In this episode, we talk with Marta Serra-Garcia Marta Serra-Garcia about her American Economic Review paper “Enabling or Limiting Cognitive Flexibility? Evidence of Demand for Moral Commitment,” co-authored with Silvia Saccardo. This paper investigates the nature and flexibility of self-serving beliefs in decision environments where morals and personal incentives are in conflict. Through laboratory experiments, the authors distinguish participants who are willing to curb opportunities for self-serving beliefs, favouring moral behaviour, from those who seek the cognitive flexibility to entertain beliefs that can justify their selfish decisions.
In this episode, we talk with Johannes Haushofer about his paper “The Comparative Impact of Cash Transfers and a Psychotherapy Program on Psychological and Economic Well-being” co-authored with Robert Mudida and Jeremy Shapiro. This paper explores the possible interactive or synergetic effects between cash transfers and a psychotherapy intervention in Kenya. We discuss the surprising results of this study, some of the biggest challenges and ethical considerations such as the collection of sensitive data and randomisation of cash transfers itself.
- GiveDirectly (2018): “Our take on HS18, revisited”. Retrieved from https://www.givedirectly.org/our-take-on-hs18-revisited/
- Haushofer J. and Shapiro J. (2016): “The Short-Term Impact of Unconditional Cash Transfers to the Poor: Experimental Evidence from Kenya”. Quarterly Journal of Economics. 2016 Nov. 131(4):1973-2042.
- Haushofer J. (2016): “CV of failures”. https://haushofer.ne.su.se/
In this episode, we talk with Ben Golub about his paper “Signaling, Shame, and Silence in Social Learning” co-authored with Arun Chandrasekhar and He Yang. This paper studies how signaling and shame-related concerns can reduce social learning. Throughout the conversation, Ben also shares helpful pieces of advice for young researchers ranging from working on multiple projects to writing better.
The following references were mentioned during the conversation:
- Goffman, E. (1963): Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall.
- Jackson, M. O., and A. Wolinsky (1996): “A strategic model of social and economic networks,” Journal of Economic Theory, 71(1), 44 – 74.
- Banerjee, A., E. Breza, A. G. Chandrasekhar, and B. Golub (2018): “When Less is More: Experimental Evidence on Information Delivery during India’s Demonetization,” NBER Working Paper No. 24679.
In this episode, we talk with Shengwu Li about his paper “Obviously Strategy-Proof Mechanisms”. In this paper, Shengwu introduces the notion of an “obviously dominant strategy,” which describes a strategy that is not only dominant but can also be recognised as weakly dominant by an agent with cognitive limitations.
In this episode, we talk with Peter Schwardmann and Egon Tripodi about their paper “Self-Persuasion: Evidence from Field Experiments at International Debating Competitions”. In this paper co-authored with Joël van der Weele, Peter and Egon study if people are more likely to believe in the veracity of a claim if it is convenient for them to do so.
In this episode, we talk to Pietro Biroli from the University of Bologna about his paper “Moral Hazard Heterogeneity: Genes and Health Insurance Influence Smoking after a Health Shock”. In this paper, Pietro and his co-author Laura Zwyssig show that individual behaviour is influenced not only by environmental constraints but also by genetic makeup, which carries implications for the fairness and effectiveness of health policies.
In this episode, we talk to Katy Milkman from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania about some of the research that led to the production of her recent book, How to Change. Throughout this conversation, Katy shares with us what she has learned from her many years of experience as a behavioural science researcher and where she might go next to tackle the challenge that preoccupies her the most: changing behaviour for good.
During this conversation, the following references were mentioned:
Dai, H., K.L. Milkman, J. Riis (2014): “The Fresh Start Effect: Temporal Landmarks Motivate Aspirational Behavior“, Management Science. 60(10): 2563–2582.
- Work of Hash Hershfield on considering the future self.
- Beshears, J., H.N. Lee, K.L. Milkman, R. Mislavsky (2020): Creating Exercise Habits: The Tradeoff between Flexibility and Routinization, Management Science, Vol. 67(7): 4139-4171.
- Beshears, J., J.J. Choi, D. Laibson, B.C. Madrian, and K.L. Milkman (2015): The Effect of Providing Peer Information on Retirement Savings Decisions, Journal of Finance. 70(3): 1161-1201.
- Milkman, K.L., D. Gromet, H. Ho, et al. (2021): Megastudies Improve the Impact of Applied Behavioural Science, Nature.
- Milkman, K.L., et al (2021): “A Megastudy of Text-Based Nudges Encouraging Patients to Get Vaccinated at an Upcoming Doctor’s Appointment” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol. 118 (20).
In this episode, we talk to Daniel Gottlieb from the London School of Economics and Political Science about his paper “Lapse-Based Insurance”. In this paper, Daniel studies why customers lapse on their life insurance payments and how this is related to insurance pricing by combining a theoretical model with a survey data.
In this episode, we talk to Itzhak Gilboa, professor of Economics at the HEC Paris and Tel-Aviv University, and holder of the AXA Chair in Decision Sciences. We will talk about the contrast “expected vs. actual success” of two of his papers. “Case-Based Decision Theory” was expected to be very successful but turned out not to be. The second paper, “Maxmin Expected Utility with Non-Unique Prior” was not expected to be a big deal, but is now listed as the most cited and the most relevant paper in the Journal of Mathematical Economics. Tune in for a discussion centered around the development of the ideas, the publication process, and to learn about axiomatic decision theory.
In this episode, we talk to Aurélien Baillon from Erasmus University Rotterdam about his papers “Bayesian Markets to Elicit Private Information” and “Simple Bets to Elicit Private Signals”. In this work, Aurélien studies how we can elicit private information about questions for which we cannot verify if the subject responds truthfully, such as her subjective belief about whether she liked a product.
In this episode, we have a power couple joining us. We talk with Aislinn Bohren from the University of Pennsylvania and Alex Imas from the Chicago Booth School of Business about their joint paper “The Dynamics of Discrimination: Theory and Evidence”, co-authored with Michael Rosenberg. They conduct a natural field experiment to identify the dynamics of discrimination and its underlying source. The authors post content on a large online platform and exogenously vary the gender and evaluation histories of the associated accounts. When no evaluation history is available, questions posted to female accounts earn less reputation than questions posted to male accounts. However, the direction of discrimination reverses as more reputation is built. When content is posted to advanced accounts, women’s posts are favoured over men’s. Tune in for a discussion centered around the idea, the design, and the logistical implementation of the paper that has won the 2020 Exeter prize.
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.