New Economics Papers
on Neuroeconomics
Issue of 2010‒10‒09
five papers chosen by

  1. The Weirdest People in the World? By Joseph Henrich; Steve J. Heine; Ara Norenzayan
  2. (Dis)advantages of student subjects: what is your research question? By Simon Gächter
  3. Financial Decision Making and Cognition in a Family Context By James P. Smith; John J. McArdle; Robert Willis
  4. Parental Risk Attitudes and Children's Secondary School Track Choice By Heineck, Guido; Wölfel, Oliver
  5. Sexual Risk Taking Among Young Adults in Cape Town: Effects of Expected Health and Income By Mintewab Bezabih; Andrea Mannberg; Martine Visser

  1. By: Joseph Henrich; Steve J. Heine; Ara Norenzayan
    Abstract: Behavioral scientists routinely publish broad claims about human psychology and behavior in the world’s top journals based on samples drawn entirely from Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic (WEIRD) societies. Researchers—often implicitly—assume that either there is little variation across human populations, or that these “standard subjects” are as representative of the species as any other population. Are these assumptions justified? Here, our review of the comparative database from across the behavioral sciences suggests both that there is substantial variability in experimental results across populations and that WEIRD subjects are particularly unusual compared with the rest of the species—frequent outliers. The domains reviewed include visual perception, fairness, cooperation, spatial reasoning, categorization and inferential induction, moral reasoning, reasoning styles, selfconcepts and related motivations, and the heritability of IQ. The findings suggest that members of WEIRD societies, including young children, are among the least representative populations one could find for generalizing about humans. Many of these findings involve domains that are associated with fundamental aspects of psychology, motivation, and behavior—hence, there are no obvious a priori grounds for claiming that a particular behavioral phenomenon is universal based on sampling from a single subpopulation. Overall, these empirical patterns suggests that we need to be less cavalier in addressing questions of human nature on the basis of data drawn from this particularly thin, and rather unusual, slice of humanity. We close by proposing ways to structurally re-organize the behavioral sciences to best tackle these challenges.
    Keywords: external validity, population variability, experiments, cross-cultural research, culture, human universals, generalizability, evolutionary psychology, cultural psychology, behavioral economics
    Date: 2010
  2. By: Simon Gächter
    Abstract: In this comment on Henrich et al. (2010) I argue that the right choice of subject pool is intimately linked to the research question. At least within economics, students are often the perfect subject pool for answering some fundamental research questions. Student subject pools can provide an invaluable benchmark for investigating generalizability across different social groups or cultures.
    Date: 2010
  3. By: James P. Smith; John J. McArdle; Robert Willis
    Abstract: In this paper, the authors studied the association of cognitive traits and in particular numeracy of both spouses on financial outcomes of the family. They found significant effects, particularly for numeracy for financial and non-financial respondents alike, but much larger effects for the financial decision maker in the family. They also examined who makes these financial decisions in the family and why. Once again, cognitive traits such as numeracy were an important component of that decision with larger effects of numeracy for husbands compared to wives.
    Date: 2010–09
  4. By: Heineck, Guido (IAB, Nürnberg); Wölfel, Oliver (IAB, Nürnberg)
    Abstract: It is well known that individuals' risk attitudes are related to behavioral outcomes such as smoking, portfolio decisions, and also educational attainment, but there is barely any evidence on whether parental risk attitudes affect the educational attainment of dependent children. We add to this literature and examine children's secondary school track choice in Germany where tracking occurs at age ten and has a strong binding character. Our results indicate no consistent patterns for paternal risk preferences but a strong negative impact of maternal risk aversion on children's enrollment in upper secondary school.
    Keywords: educational choice, risk attitudes, SOEP
    JEL: I21 J24
    Date: 2010–09
  5. By: Mintewab Bezabih; Andrea Mannberg; Martine Visser (SALDRU, School of Economics, University of Cape Town)
    Abstract: The wide prevalence of HIV in Africa has long been associated with seemingly irrational levels of sexual risk taking. Hence understanding the rationale behind risky sexual behavior is critical for designing effective prevention policies. This paper empirically assesses links between expectations of future health and income on sexual risk taking. An important contribution of the paper lies in combining a wide range of variables measuring risky sexual behavior such that the maximum information possible is extracted from, and adequate weights are attached to each measure, as opposed to previous studies that are based on individual measures or arbitrary aggregations. The findings indicate that expected income and health and future uncertainty are significant determinants of current patterns of sexual risk taking. From a policy perspective, the results suggest that reducing poverty and improving social insurance as well as reducing the taboo related to talking about HIV, and further investigating the relatively low degree of condom use of women may constitute important issues to be addressed.
    Date: 2010–05

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