Weekly Seminar: Axel Ockenfels, “Engineering Trust Among Strangers” (Thursday, October 25, 2018)

Axel Ockenfels is Professor of Economics at the University of Cologne, and Speaker of the University of Cologne Excellence Center for Social and Economic Behavior. His research focuses on market design and behavioral research. It has benefitted from various DFG funding programs and from various collaborations with governments, market platforms, companies and research institutions across Europe and the US.

Weekly Seminar: Dan Friedman, “Price Dispersion and Cycles: Theory and Experiment” (Tim Cason and Ed Hopkins) (Thursday, October 11, 2018)

Daniel Friedman joined the UCSC Economics faculty in 1985 after teaching at UCLA and UC Berkeley. He has broad research interests in applied economic theory, with emphasis on learning and evolution, laboratory experiments, and financial markets. The coauthor of five academic books, fourteen NSF grants, and roughly 100 research articles, he currently is studying a) financial market design, b) strategic behavior in real time, and c) evolutionary dynamics of continuous strategies or traits.

His popular book, Morals and Markets: An Evolutionary Perspective on the Modern World, was published by Palgrave-MacMillan in October 2008. A second paperback edition, co-authored with journalist Daniel McNeill, appeared in June 2013 with the subtitle: A Dangerous Balance.

Weekly Seminar: Gary Charness, “Incentivizing Exercise Improves Academic Performance” (Alexander W. Cappelen, Gary Charness, Mathias Ekstrom, Uri Gneezy, Bertil Tungodden) (Thursday, September 27, 2018)

In a large randomized controlled trial, we test the hypothesis that incentives for physical activity can improve academic performance. We found strong support for this hypothesis: University students who were incentivized to go to the gym had a significant improvement in academic performance, by, on average, 0.15 standard deviations compared to a control group that did not receive any incentives. The success of this indirect incentive for academic performance emphasizes the importance of non-cognitive skills in achieving academic goals. Students who were incentivized to exercise report improved self-control and a healthier life-style.  Overall, the study demonstrates that incentivizing exercise can be an important tool in improving educational achievements.

Weekly Seminar: Natalie Lee, “Feigning Ignorance for Long-term Gains: Theory and Experiment” (Thursday, September 13, 2018)

Natalie Lee is a Ph.D. candidate in the department of Economics at New York University. She received her B.A. from the University of British Columbia, Canada.

Her research focuses on economic experiments based on game theory. She investigates how people strategically interact in various setups, for example, when some people can spy their opponent’s actions or when people can walk away from their partners and meet new ones. In another paper, Natalie also studies how people vary the amount of risk they take on behalf of other people, depending on what they learn about the outcome of their choices.

Weekly Seminar: Ernst Fehr, “The Dynamics of Norm Formation and Norm Decay” (Thursday, September 6, 2018)

Social norms are a ubiquitous feature of social life and pervade almost every aspect of human social interaction. However, despite their importance, we still have relatively little empirical knowledge about the forces that drive the formation, the maintenance and the decay of social norms. In particular, our knowledge about how norms affect behavior and how norm obedience and violations shape subsequent normative standards is quite limited. Here, we present a new method that makes norms identifiable and continuously observable and, thus, empirically measurable. We show – in the context of public goods provision – the quick emergence of a widely accepted social cooperation norm that demands high contributions but – in the absence of the punishment of free-riders – norm violations are frequent and, therefore, the initial normative consensus as well as the high cooperation demands required by the norm break down. However, when peer punishment is possible, norm violations are rare from the beginning and a strong and stable normative consensus as well as high contribution requests prevail throughout. Thus, when norm compliance is costly social norms tend to unravel unless norm violations are kept to a minimum. In addition, our results indicate that – in an environment that has previously shown to be detrimental for cooperation and welfare – the opportunity to form a social norm unambiguously causes high public good contributions and group welfare when peer-punishment is possible.


Weekly Seminar: Andrea Robbett “Voter Expression and Information Acquisition in Common Value Elections” (Thursday, May 3rd, 2018)

Andrea Robbett is an Assistant Professor of Economics at Middlebury College. She received her PhD from Caltech in 2011. Her research uses lab experiments to address topics related to public economics, labor economics, social dilemmas, and voting. This talk will focus on a series of experiments investigating expressive voting and rational ignorance among American political partisans.

Weekly Seminar: Pietro Ortoleva, “Econographics” (Thursday, April 26, 2018)

We study the pattern of correlations across a large number of behavioral regularities, with the goal of creating an empirical basis for more comprehensive theories of decision making. We elicit 21 behaviors using an incentivized survey on a representative sample (n = 1,000) of the U.S. population. Our data show a clear pattern of high and low correlations, with important implications for theoretical representations of social and risk preferences. Using principal components analysis, we reduce the 21 variables to six components corresponding to clear clusters of correlations. We examine the relationship between these components, cognitive ability, demographics, and qualitative self-reports of preferences.

Weekly Seminar: M. Kathleen Ngangoue, “Learning from Unrealized versus Realized Prices”, (Thursday, April 19, 2018)

Our experiments investigate the extent to which traders learn from the price, differentiating between situations where orders are submitted before versus after the price has realized.  In simultaneous markets with bids that are conditional on the price, traders neglect the information conveyed by the hypothetical value of the price.  In sequential markets where the price is known prior to the bid submission, traders react to price to an extent that is roughly consistent with the benchmark theory.  The difference’s robustness to a number of variations provides sights about the drivers of this effect

Weekly Seminar: Fabio Maccheroni, “Multinomial Logit Processes and Preference Discovery: Inside and Outside the Black Box “, (Thursday, April 12, 2018)

We provide both an *axiomatic* and a *neuropsychological* characterization of the dependence of choice probabilities on deadlines in the softmax form, with time-independent utility function and time-dependent accuracy parameter.

The softmax model (also known as Multinomial Logit Model or Power Luce Model) is the most widely used model of preference discovery in all fields of decision making, from Quantal Response Equilibria to Discrete Choice Analysis, from Psychophysics and Neuroscience to Combinatorial Optimization. Our axiomatic characterization of softmax permits to empirically test its descriptive validity and to better understand its conceptual underpinnings as a theory of agents rationality. Our neuropsychological foundation provides a computational model that may explain softmax emergence in human multialternative choice behavior and that naturally extends the dominant Diffusion Model paradigm of binary choice.

Weekly Seminar: Alex Imas, “The Dynamics of Discrimination: Theory and Evidence”, (Thursday, March 22, 2018)

Alex Imas is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Behavioral Science at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, and an Assistant Professor of Social and Decision Sciences at Carnegie Mellon University. Imas’ research spans a variety of topics across economics and psychology. He has studied how prior losses and gains affect risk-taking, the use of prosocial incentives to motivate performance, and the ways in which people use others’ emotions strategically.