nep-neu New Economics Papers
on Neuroeconomics
Issue of 2024‒06‒10
three papers chosen by

  1. Game Changer: Impact of a Reading Intervention on Cognitive and Non-cognitive Skills By De Vera, Micole; Garcia-Brazales, Javier; Rello, Luz
  2. Food Coma is Real: The Effect of Digestive Fatigue on Adolescents’ Cognitive Performance By Justine Hervé; Subha Mani; Jere Behrman; Ramanan Laxminarayan
  3. Getting the Picture By Robert Akerlof; Richard Holden; Hongyi Li

  1. By: De Vera, Micole (University College London); Garcia-Brazales, Javier (CEMFI); Rello, Luz (IE University)
    Abstract: We evaluate a reading intervention involving 600 third-grade students in Chilean schools catering to disadvantaged populations. The intervention features an adaptive computer game designed to identify and improve weaknesses in literacy and cognitive skills, and is complemented by a mobile library and advice to parents to increase student's interest and parental involvement. We first quantify the impact on non-cognitive skills and academic perceptions. We find that, after just three months of intervention, treated students are 20–30 percent of a standard deviation more likely to believe that their performance is better than that of their peers, to like school, to have stronger grit, and to have a more internal locus-of-control. Gains in aspirations and self-confidence are particularly large for students that we identify as at-risk-of-dyslexia. These improvements are reflected in better performance on a nation-wide, standardized language test. Our results show that non-cognitive skills, particularly of at-risk-of-dyslexia students, can be changed through a short, light-touch, and cost-effective education technology intervention.
    Keywords: field experiment, computer-based reading intervention, non-cognitive skills, Chile, dyslexia
    JEL: I24 I31
    Date: 2024–04
  2. By: Justine Hervé (Stevens Institute of Technology); Subha Mani (Fordham University, the Population Studies Center, University of Pennsylvania, IZA and GLO); Jere Behrman (University of Pennsylvania); Ramanan Laxminarayan (One Health Trust and Princeton University)
    Abstract: Food coma, also known as postprandial somnolence, is a commonly cited reason for experiencing reduced alertness during mid-afternoon worldwide. By using exogenous variation in the timing of tests and, hence, by extension, plausibly exogenous variation in the temporal distance between an individual’s last meal and the time of test, we examine the causal impact of postprandial somnolence on cognitive capacities. Analyzing novel time use data on ~ 4, 600 Indian adolescents and young adults, we find that testing within an hour after a meal reduces test-takers’ scores on English, native language, math, and Raven’s tests by 8, 8, 8, and 16 percent, respectively, compared to test-takers who took the tests more than an hour after their meal. We further find that the negative effect of postprandial somnolence on cognition operates through increased feelings of fatigue and depletion of cognitive resources that become more pronounced while dealing with more challenging test questions.
    Keywords: Post-meal fatigue, Cognitive skills, Low-stakes tests, India, Adolescents
    JEL: I12 I18 I21 J24
    Date: 2024–04–04
  3. By: Robert Akerlof (University of Warwick); Richard Holden (UNSW Business School); Hongyi Li (UNSW Business School)
    Abstract: In the early 20th century, Gestalt psychologists seriously challenged prevailing notions regarding human perception. They showed that there is a difference between seeing the pixels that make up a picture and understanding what a picture represents. We have all had that “aha” moment, for instance, where a scene suddenly becomes clear (e.g. “oh, it’s a smiley face”). The more general point is that people may have all of the information needed to draw a conclusion yet---in contrast to standard economic models---they fail to connect the dots. We build a model that conceptualizes this idea. An agent’s task is to learn whether a picture possesses some feature (such as whether it depicts a smiley face). They have a knowledge set consisting of “codewords” that they think apply to the picture. This set initially contains codewords for each pixel’s color, but no codewords describing the larger picture. The agent adds to their knowledge set by loading existing codewords into working memory and drawing conclusions. Importantly, the agent has limited working memory, which bounds their ability to draw conclusions. We show that the model captures a number of important phenomena, such as multi-stable perception, and provides a useful conceptualization of narratives as “big-picture statements.” We explore several applications, including to the politics of persuasion.
    Keywords: cognition, reasoning, perception, narratives
    JEL: D01 D80 D90
    Date: 2024–05

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