“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]
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]
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]
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.)
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]
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]
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.
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.
Many economic activities rely on teamwork where groups of individuals work together for a common goal by pooling their resources or skills. However, cooperation within teams can be challenging due to the social dilemma problem which arises when individual incentives interfere with operational effectiveness. We study teamwork in a dynamic public goods game setting where individuals make multiple contribution decisions to a team project and face strategic uncertainty about the behavior of their team members. We examine whether providing feedback about the team’s progress at regular intervals (time-based feedback) or based on the achievement of milestones (milestone-based feedback) is more beneficial for increasing aggregate contributions. Our results reveal that providing milestone-based feedback leads to a significant increase in aggregate team contributions as compared to time-based feedback. This impact is largely driven by conditional cooperators. Findings from a follow-up experiment reveal evidence of a goal effect, a signaling effect, and an information effect arising from the use of milestones on the behavior of conditional cooperators.
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 precision and valence of performance signals, their instrumentality, and gender of the recipient. Our results reveal that a substantial degree of feedback is obscured. Moreover, negative feedback is more likely to be obscured from women in conditions characterized both by a lack of complete information about performance, and feedback that is not immediately instrumental for the recipient’s decision-making. This effect is driven by male advisors. Our findings showcase how gender biases can arise in feedback provision, and highlight when these biases may be more likely to appear.
Work in Progress
“Gender and Preferences for Comparative Information,” with Nisvan Erkal and Lingguo Xu. (Status: Preparing manuscript for submission.)
“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. (Status: Data collection in progress.)