+ Timing of Communication

with Puja Bhattacharya and Arjun Sengupta

Forthcoming, The Economic Journal

Promises are good/ but cooperation fades./ Reports are better.

[Instructions] [30-min presentation]
Using an experiment, we demonstrate that a communication regime where a worker communicates about his intended effort is less effective in i) soliciting truthful information, and ii) motivating effort, than a regime where he communicates about his past effort. Our experiment uses a real-effort task, which additionally allows us to demonstrate the effects of communication on effort over time. We show that the timing of communication affects the dynamic pattern of work. In both treatments, individuals are most cooperative closest to the time of communication. Our results reveal that the timing of communication is a critical feature that merits attention in the design of mechanisms for information transmission in strategic settings.

+ Teams Promise But Do Not Deliver

with Puja BhattacharyaJohn Kagel, and Arjun Sengupta

Games & Economic Behavior, Volume 117, September 2019, Pages 420–432

People will promise./ It makes them cooperate./ But don’t trust a group!

[Published Version][Instructions] [20-min presentation]
Individuals and two-person teams play a hidden-action trust game with pre-play communication. We replicate previous results for individuals that non-binding promises increase cooperation rates, but this does not extend to teams. While teams promise to cooperate at the same rate as individuals, they consistently renege on those promises. Additional treatments begin to explore the basis for team behavior. We rule out explanations hypothesizing that concern for partner’s payoffs is the basis for team outcomes, as absent within-team communication, promise fulfillment rates increase compared to individuals. Rather, the results are consistent with the idea that communication between teammates provides support for self-serving behavior.

+ Dynamic Risk Preferences Under Realized and Paper Outcomes

Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Volume 161, May 2019, Pages 68–78

More risk after wins/but play safe after losses./Realized and paper.

[Published Version]
We conduct a large-scale test of dynamic risk preferences. While most of the literature on dynamic risk restricts attention to positively skewed gambles, subjects in our experiment tend to choose negatively skewed lotteries. This allows us to study dynamic risk preferences in an environment that the literature has not analyzed. We find evidence of the reinforcement effect—individuals take on more risk after a gain and take on less risk after a loss. Furthermore, we exogenously vary whether these outcomes are “realized” or on paper, according to the distinction put forth by Imas (2016). We find little difference in the responses to realized and paper outcomes in environments of negatively skewed risk.

Working Papers:

+ Preferences for the Resolution of Uncertainty and the Timing of Information

Second Round Revision Resubmitted, Journal of Economic Theory

If it has happened/ you want to know it sooner./ Otherwise, you’ll wait.

[60-min presentation]
We present results from a laboratory experiment designed to elicit preferences over the resolution of uncertainty and timing of non-instrumental information acquisition in a rich choice set. Treatments vary whether the uncertainty is framed as a compound lottery or information structure. We find that individuals prefer to delay uncertainty resolution when the choice is framed as a compound lottery and prefer to expedite uncertainty resolution when framed as an information structure. Preferences are strict, as individuals are willing to pay for information in one treatment and they pay to avoid information in the other. We find no evidence of an aversion to gradual resolution in either context.

+ When Choices are Mistakes

with John Rehbeck

Under Review

You like a choice rule/but then you violate it./Was it a mistake?

[60-min presentation]
Using a laboratory experiment, we identify whether decision makers consider it a mistake to violate canonical choice axioms. To do this, we incentivize subjects to report which of several axioms they want their decisions to satisfy. Then, subjects make lottery choices which might conflict with their stated axiom preferences. We give them the opportunity to re-evaluate their decisions when lotteries conflict with desired axioms. We find that a majority of individuals want to follow the axioms and revise their lottery choices to be consistent with them. We interpret this to mean that most axiom violations in our sample were mistakes.

+ Non-Random Randomization

with Marina Agranov and Paul J. Healy

Under Review

People randomize./ Even when dominated./ We study where, why.

[30-min presentation]
We provide a unifying experimental framework in which to study randomization behavior in games and individual choice questions. In each decision, subjects face twenty simultaneous repetitions of the same choice, whereby randomizing constitutes making different choices across the twenty repetitions. We find very high rates of randomization, even in questions that offer a first-order stochastically dominant option. Randomization is highly correlated across domains, while more individuals randomize in games than in analogous decision problems. Experimental treatments test theories of randomization behavior, ruling out most theoretically-based explanations. Results suggest that dominated randomization stems, in part, from a failure of contingent reasoning.

Works in Progress:

+ A Systematic Test of the Independence Axiom Near Certainty

with Ritesh Jain

Independence fails/Not from certainty effect./It’s the opposite!

[20-min presentation]
We experimentally investigate the independence axiom, a central tenet of expected utility theory. We test independence using two-outcome lotteries that span the entire probability simplex. Subjects face binary choices between these lotteries and a fixed certain option. This allows us to compare independence violations when certainty is preferred to risk, which would be consistent with the well-known “certainty effect,” to those when risk is preferred to certainty, which would be consistent with the reverse certainty effect. We find that violations of independence consistent with the reverse certainty effect are much more common than violations consistent with the certainty effect, contrary to accepted experimental consensus and theoretical assumptions. We test the robustness of this result along two dimensions, varying the independence mixture and moving slightly away from certainty. Our experiment is one of the first to study the effect of certainty systematically across the probability simplex. Our results give new insight into independence violations which can guide theoretical models under risk.

+ The Effects of Gendered Virtual Assistants

with Ian Chadd and Siri Isaksson

VAs are female./ Boss them around, curse at them./ This hurts real women.

+ How Randomization Impacts Response Times

with Ian Krajbich

Indifference is slow./Does flipping a coin speed up?/When might it help you?

+ Explaining Conditional Cooperation in Repeated Public Goods Games

with Paul J. Healy

Contributions fall/ in repeated PG games./ It’s guilt aversion.

[20-min presentation]
We experimentally investigate the nature of conditional cooperation in a repeated linear public goods game. By providing data from previous sessions, we exogenously manipulate subjects’ first- and second-order beliefs to test theories of reciprocity (Rabin 1993, Dufwenberg & Kirchsteiger 2004) and guilt aversion (Battigalli & Dufwenberg 2007). We find that subjects respond to both second-order beliefs, contributing more when they think others expect them to do so. Our results support theories of guilt aversion. Data on elicited utilities shows that preferences become more selfish throughout the game, further contributing to the decline in cooperation.

+ Testing the Axiomatic Foundation of Risky Intertemporal Choice

[20-min presentation]

Does DEU hold/ without present certainty?/ Let’s test axioms.