nep-cbe New Economics Papers
on Cognitive and Behavioural Economics
Issue of 2019‒09‒09
seven papers chosen by
Marco Novarese
Università degli Studi del Piemonte Orientale

  1. Distributional Preferences Explain Individual Behavior Across Games and Time By Morten Hedegaard; Rudolf Kerschbamer; Daniel Müler; Jean-Robert Tyran
  2. Economic Polarization and Antisocial Behavior: An Experiment By Bigoni, Maria; Bortolotti, Stefania; Nas Özen, Efşan
  3. Tax or Green Nudge? An Experimental Analysis of Pesticide Policies in Germany By Buchholz, Matthias; Mußhoff, Oliver; Peth, Denise
  4. The Asymmetry of Population Ethics: Experimental Social Choice and Dual-Process Moral Reasoning By Spears, Dean
  5. Taking shortcuts: Cognitive conflict during motivated rule-breaking By Pfister, Roland; Wirth, Robert; Weller, Lisa; Foerster, Anna; Schwarz, Katharina
  6. Toward an Understanding of the Welfare Effects of Nudges: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Uganda By Erwin Bulte; John List; Daan van Soest
  7. Lying and Shirking Under Oath By Nicolas Jacquemet; Alexander James; Stéphane Luchini; James Murphy; Jason F. Shogren

