it's gone". Many of us are, right now, in the process of figuring out just how big our loss is.