nep-neu New Economics Papers
on Neuroeconomics
Issue of 2018‒03‒26
four papers chosen by
Daniel Houser
George Mason University

  1. Cognitive Skills and the Development of Strategic Sophistication By Fe, Eduardo; Gill, David
  2. The timing of puberty and gender differences in educational achievement By Koerselman, Kristian; Pekkarinen, Tuomas
  3. The Formation and Malleability of Dietary Habits: A Field Experiment with Low Income Families By Belot, Michèle; Berlin, Noemi; James, Jonathan; Skafida, Valeria
  4. Kinship Systems, Cooperation, and the Evolution of Culture By Benjamin Enke

  1. By: Fe, Eduardo (University of Strathclyde); Gill, David (Purdue University)
    Abstract: In this paper we investigate how observable cognitive skills influence the development of strategic sophistication. To answer this question, we study experimentally how psychometric measures of theory-of-mind and cognitive ability (or 'fluid intelligence') work together with age to determine the strategic ability and level-k behavior of children in a variety of incentivized strategic interactions. We find that better theory-of-mind and cognitive ability predict strategic sophistication in competitive games. Furthermore, age and cognitive ability act in tandem as complements, while age and theory-of-mind operate independently. Older children respond to information about the cognitive ability of their opponent, which provides support for the emergence of a sophisticated strategic theory-of-mind. Finally, theory-of-mind and age strongly predict whether children respond to intentions in a gift-exchange game, while cognitive ability has no influence, suggesting that different psychometric measures of cognitive skill correspond to different cognitive processes in strategic situations that involve the understanding of intentions.
    Keywords: cognitive skills, theory-of-mind, cognitive ability, fluid intelligence, strategic sophistication, age, children, experiment, level-k, bounded rationality, non-equilibrium thinking, intentions, gift-exchange game, competitive game, strategic game, strategic interaction
    JEL: C91 D91 J24
    Date: 2018–02
    URL: http://d.repec.org/n?u=RePEc:iza:izadps:dp11326&r=neu
  2. By: Koerselman, Kristian; Pekkarinen, Tuomas
    Abstract: In this paper, we study the effect of the timing of puberty on educational achievement and examine to what extent the gender differences in the timing of puberty can explain gender differences in achievement. We use British cohort data that combine information on pubertal development with test scores, behavioral outcomes as well as final educational attainment and earnings. Controlling for age 7 cognitive skills and family background, we show that late pubertal development is associated with a slower rate of cognitive skill growth during adolescence. This disadvantage in cognitive development is also reflected in lower levels of educational attainment and earnings for late developed individuals. The number of late developing boys is however too small to explain more than a fraction of the gender gap in educational outcomes. Furthermore, we find no effects on self-discipline or other behavioral outcomes in adolescence, suggesting a mechanism wholly separate from other causes of the gender gap.
    Keywords: education and training, education choices, gender differences, gender impacts, labour markets, learning outcomes, Labour markets and education, I20, J16,
    Date: 2017
    URL: http://d.repec.org/n?u=RePEc:fer:wpaper:97&r=neu
  3. By: Belot, Michèle (European University Institute); Berlin, Noemi (University Paris Ouest-Nanterre); James, Jonathan (University of Bath); Skafida, Valeria (University of Edinburgh)
    Abstract: We conduct a field experiment to evaluate the extent to which dietary habits are malleable early on in childhood and later in life. We implement two treatments one that targets what people eat, the other that targets the timing and frequency of food intake. 285 low income families with young children were recruited and assigned either to a control group or one of the two treatments, each of them lasting for 12 consecutive weeks. In one treatment, families received food groceries at home for free for 12 weeks and were asked to prepare five specific healthy meals per week. In the other treatment, families were simply asked to reduce snacking and eat at regular times. We collected a range of measures of food preferences, dietary intake, as well as BMI and biomarkers based on blood samples. We find evidence that children's BMI distribution shifted significantly relative to the control group, i.e. they became relatively "thinner". We also find some evidence that their preferences have been affected by both treatments. On the other hand, we find little evidence of effects on parents. We conclude that exposure to a healthy diet and regularity of food intake possibly play a role in shaping dietary habits, but influencing dietary choices later on in life remains a major challenge.
    Keywords: diet, field experiments, habit formation, biomarkers
    JEL: I12 I14 I18
    Date: 2018–02
    URL: http://d.repec.org/n?u=RePEc:iza:izadps:dp11317&r=neu
  4. By: Benjamin Enke
    Abstract: An influential body of psychological and anthropological theories holds that societies exhibit heterogeneous cooperation systems that differ both in their level of in-group favoritism and in the tools that they employ to enforce cooperative behavior. According to some of these theories, entire bundles of functional psychological adaptations – religious beliefs, moral values, negative reciprocity, emotions, and social norms – serve as “psychological police officer” in different cooperation regimes. This paper uses an anthropological measure of the tightness of historical kinship systems to study the structure of cooperation patterns and enforcement devices across historical ethnicities, contemporary countries, ethnicities within countries, and among migrants. The results document that societies with loose ancestral kinship ties cooperate and trust broadly, which appears to be enforced through a belief in moralizing gods, individualizing moral values, internalized guilt, altruistic punishment, and large-scale institutions. Societies with a historically tightly knit kinship structure, on the other hand, cheat on and distrust the out-group but readily support in-group members in need. This cooperation regime in turn is enforced by communal moral values, emotions of external shame, revenge-taking, and local governance structures including strong social norms. These patterns suggest that various seemingly unrelated aspects of culture are all functional and ultimately serve the same purpose of regulating economic behavior.
    Keywords: Kinship, culture, cooperation, enforcement devices
    JEL: D00 O10
    Date: 2018
    URL: http://d.repec.org/n?u=RePEc:ces:ceswps:_6867&r=neu

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