Research

Publications in Peer-Reviewed Journals

Do women receive less blame than men? Attribution of outcomes in a prosocial setting,” with Nisvan Erkal and Lata Gangadharan, 2023, Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization. [pdf] [data and experimental software]
[Media Coverage: Telegraph]  
Abstract

We examine gender biases in the attribution of leaders’ outcomes to their choices versus luck. Leaders make unobservable investment choices that affect the payoffs of group members. High investment is costly to the leader but increases the probability of an outcome with a high payoff. We observe gender biases in the attribution of low outcomes. Low outcomes of male (female) leaders are attributed more to their selfish decisions (bad luck). These biases are driven by male evaluators. We find no gender differences in the attribution of high outcomes.

Sexual identity, gender, and anticipated discrimination in prosocial behavior,” with Billur Aksoy and Ian Chadd, 2023, European Economic Review, 104427. [pdf] [data and experimental software]
[Media Coverage: NPR’s 51 Percent Podcast]  
Abstract

We study whether individuals strategically mask signals about their affinity with the LGBTQ+ community in response to anticipated discrimination in prosocial behavior. We use a sharing (dictator) game in an online experiment where recipients are given the opportunity to signal their LGBTQ+ affinity. Decision-makers, upon observing these signals, decide how much of their endowment to share with their matched recipients. Overall, there is a decrease (although statistically insignificant) in the proportions of recipients who signal their affinity with the LGBTQ+ community when they are informed that these signals will be revealed to decision-makers. Importantly, we find a gender difference: women are more likely to hide such signals given information about how the signals will be used. Auxiliary analysis suggests that this gender difference is likely due to women’s higher propensity to anticipate discrimination. Moreover, we find that decision-makers do not differ in their treatment of individuals based on signals of their LGBTQ+ affinity. However, the intersection between decision-makers’ perceptions of these signals, and both their political stance on social issues and their views about LGBTQ+ rights, matter in shaping their sharing behavior.

By chance or by choice? Biased attribution of others’ outcomes when social preferences matter,” with Nisvan Erkal and Lata Gangadharan, 2022, Experimental Economics, 25, 413-443 [pdf] [data and experimental software]     
Abstract

Decision makers in positions of power often make unobserved choices under risk and uncertainty. In many cases, they face a trade-off between maximizing their own payoff and those of other individuals. What inferences are made in such instances about their choices when only outcomes are observable? We conduct two experiments that investigate whether outcomes are attributed to luck or choices. Decision makers choose between two investment options, where the more costly option has a higher chance of delivering a good outcome (that is, a higher payoff) for the group. We show that attribution biases exist in the evaluation of good outcomes. On average, good outcomes of decision makers are attributed more to luck as compared to bad outcomes. This asymmetry implies that decision makers get too little credit for their successes. The biases are exhibited by those individuals who make or would make the less prosocial choice for the group as decision makers, suggesting that a consensus effect may be shaping both the belief formation and updating processes.

Replication: Belief elicitation with quadratic and binarized scoring rules,” with Nisvan Erkal and Lata Gangadharan, 2020, Journal of Economic Psychology, 81. [link] [supplementary materials] (Working paper version with within-subject comparison available here.)    
Abstract

Researchers increasingly elicit beliefs to understand the underlying motivations of decision makers. Two commonly used methods are the quadratic scoring rule (QSR) and the binarized scoring rule (BSR). Hossain and Okui (2013) use a within-subject design to evaluate the performance of these two methods in an environment where subjects report probabilistic beliefs over binary outcomes with objective probabilities. In a near replication of their study, we show that their results continue to hold with a between-subject design. This is an important validation of the BSR given that researchers typically implement only one method to elicit beliefs. In favor of the BSR, reported beliefs are less accurate under the QSR than the BSR. Consistent with theoretical predictions, risk-averse subjects distort their reported beliefs under the QSR.

Monetary and non-monetary incentives in real-effort tournaments,” with Nisvan Erkal and Lata Gangadharan, 2018, European Economic Review, 101, 528-545. [link] [pdf] [supplementary materials]
Abstract

Results from laboratory experiments using real-effort tasks provide mixed evidence on the relationship between monetary incentives and effort provision. To examine this issue, we design three experiments where subjects participate in two-player real-effort tournaments with two prizes. Experiment 1 shows that subjects exert high effort even if there are no monetary incentives, suggesting that non-monetary incentives are contributing to their effort choices. Moreover, increasing monetary incentives does not result in higher effort provision. Experiment 2 shows that the impact of non-monetary incentives can be reduced by providing subjects with the option of leaving the laboratory early, using an incentivized timeout button, or working on an incentivized alternative activity. Experiment 3 revisits the relationship between monetary incentives and effort provision using the insights from Experiment 2. Using a design with an incentivized alternative activity, we show that participants increase effort in response to monetary incentives. Taken together, the findings from the three experiments suggest that results from real-effort tasks require a careful evaluation and interpretation of the motivations underlying the observed performance.

