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.