Working Papers 

Fairness in times of crisis: Negative shocks, relative income, and preferences for redistribution. CeDEx Working Paper Series.

Do negative economic shocks affect preferences for redistribution? In this paper, I explore two channels through which shocks could matter: reference points and need considerations. Informed by a conceptual framework, I design an experimental environment that abstracts from self-interest motives and exogenously either varies an individual's income history (reference points) or information about real economic shocks caused by Covid-19 (need). Participants then have to distribute earned income between themselves and another person. I find that both reference points and need considerations matter for redistribution. Individuals allocate more to people who had higher earnings in the past and to those in need. This implies that times of economic crisis can lead to shifts in the support of redistributive policies. Finally, when confronted with uncertainty about how and whether shocks affected another person, individuals use this wiggle room to ignore reference points but not need. 


Strategic Behavior with Tight, Loose and Polarized Norms (with Eugen Dimant, Michele Gelfand & Silvia Sonderegger). Revise & Resubmit, Management Science.

Descriptive norms -the behavior of other individuals in one's reference group - play a key role in shaping individual decisions in managerial contexts and beyond. Organizations are increasingly using information about descriptive norms to nudge positive behavior change. When characterizing peer decisions, a standard approach in the literature is to focus on average behavior. In this paper, we argue both theoretically and empirically that not only averages but also the shape of the whole distribution of behavior can play a crucial role in how people react to descriptive norms. Using a representative sample of the U.S. population, we experimentally investigate how individuals react to strategic environments that are characterized by different distributions of behavior, focusing on the distinction between tight (i.e., characterized by low behavioral variance), loose (i.e., characterized by high behavioral variance), and polarized (i.e., characterized by u-shaped behavior) environments. We find that individuals indeed strongly respond to differences in the variance and shape of the descriptive norm they are facing: loose norms generate greater behavioral variance and polarization generates polarized responses. In polarized environments, most individuals prefer extreme actions - which expose them to considerable strategic risk - to intermediate actions that minimize such risk. Furthermore, in polarized and loose environments, personal traits and values play a larger role in determining actual behavior. These nuances of how individuals react to different types of descriptive norms have important implications for company culture, productivity, and organizational effectiveness alike.


5 minute presentation on this paper (NoBeC Early Career Researchers series)

Does Inequality threaten Stability? Evidence from the Lab (with Abigail Barr & Silvia Sonderegger).  CeDEx Working Paper Series.

In this paper we study the relationship between inequality and social instability. While the argument that inequality can be damaging for the cohesion of a society is old, the empirical evidence is mixed. We use a novel approach to isolate the causal relationship running from inequality to instability. Specifically, we conduct a laboratory experiment. In the experiment, two groups are interacting with each other repeatedly and have an incentive to cooperate even though cooperation comes at the cost of inter-group inequality. In the second half of the experiment, we vary the extent of the inequality implied by cooperation. Our results show that increasing such inequality has a destabilising effect; the disadvantaged group attacks the status quo. We show that this behaviour is consistent with a simple theoretical framework incorporating disadvantageous inequality aversion and myopic best response. Moreover, we find that a worsening of the absolute situation of the disadvantaged group or a sudden rather than gradual increase in inequality exacerbate the destabilising effect of inequality. Finally, we show that history matters, with people responding differently to the same level of inequality now depending on their past experiences. 


Work in Progress

Avoidable mistakes: to hide or not to hide? (with Malte Baader, Sarah Bowen & Richard Mills)

Reporting mistakes within organisational structures can substantially improve the efficiencies of firms. Since reporting a mistake is a noisy signal regarding a worker’s ability and the environment they face, there is an intuitive hesitation from the worker’s perspective to communicate the occurrences of mistakes. Exploring implementable mechanisms that enhance employee reporting is therefore crucial for organisations to achieve higher efficiencies. In this paper we design a novel experiment that - guided by a principal-agent model - explores how reducing fear (through anonymous reporting) and futility (changing the work environment) affect workers’ decisions to report mistakes. We find that introducing anonymity reporting options alone only leads to marginal improvements, whereas combining anonymity with the possibility to change the work environment significantly increases the reporting of mistakes.

Working paper in preparation

Too Good to be True - Individual and Group Decision-Making with Correlated Signals (with Sebastian Fehrler & Moritz Janas)

Understanding how individuals process information is crucial for comprehending private and political opinions. Recent studies reveal that people often neglect correlations, treating correlated sources as independent which in turnleads to inaccurate inferences. This study explores this bias for individual and group decision-making, focusing on scenarios where overwhelming evidence can mislead. In an experiment, participants vote based on imperfect signals, and group decisions rely on simple majority rule. Most individuals neglect correlations, resulting in sub-optimal votes. Groups do not outperform individuals under correlated information, and even open communication does not improve outcomes. However, heterogeneous committees benefit from correlated information, encouraging more honest communication.

Working paper in preparation

Gender differences in reference letters: Economic significance and behavioural mechanisms 

(with Markus Eberhardt, Giovanni Facchini, Valeria Rueda & Fabio Tufano)

Working paper in preparation 

Improving Equity in Education through Youth Mentoring: An Evaluation of a Randomized Intervention in Colombia

(with Diego Amador, Diego Aycinena, Sebastian Fehrler, Urs Fischbacher, Andrés Moya, Guido Schwerdt & Angélica Serrano)

Data collection ongoing