Research

Publications

"Interaction of reasoning ability and distributional preferences in a social dilemma" (with Alexander Vostroknutov). Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization. 2017.

In a within subjects design we evaluate distributional preferences and reasoning ability to explain choices in the Traveler's Dilemma. We recruit subjects from economics and non-economics majors to have a high variance of preferences and abilities. We find that economists follow the efficiency criterion while non-economists follow maximin. Economists also show a better reasoning ability. We, therefore, confirm the self-selection hypothesis of choosing a major. An equilibrium of an incomplete information version of the Traveler's Dilemma explains the behavior we observe. Subjects with low reasoning ability make choices away from equilibrium. Thus, (non)cooperative behavior might be misinterpreted if subjects’ reasoning ability is not taken into account. 

"Introducing IOS11 as an extended interactive version of the ‘Inclusion of Other in the Self’ scale to estimate relationship closeness" (with Chris Starmer, Fabio Tufano & Simon Gächter). Scientific Reports. 2024. Conditionally accepted.

The study of relationship closeness has a long history in psychology and is currently expanding across the social sciences, including economics. Estimating relationship closeness requires appropriate tools. Here, we introduce and test a tool for estimating relationship closeness: 'IOS11'. The IOS11 scale has an 11-point response scale, is a refinement of the widely used Inclusion-of-Other-in-the-Self scale. Our tool has three key features. First, the IOS11 scale is easy to understand and administer. Second, we provide a portable, interactive interface for the IOS11 scale, which can be used in lab and online studies. Third, and crucially, based on within-participant correlations of 751 individuals, we demonstrate strong validity of the IOS11 scale in terms of representing features of relationships captured by a range of more complex survey instruments. Based on these correlations we find that the IOS11 scale outperforms the IOS scale and performs as well as the related Oneness scale.

Working Papers

"Social Preferences and the Variability of Conditional Cooperation" (with Simon Gächter, Kyeongtae Lee & Martin Sefton)
Revise and Resubmit at Economic Theory

We experimentally examine how the incentive to defect in a social dilemma affects conditional cooperation. In our first study we conduct online experiments in which subjects play eight Sequential Prisoner’s Dilemma games with payoffs systematically varied across games. We find that few second movers are conditionally cooperative (i.e., cooperate if and only if the first mover cooperates) in all eight games. Instead, most second-movers change strategies between games. The rate of conditional cooperation is higher when the own gain from defecting is lower and when the loss imposed on the first mover from defecting is higher. This pattern is consistent with both social preference models and stochastic choice models. To explore which model explains our findings we employ a second study to jointly estimate noise and social preference parameters at the individual level. The majority of our subjects place significantly positive weight on others’ payoffs, supporting the underlying role of social preferences in conditional cooperation. 

Work in Progress

Testing a Condensed Methodology to Estimate Distributional Preferences (with Simon Gächter, Chris Starmer & Fabio Tufano)

Working paper in preparation [Draft available upon request]

In this paper, we introduce Flexi-DPE – Flexible Distributional Preference Elicitation – as a time- and budget-saving tool to estimate distributional preference parameters with as few as five decisions. We build on a method by Fisman et al. (2007), which uses 50 modified dictator games to estimate other-regarding concerns and preferences for efficiency. We show with simulations and experiments that preference parameters can be elicited accurately from 20 or even only 5 allocation decisions. Preferences elicited with Flexi-DPE are robust with and without incentives, stable over time, and predict charitable giving.

To Hide or Not to Hide: How Fear and Futility Affect the Decision to Report a Mistake (with Sarah Bowen, Anna Hochleitner & Richard Mills)

Working paper in preparation [Draft available upon request]
Even though reporting mistakes within organisations could substantially improve the productivity of firms, in practice employees often hesitate to do so. An intuitive explanation for this behaviour is that reporting a mistake represents a noisy signal of a worker’s ability and the work environment they interact with. In this paper, we develop a principal-agent model and use a pre-registered experiment (N=894) to study the role of fear (of being fired) and futility (of reports being inconsequential) for an agent's reporting decision. We design four treatments that exogenously reduce fear or futility to test how these affect mistake reporting. We find that while reducing fear or futility alone only leads to marginal improvements, combining both dimensions significantly increases reporting of mistakes by about 20%.

Promoting Integrity in Business: The Role of Contemplation Questions (with Baiba Renerte, Carmen Tanner, Alexander Wagner & Nicole Witt)

Working paper in preparation

Investigating Associative Thinking: A Network Exploration Task (with Urs Fischbacher, Chris Starmer & Fabio Tufano)

Working paper in preparation

Altruism in Networks: A Field Experiment on Social Closeness, Preferences and Transfers (with Simon Gächter, Chris Starmer & Fabio Tufano)

Data analysis on-going