Now showing 1 - 10 of 10
  • Publication
    Anchoring and Subjective Belief Distributions
    (University College Dublin. School of Economics, 2024-04) ; ; ;
    We investigate how the anchoring effect—a well-established cognitive bias—influences the full distribution of subjective beliefs. While prior research extensively examines the impact of anchoring and other biases on point estimates, their effect on higher moments of the distribution remains unexplored. Through a pre-registered online experiment (N=732), we find that anchoring impacts the mean, variance, and skewness of belief distributions. Notably, the anchoring effect diminishes when eliciting distributions rather than means. Furthermore, presenting anchors prior to eliciting beliefs reduces the variance in belief distributions compared to when elicited without anchors. Our study shows that cognitive biases may have important impacts beyond point estimates.
  • Publication
    The Inelastic Demand for Affirmative Action
    (University College Dublin. School of Economics, 2021-05) ; ;
    We study the origins of support for gender-related affirmative action (AA) in two pre-registered online experiments (N = 1, 700). Participants act as employers who decide whether to use AA in hiring job candidates. We implement three treatments to disentangle the preference for AA stemming from i) perceived gender differences in productivity, ii) beliefs about AA effects on productivity, or iii) other non-material motives. To test i), we provide information to employers that there is no gender gap in productivity. To test ii), we inform the candidates about the hiring rule ex-ante, allowing us to observe how AA is expected to affect productivity. To test iii), we remove the payment to the employers based on the chosen candidates’ productivity, thus making AA cheaper. We do not find significant differences in AA support across treatments, despite successfully altering beliefs about expected productivity differences. Our results suggest that AA choice reflects a more intrinsic and inelastic preference for advancing female candidates.
  • Publication
    Gender, Productivity, and Promotion in the Irish Economics Profession
    (University College Dublin. School of Economics, 2022-06) ;
    Women in economics follow different career paths than men, facing differential treatment when it comes to journal acceptance as well as promotion. We focus on a self- directed measure of productivity: working paper output. This avoids potential sex biases in the peer-review process. We find that men produce more working papers than women in Irish economics departments, and that authors with more working papers get promoted at higher rates. We do not find any differences in promotion rates by sex, whether in levels, returns to productivity, or coauthorship patterns.
  • Publication
    Can Social Pressure Stifle Free Speech?
    (University College Dublin. School of Economics, 2023-08) ;
    This paper studies public opinion in the context of strong social norms that can induce conformity and self-censorship. We present a model that highlights how social pressure can affect the public expression of opinion either through a change in publicly stated views (conformity) or by inducing self-censorship (silence). In a series of pre-registered online experiments in the US, we elicit participants’ views on two controversial topics (race and gender) and their willingness to publish these views online in an incentivized manner. The empirical patterns are consistent with the presence of ideologically left-wing social norms: participants who held left-wing views were more willing to publish their opinions, and those who were randomly made aware of the prospect of publication reported less conservative views. A priming information treatment, in which participants were informed about cancel culture and the potential negative backlash from social media posts, induced some conformity and silencing, but the results were generally weak and not statistically significant. Finally, a social information treatment, which informed respondents about high rates of others’ willingness to speak up, significantly decreased self-censorship. We use our theoretical model, and empirical estimates from the experiment about the value of "speaking up", to analyze potential welfare implications. The analysis reveals that social norms which restrict freedom of expression may enhance social welfare.
  • Publication
    Are economics conferences gender-neutral? Evidence from Ireland
    (University College Dublin. School of Economics, 2022-10) ;
    We study gender inequality in conference acceptance using data from the Irish Economic Association annual conference from 2016 to 2022, exploiting the introduction of anonymised submission in 2021 to study the effect of blinding. While no gender gap is observed in the organisers’ acceptance decisions, there is an indication of in-group gender bias at the reviewer stage. In particular, male reviewers persistently give higher scores to male-authored papers. Evidence suggests that the bias stems from unconscious stereotyping against lesser-known female authors. Anonymisation eliminates the in-group bias of male reviewers, but introduces a bias in favour of male authors for female reviewers.
