Friday, June 3, 2016

Keith Murnighan (1948-2016)

Max Bazerman just sent an email saying that Keith Murnighan passed away this morning. He was in hospice care, after a long brave fight, chronicled on his blog keithkickscancer.

I last saw him a little over a month ago, on April 28. Here's a picture of the two of us, taken in a happier time at Northwestern in May 2010.

He was an exceptional person, an important scholar of human behavior in organizations, and an old friend.  For now it will be easiest to say some things about his scholarship.

Here's Keith's Google Scholar page.
Keith had a voracious curiosity, and studied many things. One of his papers I like best is
The Dynamics of Intense Work Groups: A Study of British String Quartets
J. Keith Murnighan and Donald E. Conlon
Administrative Science Quarterly Vol. 36, No. 2 (Jun., 1991), pp. 165-186

That paper was in a journal (ASQ) that decorated its cover with photos and other artwork. Keith was a passionate photographer (he earned an MFA in photography at the U of Illinois when we were on the faculty there), and I know that at least several ASQ covers featured Keith's photos.

Keith's scholarly impact has kept growing: here's a graph of his citations over time from the Thompson-Reuters Web of Science


I learned a lot from Keith. Here is a paragraph from the autobiography I was asked to write in connection with the Nobel Prize:

"My arrival at Illinois is memorable for two psychologists I met there in my first year. The first, in the first weeks after my arrival, was my colleague Keith Murnighan. We were both new assistant professors in 1974. He had just received his Ph.D. in social psychology from Purdue. One of our senior colleagues suggested we would enjoy talking to each other, and we did, so much so that we decided to do some experiments together, on the kinds of games I had studied in my dissertation. Experiments were newer to me than game theory was to him, but over the course of the next decade we taught each other how to do experiments that would say something useful about game theory. He and I remember our early interactions differently, but we both agree that our first papers took many drafts to converge. Eventually we wrote a dozen papers together, exploring various aspects of game theory including the game theoretic predictions made by theories such as Nash's (1950) "solution" to the problem of determining the outcome of two-person bargaining. (Game theory was young, and many things that today would be called models of behavior, or kinds of equilibrium, were optimistically called "solutions," following von Neumann and Morgenstern.) Keith and I, together with my graduate student Mike Malouf and our colleague Francoise Schoumaker, developed some experimental designs (such as binary lottery games, see Roth and Malouf, 1979, or probabilistically terminated repeated games, see Roth and Murnighan, 1978) that remain in use today. In 1978 I also took a semester leave at the Economics Department at Stanford, where I taught a course whose lecture notes became my first book, Axiomatic Models of Bargaining (Roth, 1978). Axiomatic theories of the kind initiated by Nash were beautiful, and I enjoyed pushing the theory forward, but their failure to account for the kinds of behavior we observed so clearly in experiments convinced me that these too were a dead end for economics.
Our own collaboration spanned thirty years:
  1. Murnighan, J.K. and Roth, A.E.  "The Effects of Communication and Information Availability in an Experimental Study of a Three Person Game," Management Science, Vol. 23, August, 1977, 1336-1348. 
  2. Roth, A.E. and Murnighan, J.K. "Equilibrium Behavior and Repeated Play of the Prisoners' Dilemma," Journal of Mathematical Psychology, Vol. 17, 1978, 189 198. 
  3. Murnighan, J.K. and Roth, A.E. "Large Group Bargaining in a Characteristic Function Game, Journal of Conflict Resolution, Vol. 22, 1978, 299 317. 
  4. Murnighan, J.K. and Roth, A.E. "The Effect of Group Size and Communication Availability on Coalition Bargaining in a Veto Game," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 39, 1980, 92 103. 
  5. Roth, A.E., Malouf, M., and Murnighan, J.K. "Sociological Versus Strategic Factors in Bargaining," Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, Vol. 2, 1981, 153 177. 
  6. Roth, A.E. and Murnighan, J.K. "The Role of Information in Bargaining: An Experimental Study," Econometrica, Vol. 50, 1982, 1123 1142. 
  7. Murnighan, J.K. and Roth, A.E. "Expecting Continued Play in Prisoner's Dilemma Games: A Test of Three Models." Journal of Conflict Resolution, Vol. 27, 1983, 279 300
  8. Roth, A.E. and Murnighan, J.K. "Information and Aspirations in Two Person Bargaining", Aspiration Levels in Bargaining and Economic Decision Making, R. Tietz, ed., Springer, 1983. 
  9. Murnighan, J.K., Roth, A.E., and Schoumaker, F.  "Risk Aversion and Bargaining: Some Preliminary Experimental Results,"  European Economic Review, 31, 1987, pp265-271.  
  10. Murnighan, J.K., Roth, A.E., and Schoumaker, F.  "Risk Aversion in Bargaining: An Experimental Study,"  Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Vol. 1, 1988, 101-124.
  11. Roth, A.E., Murnighan, J.K., and Schoumaker, F. "The Deadline Effect in Bargaining:  Some Experimental Evidence," American Economic Review, Vol. 78, 1988, 806-823.
  12. Murnighan, J.Keith, and Alvin E. Roth, “Some of the Ancient History of Experimental Economics and Social Psychology: Reminiscences and Analysis of a Fruitful Collaboration,” Social Psychology and Economics, D. De Cremer, M. Zeelenberg, and J.K. Murnighan, editors,  Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.: Mahwah, NJ.  2006, 321-333.
I'll miss him.

Update, June 6: here's the Northwestern U. obit:
Organizational behavior scholar J. Keith Murnighan dies at 67
"A memorial service will be held on Sunday, June 12 at 5 p.m. at Alice Millar Chapel, 1870 Sheridan Road in Evanston"


Timothy Greive said...

I had the joy to take Professor Murnighan's Bargaining Games class in 2003 at Kellogg. He was everything you wanted a professor to be, wise, hard-working, available, professional and fun. He was extremely generous with his time and gave amazing feedback. Rest in peace, Keith.

michael webster said...

Al, you write:

"Axiomatic theories of the kind initiated by Nash were beautiful, and I enjoyed pushing the theory forward, but their failure to account for the kinds of behavior we observed so clearly in experiments convinced me that these too were a dead end for economics."

I am going to take issue with this, using your own intellectual history as you wrote in "Who Gets What and Why"

1. In 1982, Pages 33-34, you describe how you started to use kidneys as examples to motivate the Shapley/Scarf thought experiment. (Instead of houses, which do trade for money.) A formal result motivated your search. A toy example, as you say.

2. And unlike most researchers who would have been happy to find a stylized example, you then actually looked hard into the problems from the user's, instead of only the academic, point of view. (Users being doctors, administrators, patients and the like.)

3. Jump ahead to 2006, and page 43, you and your authors publish a paper showing how to expand the scope of kidney exchanges by dropping the simultaneous-surgery requirement. Your suggestion runs contrary to established inference patterns in the community. However, your view prevails. And you guys make a huge difference.

Some dead end. (On Cores and Indivisibility is no less axiomatic than your text.)

What have I missed? Thanks.

Al Roth said...

I was speaking of Nash's axiomatic model of bargaining...lots of other parts of game theory are a great success...

Bryan Routledge said...

He was such a nice and scholarly fellow. I got to know him long ago at UBC; we played basketball twice a week. I learned a lot from him. And still do from his papers. Ironically, I stumbled across the sad news when tracking down one of his papers. Thanks for the post. May he rest in peace.