In this episode, which forms part of a series on ethics in behavioural science research, we talk with Sandro Ambuehl from the University of Zürich about his paper “An Offer You Can’t Refuse? Incentives Change How We Inform Ourselves and What We Believe”. To investigate how economic incentives may skew information gathering and beliefs about what a transaction entails, thus affecting the quality of decisions taken by subjects, he presents a model of costly information acquisition in conjunction with behavioural experiments, one of which includes the ingestion of insects in exchange for money. Tune in for a discussion centred around the project’s design, its ethical and logistical considerations, and on the ethics of incentivising subjects in economic experiments more generally.
In this episode, we talk to Florian Zimmermann, from the briq Institute on Behavior and Inequality and the University of Bonn about his paper “Associative Memory and Belief Formation,” co-authored with Benjamin Enke and Frederik Schwerter. The paper experimentally investigates the idea that people are more likely to recollect items that are cued by current context. This is because (i) people do not constantly have access to their beliefs so they may need to reconstruct prior information from memory; (ii) similar real-world news are often embedded in similar memorable contexts. The paper finds a predictable and quantitatively meaningful role of associative memory in the formation of beliefs. Tune in for a discussion of the project’s origins, experience preparing an ERC starting grant application, and a typical working day.
In this episode, we talk with Robert Metcalfe from Boston University about his paper “Measuring the Welfare Effects of Shame and Pride,” which he co-authored with Luigi Butera, William Morrison and Dmitry Taubinsky. To investigate how public recognition can be employed as a vehicle for motivating desirable behaviour, they develop a portable money-metric method to measure the direct welfare effects of shame and pride, which they then deploy in a series of experiments centred around exercise and charitable giving behaviour. Tune in for a discussion of the project’s inception, its design considerations and execution, including its evolvement in light of the global pandemic.
In this episode, we are joined by Ariel Rubinstein from NYU and Tel Aviv University, to discuss his paper “Equilibrium in the Jungle,” which appeared in The Economic Journal in 2007. Co-authored with Michele Piccione, the paper constructs a system that is analogous to the conventional ‘exchange economy’ of micro theory, except that the forces governing allocations are those of power and coercion, rather than prices. Tune in for a discussion of the state of modern economic theory, the interplay between research and policy change and whether cafés provide a superior arena for innovative thought, when compared to conventional office spaces.
If you want to learn more about the economics of the jungle, you can download Economic Fables from Ariel’s webpage here (as well as other textbooks).
In this episode, we are joined by Michel Maréchal from the University of Zurich to discuss his 2019 Science paper “Civic Honesty Around the Globe” co-authored with Alain Cohn, David Tannenbaum and Christian Lukas Zünd. More than seventeen thousand wallets were handed in to reception staff at various institutions in major cities across 40 countries, whereby civic honesty was elicited by the rate at which these employees attempted to contact the owner. Neither the economists nor the non-economists were able to predict what happened next. The presumed relationship between honesty and self-interest is pitted against evidence of altruistic tendencies and individuals’ self-image concerns. Tune in for a discussion of the project’s origins, logistics, design choices, publication and media controversy.
In this episode, we talk to Dmitry Taubinsky from the University of California Berkeley about his paper “Regressive Sin Taxes, with an Application to the Optimal Soda Tax,” which he co-authored with Hunt Allcott and Benjamin B. Lockwood. This paper develops a theoretical model of an optimal “sin tax” i.e., a tax on goods that are considered harmful to consume. The theoretical framework is then applied to estimate the optimal soda tax.
In this episode, we talk to Johannes Abeler from the University of Oxford and Daniele Nosenzo from Aarhus University (formerly, the University of Nottingham) about their paper “Preferences for Truth-telling,” which they co-authored with Collin Raymond. The authors first conduct a meta-analysis with data amalgamated from more than 90 studies across 47 countries and 44,000 participants. They then test the set of existing theories that seek to rationalise truth-telling behaviours by iteratively eliminating models that cannot explain the stylised facts yielded by their meta-analysis. The surviving set of models is further refined by their own experimental evidence. The authors have provided transparent and intuitive data visualisations of their main meta-analysis findings on the accompanying website.
