Will college students who set goals work harder and perform better? We report the results of two field experiments that involved four thousand college students. One experiment asked treated students to set goals for performance in the course; the other asked treated students to set goals for a particular task. Task-based goals had large and robust positive effects on the level of task completion, and task-based goals also increased course performance. We also find that performance-based goals had positive but small effects on course performance. We use theory that builds on present bias and loss aversion to interpret our results.
What explains large and persistent differences in reciprocity across social groups? This paper exploits variation in historical experience of democracy over space and time in Switzerland to highlight its strong positive association with reciprocity today. Individuals from regions that experienced democracy since the Middle Ages display stronger reciprocity than individuals from regions that acquired democracy only after the invasion by Napoleon. Because historical democracy was widespread in Swiss German but limited in Swiss French-speaking regions, individuals from these groups differ widely in their reciprocity. The difference, however, disappears when we compare Swiss Germans and Swiss French from regions without historical democracy. These results are not capturing current institutions, beliefs, migration, historical dynasties, language and other group-specific characteristics. Further results suggest that the emergence of historical democracy was due to idiosyncratic events and that its effect on reciprocity persists due to intergenerational transmission.
Muriel Niederle is a Department of Economics Professor at Stanford University. She received her Ph.D. in Economics from Harvard University. She is a behavioral and experimental economist with a strong interest on gender differences in economic outcomes. Niederle also has a line of work on market design.