  • Publication
    Can ♥s Change Minds? Social Media Endorsements and Policy Preferences
    (University College Dublin. School of Economics, 2021-02-04) ; ; ; ;
    We investigate the effect of social media endorsements (likes, retweets, shares) on individuals’ policy preferences. In two online controlled experiments (N=1,384), we exposed participants to non-neutral policy messages about the COVID-19 pandemic (emphasizing either public health or economic activity as a policy priority) while varying the level of endorsements of these messages. Our experimental treatment significantly shifted the policy views of active social media users by about 0.12 standard deviations. The treatment effect for these users is heterogeneous depending on their pre-existing views. Specifically, message endorsements reinforce pre-existing attitudes, thereby increasing opinion polarization. The effect appears concentrated on a minority of individuals who correctly answered a factual manipulation check regarding the endorsement metrics. This evidence suggests that though only a fraction of individuals pay conscious attention to these metrics, they may be easily influenced by these social cues.
  • Publication
    Mining for Mood Effect in the Field
    (University College Dublin. School of Economics, 2020-01) ;
    We conduct what we believe to be the most methodologically rigorous study of mood effect in the field so far to measure its economic impact and address shortcomings in the existing literature. Using a large dataset containing over 46 million car inspections in Sweden and England in 2016 and 2017, we study whether inspectors are more lenient on days when their mood is predicted to be good, and if car owners exploit the mood effect by selecting these days to inspect low quality cars. Different sources of good mood are studied: Fridays, sunny days, and days following unexpected wins by the local soccer team, with varying degrees of the car owner’s ability to plan for inspection, and hence the likelihood of selection bias. We find limited evidence to support the existence of mood effects in this domain, despite survey results showing belief to the contrary. There is some indication of selection effect on the part of car owners. Our findings cast doubt on previous mood effects found in the field.
  • Publication
    Pessimism and Overcommitment: An Online Experiment with Tempting YouTube Content
    (University College Dublin. School of Economics, 2022-01-24) ;
    This paper explores the possibility that demand for costly commitment may prove unnecessary and thus excessive. In an online experiment, subjects face a tedious productivity task where tempting YouTube videos invite procrastination. Subjects can pay for a commitment device that removes the videos with some probability less than one, allowing us to compare their willingness to pay with realized material and psychological costs of temptation. A significant share of subjects overestimate their commitment demand, being overly pessimistic about their performance when tempted. However, the total realized ex-post disutility from undercommitment is greater than that from overcommitment.
  • Publication
    The Unintended Side Effects of Regulating Charities: Donors Penalise Administrative Burden Almost as Much as Overheads
    (University College Dublin. School of Economics, 2021-02) ;
    Recent experimental evidence suggests that donors are averse to giving to charities with high overhead ratios. This paper asks whether donors are also averse to giving to charities spending a high share of the donations on unavoidable administrative expenses. The results of an experiment with a nationally representative sample (n = 1, 032) suggest that donors dislike paying for administrative burden almost as much as for overhead. While donors care primarily about how much of their donations are used for program-related services, donors seem to have a weak preference for charities to spend their donations on administrative burden rather than on overheads. Government subsidies that help alleviate charities’ administrative burden can reduce donors’ aversion to give to charities with high administrative expenses. Overall, we show that regulations that aim to increase transparency and accountability in the charity sector can have the unintended side effect of reducing charitable giving.
  • Publication
    Pessimism and Overcommitment
    (University College Dublin. School of Economics, 2019-09-13) ;
    Economic agents commonly use commitment devices to limit impulsive behavior in the interest of long-term goals. We provide evidence for excess demand for commitment in a laboratory experiment. Subjects are faced with a tedious productivity task and a tempting option to surf the internet. Subjects state their willingness-to-pay for a commitment device that removes the option to surf. The commitment device is then allocated with some probability, thus allowing us to observe the behavior of subjects who demand commitment but have to face temptation. We find that a significant share of the subjects overestimate their demand for commitment when compared to their material loss from facing the temptation. This is true even when we take into account the potential desire to avoid psychological costs from being tempted. Assuming risk aversion does not change our conclusion, though it suggests that pessimism in expected performance, rather than psychological cost, is the main driver of overcommitment. Our results suggest there is a need to reconsider the active promotion of commitment devices in situations where there is limited disutility from the tempting option.