nep-neu New Economics Papers
on Neuroeconomics
Issue of 2018‒05‒21
three papers chosen by

  1. Childhood harshness induces long-lasting preference for authoritarian leaders By Lou Safra; Yann Algan; Teodora Tecu; Julie Grèzes; Nicolas Baumard; Coralie Chevallier
  2. Cognitive performance in competitive environments: evidence from a natural experiment By González-Díaz, Julio; Palacios-Huerta, Ignacio
  3. The Formation of Prosociality: Causal Evidence on the Role of Social Environment By Fabian Kosse; Thomas Deckers; Pia Pinger; Hannah Schildberg-Hörisch; Armin Falk

  1. By: Lou Safra (École normale supérieure - Paris (ENS Paris)); Yann Algan (Département d'économie); Teodora Tecu (University of Bucharest); Julie Grèzes (École normale supérieure - Paris (ENS Paris)); Nicolas Baumard (École normale supérieure - Paris (ENS Paris)); Coralie Chevallier (École normale supérieure - Paris (ENS Paris))
    Abstract: Understanding the origins of political authoritarianism is of key importance for modern democracies. Recent works in evolutionary psychology suggest that human cognitive preferences may be the output of a biological response to early stressful environments. In this paper, we hypothesized that people's leader preferences are partly driven by early signals of harshness. We experimentally elicited children's (Study 1) and adults' (Study 2) political preferences using faces controlled for dominance and trustworthiness and showed that early childhood harshness has an enduring effect on adult political attitudes. Importantly, this effect was further confirmed using self-reported extreme authoritarianism (Study 2) and by the analysis of the large database of the European Value Survey (Study 3). We discuss the potential political implications of this early calibration of leader preferences.
    Keywords: Authoritarianism; Poverty; Childhood; Social perception; Dominance; Politics
    Date: 2017–09
  2. By: González-Díaz, Julio; Palacios-Huerta, Ignacio
    Abstract: Competitive situations that involve cognitive performance are widespread in labor markets, schools, and organizations, including test taking, competition for promotion in firms, and others. This paper studies cognitive performance in a high-stakes competitive environment. The analysis takes advantage of a natural experiment that randomly allocates different emotional states across professional subjects competing in a cognitive task. The setting is a chess match where two players play an even number of chess games against each other alternating the color of the pieces. White pieces confer an advantage for winning a chess game and who starts the match with these pieces is randomly decided. The theoretical analysis shows that in this setting there is no rational reason why winning frequencies should be better than 50-50 in favor of the player drawing the white pieces in the first game. Yet, we find that observed frequencies are about 60-40. Differences in performance are also stronger when the competing subjects are more similar in cognitive skills. We conclude that the evidence is consistent with the hypothesis that psychological elements affect cognitive performance in the face of experience, competition, and high stakes.
    Keywords: cognitive performance; competition; natural experiments
    JEL: J1
    Date: 2016–07–01
  3. By: Fabian Kosse; Thomas Deckers; Pia Pinger; Hannah Schildberg-Hörisch; Armin Falk
    Abstract: This study presents descriptive and causal evidence on the role of social environment for the formation of prosociality. In a first step, we show that socioeconomic status (SES) as well as the intensity of mother-child interaction and mothers' prosocial attitudes are systematically related to elementary school children's prosociality. In a second step, we present evidence on a randomlyassigned variation of the social environment, providing children with a mentor for the duration of one year. Our data include a two-year follow-up and reveal a significant and persistent increase in prosociality in the treatment relative to the control group. Moreover, enriching the social environment bears the potential to close the observed gap in prosociality between low and high SES children. A mediation analysis of the observed treatment effect suggests that prosociality develops in response to stimuli in the form of prosocial role models and intense social interactions.
    Keywords: Formation of preferences, prosociality, social preferences, trust, social inequality
    JEL: D64 C90
    Date: 2018–05

General information on the NEP project can be found at For comments please write to the director of NEP, Marco Novarese at <>. Put “NEP” in the subject, otherwise your mail may be rejected.
NEP’s infrastructure is sponsored by the School of Economics and Finance of Massey University in New Zealand.