nep-exp New Economics Papers
on Experimental Economics
Issue of 2010‒02‒13
four papers chosen by
Daniel Houser
George Mason University

  1. Social Norms and Behavior in the Local Commons Through the Lens of Field Experiments By Juan Camilo Cárdenas
  2. How Prevalent is Post-Decision Dissonance? Some Doubts and New Evidence By Holden, Steinar
  3. Are You What You Eat? Experimental Evidence on Health Habits and Risk Preferences By Matteo M. Galizzi; Marisa Miraldo
  4. Estimating the Technology of Cognitive and Noncognitive Skill Formation By Cunha, Flavio; Heckman, James J.; Schennach, Susanne

  1. By: Juan Camilo Cárdenas
    Abstract: Behavior in the local commons is usually embedded in a context of regulations and social norms that the group of users face. Such norms and rules affect how individuals value material and non-material incentives and therefore determine their decision to cooperate or over extract the resources from the common-pool. This paper discusses the importance of social norms in shaping behavior in the commons through the lens of experiments, and in particular experiments conducted in the field with people that usually face these social dilemmas in their daily life. Through a large sample of experimental sessions with around one thousand people between villagers and students, I test some hypothesis about behavior in the commons when regulations and social norms constrain the choices of people. The results suggest that people evaluate several components of the intrinsic and material motivations in their decision to cooperate. While responding in the expected direction to a imperfectly monitored fine on over extraction, the expected cost of the regulation is not a sufficient explanatory factor for the changes in behavior by the participants in the experiments. Even with zero cost of violations, people can respond positively to an external regulator that issues a normative statement about a rule that is aimed at solving the social dilemma.
    Date: 2009–11–22
  2. By: Holden, Steinar (Dept. of Economics, University of Oslo)
    Abstract: Recent research is exploring the case for cognitive or post-decision dissonance using the free-choice paradigm of Brehm (1956). Participants are repeatedly faced with a choice between items that they have given the same rating of liking, two items at a time, and it is found that items not chosen in one choice has a lower tendency of being chosen in a subsequent choice against a different alternative item. This tendency is interpreted as evidence for cognitive or post-decision dissonance. I argue that this interpretation of the evidence is invalid. Furthermore, I report a novel experiment in which participants were specifically asked to compare the items, allowing for a consistent interpretation of the evidence. I find no evidence of post-decision dissonance after a choice between items where one was viewed as more attractive than the other, but potentially some weak evidence of post-decision dissonance after a choice between items viewed as equally attractive.
    Keywords: post-decision dissonance; cognitive dissonance; preferences
    Date: 2009–08–30
  3. By: Matteo M. Galizzi; Marisa Miraldo
    Abstract: We run an experiment to assess whether preferences for risk significantly differ for individuals with different health habits. We administrate a questionnaire followed by an experimental test to a sample of 120 subjects. The questionnaire measures health characteristics, habits and life style and assesses details about individual nutritional balance, drinking, smoking and physical exercise. We construct a number of individual health and nutritional indexes, including the Healthy Eating Index based on the USDA guidelines. We elicit preferences for risk using variants of the Holt and Laury (2002) paired lotteries test. Conditional on individual health habits and life style variables, we estimate the risk preferences for each subject, using Maximum Likelihood estimation. We observe that risk preferences significantly differ for subjects with different health habits and found some evidence of risk aversion. In particular, while smokers do not appear to be significantly more risk seeking, subjects with high scores of the Healthy Eating Index are characterized by higher degree of risk aversion.
    Date: 2010
  4. By: Cunha, Flavio (University of Pennsylvania); Heckman, James J. (University of Chicago); Schennach, Susanne (University of Chicago)
    Abstract: This paper formulates and estimates multistage production functions for children's cognitive and noncognitive skills. Skills are determined by parental environments and investments at different stages of childhood. We estimate the elasticity of substitution between investments in one period and stocks of skills in that period to assess the benefits of early investment in children compared to later remediation. We establish nonparametric identification of a general class of production technologies based on nonlinear factor models with endogenous inputs. A by-product of our approach is a framework for evaluating childhood and schooling interventions that does not rely on arbitrarily scaled test scores as outputs and recognizes the differential effects of the same bundle of skills in different tasks. Using the estimated technology, we determine optimal targeting of interventions to children with different parental and personal birth endowments. Substitutability decreases in later stages of the life cycle in the production of cognitive skills. It increases slightly in later stages of the life cycle in the production of noncognitive skills. This finding has important implications for the design of policies that target the disadvantaged. For some configurations of disadvantage and for some outcomes, it is optimal to invest relatively more in the later stages of childhood than in earlier stages.
    Keywords: cognitive skills, noncognitive skills, dynamic factor analysis, endogeneity of inputs, anchoring test scores, parental influence
    JEL: C31 J13
    Date: 2010–01

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