In this episode, we speak with Sally Sadoff from the Rady School of Management, UC San Diego, and Andy Brownback from the University of Arkansas, about their field work with community colleges. They discuss two recent papers they coauthored on the topic. The first paper, entitled “Improving College Instruction through Incentives,” investigates the effect of offering performance-based incentives to community college instructors on students’ achievement. The second paper studies the educational benefits of enrolling in college summer schools and whether students correctly perceive the potential returns.
In this episode, we talk with Horacio Larreguy from the Harvard Kennedy School about his paper “Who Debates, Wins? At-Scale Experimental Evidence on Debate Participation in a Liberian Election,” which he co-authored with Jeremy Bowles. They conduct a field experiment in Liberia to understand how the participation of legislative candidates in nationwide debate initiatives affects their electoral outcomes.
In this episode, we talk with Anya Samek from the University of Southern California about her paper “Dynamic Inconsistency in Food Choice: Experimental Evidence from Two Food Deserts,” which she co-authored with Sally Sadoff and Charlie Sprenger. In the context of two home grocery delivery programs, this paper provides evidence of (i) dynamic inconsistency between immediate and advance choices of food and (ii) a surprising negative link between dynamic inconsistency and commitment demand to advance choices.
During this conversation, Anya also refers to two papers on the topic of field experiments:
- “Field experiments on food choice in grocery stores: A ‘how-to’ guide,” co-authored with Kathryn A. Carroll
- “Advantages and disadvantages of field experiments,” in Handbook of Research Methods and Applications in Experimental Economics, ed. by A. Schram and A. Ule
In this episode, we talk with Noam Yuchtman from the London School of Economics about his paper “Medieval Universities, Legal Institutions, and the Commercial Revolution,” which he published in 2014 with Davide Cantoni. Using data from medieval Germany, this paper examines the causal link between the emergence of universities, including the legal training they provided, and Europe’s Commercial Revolution.
In this episode, we talk with Ned Augenblick from the University of Berkeley Haas School of Business about his paper with Matthew Rabin entitled “Belief Movement, Uncertainty Reduction, & Rational Updating”. This paper analyzes the relationship between (i) the movement in the beliefs of a Bayesian updater when new information arrives, and (ii) the associated reduction in his uncertainty. This relationship is used to develop statistical tests of rational updating that are then applied to datasets of beliefs.
In this episode, we talk with Roberto Weber from the University of Zurich about his paper “Identifying social norms using coordination games: why does dictator game sharing vary?,” which he published in 2013 with Erin Krupka. In this paper, Roberto and Erin introduce a new procedure for eliciting social norms, which they use to understand giving behaviour in one of the most studied experimental games, the dictator game.
In this episode, we talk with Bertil Tungodden from the Norwegian School of Economics about his project entitled “Fairness across the world” in which he and his collaborators elicited the fairness preferences of 65,000 individuals from 60 different countries. As of the recording of this episode, no paper from the project is available yet. However, the results of a pilot study comparing just Norway and the US were published as a separate paper: Cutthroat Capitalism versus Cuddly Socialism: Are Americans More Meritocratic and Efficiency-Seeking than Scandinavians?
In this episode, we talk with Leonardo Bursztyn from the University of Chicago about his paper “Misperceived Social Norms: Female Labor Force Participation in Saudi Arabia,” which he co-authored with Alessandra L. Gonzalez and David Yanagizawa-Drott. In this paper, the authors examine whether one driver of low female labour force participation in Saudi Arabia is that male guardians incorrectly believe that other men disapprove of female labour force participation.
In this episode, we talk with Heather Schofield from the University of Pennsylvania about her paper “Sleepless in Chennai: The Economic and Health Effects of Reducing Sleep Deprivation Among the Urban Poor”. In this paper, Heather and her co-authors Pedro Bessone, Gautam Rao, Frank Schilbach and Mattie Toma examine the impact of interventions that aim to improve sleep quality on the productivity of low income workers from Chennai, India.
In this episode, we talk with Noam Yuchtman from the London School of Economics about his paper “Protests as strategic games: experimental evidence from Hong Kong’s antiauthoritarian movement”. In this paper, Noam and his co-authors Davide Cantoni, David Y Yang and Y Jane Zhang examine how protesters in Hong Kong respond to information about the participation of other protesters.