Impact of rebates and refunds on contributions to threshold public goods: Evidence from a field experiment,” with Matthew Donazzan and Nisvan Erkal, 2016, Southern Economic Journal, 83(1), 69-86. [link] [pdf]
Abstract

We investigate the impact of rebates and refunds on contributions to threshold public goods using evidence from a field experiment conducted in conjunction with an Australian charity, Life Goes On. We find that offering rebates and refunds has a significant positive impact on both participation and average donations in the absence of seed money. Our results suggest that offering rebates and refunds, and the existence of seed money may, to some extent, play substitute roles in encouraging giving behavior. Seed money has a significant positive effect on participation only. Seed money’s impact on average donations may be mitigated by a threshold effect.

Handbook Chapters

Gender and (inaccurate) beliefs,” with Nisvan Erkal, forthcoming, in S.H. Chuah, R. Hoffmann and A. Neelim (Eds.), Edward Elgar Encyclopedia of Behavioral and Experimental Economics.  
Abstract

Beliefs play a critical role in many economic, political, and life decisions. Experimental methodology provides scholars with a vital tool for evaluating the role that beliefs play in decision making. Research in experimental and behavioral economics have revealed that the beliefs we use in decision making are often inaccurate. Uncovering these distortions in the areas of gender gaps and discrimination has advanced our understanding of these phenomena. In this chapter, we provide an overview of the types of belief distortions that have been identified in the areas of gender gaps and discrimination, and their implications. Understanding these distortions is important for informing interventions aimed at narrowing gender gaps.

Working Papers

Discrimination in evaluation criteria: The role of beliefs versus outcomes,” with Nisvan Erkal and Lata Gangadharan. [pdf] [experimental instructions] (under review)  
Abstract

Using incentivized experiments, we investigate whether different criteria are used in evaluating male and female leaders when outcomes are determined by unobservable choices and luck. Evaluators form beliefs about leaders’ choices and make discretionary payments. We find that while payments to male leaders are determined by both outcomes and evaluators’ beliefs, those to female leaders are determined by outcomes only. We label this new source of gender bias as the gender criteria gap. Our findings imply that high outcomes are necessary for women to get bonuses, but men can receive bonuses for low outcomes as long as evaluators hold them in high regard.

The signals we give: Performance feedback, gender, and competition,” with Alexander Coutts and Zahra Murad. [pdf] (revise-and-resubmit, Management Science)

Abstract

Feedback is a vital tool used by organizations and educators to improve performance, spark learning, and foster individual growth. Yet, anecdotal evidence suggests that many individuals are hesitant to provide others with feedback. Moreover, gender biases may influence its provision, with consequences for the representation of women in leadership and competitive professions. We study feedback provision under different conditions that vary the nature of performance signals, how instrumental they are for decision making, and gender of the recipient. Our results reveal that a substantial degree of feedback is withheld by advisors. Moreover, advisors are more likely to shield women from negative feedback in conditions characterized both by a lack of complete information about performance, and feedback that is not immediately instrumental for their decision-making. This effect is driven by male advisors. Our findings showcase how gender differences can arise in feedback provision, and highlight when these differences may be more likely to appear.

Work in Progress

Using milestones as a source of feedback in teamwork,” with Nisvan Erkal and Nguyen Lam.

Gender and Demand for Social Comparison Information,” with Nisvan Erkal and Lingguo Xu.

Belief Elicitation under Ambiguity,” joint with Alexander Coutts, Christoph Drobner, and Chris Woolnough.

Motivated Beliefs and Racial Discrimination,” joint with Kai Barron and Alexander Coutts.

Gender Specialization and Credit Claiming,” joint with Jonathan Yeo and Xiaojie Zhang.

Lived Experiences of Gender and Sexual Minorities in Higher Education in Vietnam,” joint with Fabio Arico, Pranee Liamputtong, Trinh Thi Thuy Lien, and Zyra Evangelista.