nep-neu New Economics Papers
on Neuroeconomics
Issue of 2016‒07‒09
four papers chosen by

  1. Mind, Behaviour and Health - a Randomised Experiment By Alem, Yonas; Behrendtz, Hannah; Belot, Michele; Bíró, Anikó
  2. How to Help the Poor to Save a Bit: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Kenya By Akbas, Merve; Ariely, Dan; Robalino, David A.; Weber, Michael
  3. Without My medal on My Mind: Counterfactual Thinking and Other Determinants of Athlete Emotions By Paul Dolan; Chloe Foy; Georgios Kavetsos; Laura Kudrna
  4. Capabilities and Skills By Heckman, James J.; Corbin, Chase O.

  1. By: Alem, Yonas (Department of Economics, School of Business, Economics and Law, Göteborg University); Behrendtz, Hannah (Department of Economics, University of Edinburgh); Belot, Michele (Department of Economics, University of Edinburgh); Bíró, Anikó (Department of Economics, University of Edinburgh)
    Abstract: Behavioural attitudes toward risk and time, as well as behavioural biases such as present bias, are thought to be important drivers of unhealthy lifestyle choices. This paper makes the first attempt to explore the possibility of training the mind to alter these attitudes and biases, in particular health-related behaviours, using a randomized controlled experiment. The training technique we consider is a well-known psychological technique called "mindfulness", which is believed to improve self-control and reduce stress. We conduct the experiment with 139 participants, half of whom receive a four-week mindfulness training, while the other half are asked to watch a four-week series of historical documentaries. We evaluate the impact of our interventions on risk-taking and inter-temporal decisions, as well as on a range of measures of health-related behaviours. We find evidence that mindfulness training reduces perceived stress, but only weak evidence of its impact on behavioural traits and health-related behaviours. Our findings have significant implications for a new domain of research on training the mind to alter behavioural traits and biases that play important roles in lifestyle.
    Keywords: Health-related behaviours; Behavioural traits; Present Bias; Stress; Experiment.
    JEL: C81 C91 D81 I10 I12
    Date: 2016–06
  2. By: Akbas, Merve (Duke University); Ariely, Dan (Duke University); Robalino, David A. (World Bank); Weber, Michael (World Bank)
    Abstract: Partnering with a savings product provider in Kenya, we tested the extent to which behavioral interventions and financial incentives can increase the saving rate of individuals with low and irregular income. Our experiment lasted for six months and included a total of twelve conditions. The control condition received weekly reminders and balance reporting via text messages. The treatment conditions received in addition one of the following interventions: (1) reminder text messages framed as if they came from the participant's kid (2) a golden colored coin with numbers for each week of the trial, on which participants were asked to keep track of their weekly deposits (3) a match of weekly savings: The match was either 10% or 20% up to a certain amount per week. The match was either deposited at the end of each week or the highest possible match was deposited at the start of each week and was adjusted at the end. Among these interventions, by far the most effective was the coin: Those in the coin condition saved on average the highest amount and more than twice as those in the control condition. We hypothesize that being a tangible track-keeping object; the coin made subjects remember to save more often. Our results support the line of literature suggesting that saving decisions involve psychological aspects and that policy makers and product designers should take these influences into account.
    Keywords: savings, field experiment, behavioral economics
    JEL: G21 B49 D03
    Date: 2016–06
  3. By: Paul Dolan; Chloe Foy; Georgios Kavetsos; Laura Kudrna
    Abstract: How achievement makes people feel depends upon counterfactual thoughts about what could have been. One body of evidence for this comes from studies of observer ratings of Olympians' happiness, which suggests that category-based counterfactual thoughts affect the perceived happiness of Olympians. Silver medallists are less happy than bronze medallists, arguably because silver medallists think about how they could have won gold, and bronze medallists feel lucky to be on the podium at all. We contribute to this literature by showing that the effect of category-based counterfactual thoughts on Olympians' happiness depends on the margin by which athletes secured their medal. Although gold and bronze medallists appeared happier the better they performed, silver medallists were less happy when they were closer to winning gold. This suggests silver medallists feel disappointed relative to gold medallists but that bronzes do not feel particularly fortunate relative to non-medal winners. Teams were rated as happier than individual athletes and Olympians happier than Paralympians. Observers' ethnic and gender similarity to athletes negatively influence happiness ratings; whilst observers' self-reported happiness has a negligible effect on ratings. We integrate these findings with prior literature on counterfactual thinking and the determinants of happiness, and suggest avenues for future research.
    Keywords: counterfactual thinking, close calls, relative status, happiness, Olympic Games
    JEL: D60 I31
    Date: 2016–06
  4. By: Heckman, James J. (University of Chicago); Corbin, Chase O. (Center for the Economics of Human Development (CEHD))
    Abstract: This paper discusses the relevance of recent research on the economics of human development to the work of the Human Development and Capability Association. The recent economics of human development brings insights about the dynamics of skill accumulation to an otherwise static literature on capabilities. Skills embodied in agents empower people. Enhanced skills enhance opportunities and hence promote capabilities. We address measurement problems common to both the economics of human development and the capability approach. The economics of human development analyzes the dynamics of preference formation, but is silent about which preferences should be used to evaluate alternative policies. This is both a strength and a limitation of the approach.
    Keywords: skills, capabilities, freedom, technology of skill formation
    JEL: D63 D04 D31 I31
    Date: 2016–06

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