  1. By: Morten Hedegaard (Department of Economics, University of Copenhagen, Denmark); Rudolf Kerschbamer (University of Innsbruck, Austria); Daniel Müler (University of Innsbruck, Austria); Jean-Robert Tyran (Department of Economics, University of Copenhagen, Denmark)
    Abstract: We use a large and heterogeneous sample of the Danish population to investigate the importance of distributional preferences for behavior in a public good game and a trust game. We find robust evidence for the significant explanatory power of distributional preferences. In fact, compared to twenty-one covariates, distributional preferences turn out to be the single most important predictor of behavior. Specifically, subjects who reveal benevolence in the domain of advantageous inequality contribute more to the public good and are more likely to pick the trustworthy action in the trust game than other subjects. Since the experiments were spread out more than one year, our results suggest that there is a component of distributional preferences that is stable across games and over time.
    Keywords: Distributional preferences, social preferences, Equality-Equivalence Test, representative online experiment, trust game, public goods game, dictator game
    JEL: C72 C91 D64
    Date: 2019–05–15
  2. By: Bigoni, Maria (University of Bologna); Bortolotti, Stefania (Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods); Nas Özen, Efşan (Bilkent University)
    Abstract: Economic inequality may fuel frustration, possibly leading to anger and antisocial behavior. We experimentally study a situation where only the rich can reduce inequality while the poor can express their discontent by destroying the wealth of a rich counterpart with whom they had no previous interaction. We test whether the emergence of such forms of antisocial behavior depends only on the level of inequality, or also on the conditions under which inequality occurs. We compare an environment in which the rich can unilaterally reduce inequality with one where generosity makes them vulnerable to exploitation by the poor. We find that the rich are expected to be more generous in the former scenario than in the latter, but in fact this hope is systematically violated. We also observe that the poor engage in forms of antisocial behavior more often when reducing inequality would be safe for the rich. These results cannot be rationalized by inequality aversion alone, while they are in line with recent models that focus on anger as the result of the frustration of expectations.
    Keywords: expectations, frustration, inequality aversion, money-burning, punishment
    JEL: C91 D63 D83 D84 D91
    Date: 2019–08
  3. By: Buchholz, Matthias; Mußhoff, Oliver; Peth, Denise
    Abstract: Pesticides are an important input in modern agriculture. However, intensive use of pesticides is also related to adverse effects on the environment and human health. While implementation of pesticide taxes with the intent to reduce pesticide applications has been widely discussed, green nudges are considered as innovative policy tools to foster environmental friendly behaviour. To date, little is known about the effects of these policy tools at the farm level. With this in mind, we use a business management game to investigate how a pesticide tax and a green nudge affect crop, tillage and pesticide decisions for a ‘virtual’ farm. Results from a sample of German agricultural students reveal that both policies are able to reduce the amount of pesticides applied. However, implementation of the pesticide tax also involves a substantial profit loss. Unlike in the green nudge treatment, participants under pesticide tax adjust their cropping and tillage strategies which could involve unintended ecological effects.
    Keywords: Environmental Economics and Policy, Farm Management
    Date: 2019–08–26
  4. By: Spears, Dean (University of Texas at Austin)
    Abstract: Population ethics is widely considered to be exceptionally important and exceptionally difficult. One key source of difficulty is the conflict between certain moral intuitions and analytical results identifying requirements for rational (in the sense of complete and transitive) social choice over possible populations. One prominent such intuition is the Asymmetry, which jointly proposes that the fact that a possible child's quality of life would be bad is a normative reason not to create the child, but the fact that a child's quality of life would be good is not a reason to create the child. This paper reports a set of questionnaire experiments about the Asymmetry in the spirit of economists' empirical social choice. Few survey respondents show support for the Asymmetry; instead respondents report that expectations of a good quality of life are relevant. Each experiment shows evidence (among at least some participants) of dual-process moral reasoning, in which cognitive reflection is statistically associated with reporting expected good quality of life to be normatively relevant. The paper discusses possible implications of these results for the economics of population-sensitive social welfare and for the conflict between moral mathematics and population intuition.
    Keywords: population ethics, experimental social choice, the Asymmetry, dual-process moral reasoning, questionnaire-experimental method
    JEL: J10 J13 J18 D63
    Date: 2019–08
  5. By: Pfister, Roland; Wirth, Robert; Weller, Lisa; Foerster, Anna; Schwarz, Katharina
    Abstract: Deliberate rule violations have typically been addressed from a motivational perspective that asked whether or not agents decide to violate rules based on contextual factors and moral considerations. Here we complement motivational approaches by providing a cognitive perspective on the processes that operate during the act of committing an unsolicited rule violation. Participants were tested in a task that allowed for violating traffic rules by exploiting forbidden shortcuts in a virtual city maze. Results yielded evidence for sustained cognitive conflict that affected performance from right before a violation throughout actually committing the violation. These findings open up a new theoretical perspective on violation behavior that focuses on processes occurring right at the moment a rule violation takes place.
    Keywords: Rule breaking Optimizing violations Cognitive conflict Cheating
    JEL: C91 D0 D81
    Date: 2018–06–25
  6. By: Erwin Bulte; John List; Daan van Soest
    Abstract: Social scientists have recently explored how framing of gains and losses affects productivity. We conducted a field experiment in peri-urban Uganda, and compared output levels across 1000 workers over isomorphic tasks and incentives, framed as either losses or gains. We find that loss aversion can be leveraged to increase the productivity of labor. The estimated welfare costs of using the loss contract are quite modest -- perhaps because the loss contract is viewed as a (soft) commitment device.
    Date: 2019
  7. By: Nicolas Jacquemet (Paris School of Economics, Université de Lorraine (BETA)); Alexander James (Department of Economics, University of Alaska Anchorage); Stéphane Luchini (Aix-Marseille University (Aix-Marseille School of Economics), CNRS and EHESS, Centre de la Vielle Charité); James Murphy (Department of Economics, University of Alaska Anchorage and Economic Science Institute, Chapman University); Jason F. Shogren (Department of Economics, University of Wyoming)
    Abstract: This study explores whether an oath to honesty can reduce both shirking and lying among crowd-sourced internet workers. Using a classic coin-ip experiment, we rst show that a substantial majority of Mechanical Turk workers both shirk and lie when reporting the number of heads ipped. We then demonstrate lying can be reduced by rst asking each worker to swear voluntarily on his or her honor to tell the truth in subsequent economic decisions. The oath, however, did not reduce shirking as measured by time- at-coin-ip-task, although it did increase the time they spent answering a demographic survey. Conditional on response, MTurk shirkers and liars were less likely to agree to an ex post honesty oath. Our results suggest oaths may help elicit more truthful behavior in on-line crowd-sourced environments.
    Keywords: Experimental Economics; Honesty; Intrinsic Costs; Field Experiment; Solemn Oath; Mechanical Turk; MTurk; Lying; Shirking; Labor economics
    JEL: D91 C81 C90 C93 D01 D82 J20 J30 J40
    Date: 2019

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