Damon Clark, David Gill, Victoria Prowse , Mark Rush
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Will college students who set goals for themselves work harder and achieve better outcomes? In theory, setting goals can help present-biased students to mitigate their self-control problem. In practice, there is little credible evidence on the causal effects on goal setting for college students. We report the result of two field experiments that involved almost four thousand college students in total. One experiments asked treated students to set goals for performance in the course; the other asked treated students to set goals for a particular task (completing online practice exams). Task-based goals had robust positive effects on the level of task completion, and task-based goals also increased course performance. We also find that performance-based goals had positive but small effects on course performance. We use a theoretical framework that builds on present bias and loss aversion to interpret our results. Since task-based goal setting is low-cost, scalable and logistically simple, we conclude that our findings have important implications for educational practice and future research.
John A List, Zacharias Maniadis, Fabio Tufano
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The sciences are in an era o fan alleged "credibility crisis'. In this study, we discuss the reproducibility of empirical results, focusing on economics research. By combining theory and empirical evidence, we discuss the import of replication studies, and whether they improve our confidence in novel findings. The theory sheds light on the importance of replications, even when replications are subject to bias. We then present a pilot meta-study of replication in experimental economics, a subfield serving as a positive benchmark for investigating the credibility of economics. Our meta-study highlights certain difficulties when applying meta-research (Ioannidis et al., 2015) and systematizing the economics literature.
Omar Isaac Asensio, Magali A Delmas
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Little is known about the effect of message framing on conservation behavior over time. In a randomized controlled trial with residential households, we use advanced metering and information technologies to test how different messages about household energy use impact the dynamics of conservation behavior down to the appliance level. Our results, based on 374 million panel observations of kilowatt-hour (kWh) electricity consumption for 118 households over 9 months, show that differences in behavioral responses due to message framing become more significant over time. We find that a health-based frame, in which households consider the human health effects of their marginal electricity use, induced persistent energy savings behavior of 8-10% over 100 days; whereas a more traditional cost savings frame, drove sharp attenuation of treatment effects after 2 weeks with no significant savings versus control after 7 weeks. We discuss the implications for the design of effective information campaigns to engage households in conservation behavior.
Andreas Leibbrandt, John A List
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Labor force composition and the allocation of talent remain of vital import to modern economies. For their part, governments and companies around the globe have implemented equal employment opportunity (EEO) regulations to influence labor market flows. Even though such regulations are pervasive, surprisingly little is known about their impacts. We use a natural field experiment conducted across 10 U.S. cities to investigate if EEO statements in job advertisements affect the first step in the employment process, application rates. Making use of data from nearly 2,500 job seekers, we find considerable policy effects, but in an unexpected direction: the presence of an EEO statement dampens rather than encourages racial minorities willingness to apply for jobs. Importantly, the effects are particularly pronounced for educated job seekers and in cities with white majority populations. Complementary survey evidence suggests the underlying mechanism at work is "tokenism", revealing that EEO statements backfire because racial minorities avoid environments in which they are perceived as regulatory, or symbolic, hires rather than being hired on their own merits. Beyond their practical and theoretical importance, our results highlight how field experiments can significantly improve policy making. In this case, if one goal of EEO regulations is to enhance the pool of minority applicants, then it is not working.
Hansika Kapoor, Savita Kulkarni, Anirudh Tagat
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This study aims to investigate intra-household bargaining outcomes elicited in an artefactual field experiment design where participants completed a purchase task of real commodities. Married couples separately expressed their initial preferences over commodities. The bargaining process in the experiment was exogenously introduced by sharing information about partners' preferences in the treatment group. We hypothesized that the spouse with weaker bargaining position at the household level would consider the information of their partner's preferences while making own consumption decisions more compared to their partner. Therefore, they may deviate from their own preferences when purchasing commodities. More than 230 married couples from two villages in the Tamil Nadu state of India participated in the experiment. It was observed that information about partners' spending preferences resulted in reduced final allocation for female participants. However, the deviation was not significantly different from the original intention to spend. Therefore, information about partners' preferences may not be an effective medium to elicit bargaining power in the context of jointly-consumed household commodities. Subgroup analyses were performed to identify any heterogeneous treatment effects.
Loukas Balafoutas, Nikos Nikiforakis, Bettina Rockenbach
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Many interactions in modern human societies are among strangers. Explaining cooperation in such interactions is challenging. The two most prominent explanations critically depend on individuals' willingness to punish defectors: In models of direct punishment, individuals punish antisocial behavior at a personal cost, whereas in models of indirect reciprocity, they punish indirectly by withholding rewards. We investigate these competing explanations in a field experiment with real-life interactions among strangers. We find clear evidence of both direct and indirect punishment. Direct punishment is not rewarded by strangers and, in line with models of indirect reciprocity, is crowded out by indirect punishment opportunities. The existence of direct and indirect punishment in daily life indicates the importance of both means of understanding the evolution of cooperation.
Loukas Balafoutas, Nikos Nikiforakis, Bettina Rockenbach
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The degree of human cooperation among strangers is a major evolutionary puzzle. A prominent explanation is that cooperation maintained because many individuals have a predisposition to punish those violating group-beneficial norms. A critical condition for cooperation to evolve in evolutionary models is that punishment increases with the severity of the violation. Here we present evidence from a field experiment with real-life interactions that, unlike in lab experiments, altruistic punishment does not increase with the severity of the violation, regardless of whether it is direct (confronting a violator) or indirect (withholding help). We also document growing concerns for counter-punishment as the severity of the violation increases, indicating that the marginal cost of direct punishment increases with the severity of violations. The evidence suggests that altruistic punishment may not provide appropriate incentives to deter large violations. Our findings thus offer a rationale for the emergence of formal institutions for prompting large-scale cooperation among strangers.
Alec Brandon, John A List, Robert D Metcalfe, Michael K Price, Florian Rundhammer
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This study considers the response of household electricity consumption to social nudges during peak load events. Our investigation considers two social nudges. The first targets conservation during peak load events, while the second promotes aggregate conservation. Using data from a natural field experiment with 42,100 households, we find that both social nudges reduce peak load electricity consumption by 2 to 4% when implemented in isolation and by nearly 7% when implemented in combination. These findings suggest an important role for social nudges in the regulation of electricity markets and a limited role for crowd out effects.
Syon Bhanot, Gordon Kraft-Todd, David Rand, Erez Yoeli
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We partnered with the School District of Philadelphia (SDP) to run a randomized experiment testing interventions to increase teacher participation in an annual feedback survey, an uncompensated task that requires a teacher's time but helps the educational system overall. Our experiment varied the nature of the incentive scheme used, and the associated messaging. In the experiment, all 8,062 active teachers in the SDP were randomly assigned to receive one of four emails using a 2x2 experimental design; specifically, teachers received a lottery-based financial incentive to complete the survey that was either "personal" (a chance to win one of fifteen $100 gift cards for themselves) or "social" (a chance to win one of fifteen $100 gift cards for supplies for their students), and also received email messaging that either did or did not make salient their identity as an educator. Despite abundant statistical power, we find no discernible differences across our conditions on survey completion rates. One implication of these null results is that from a public administration perspective, social rewards may be preferable since funds used for this purpose by school districts go directly to students (through increased expenditure on student supplies), and do not seem less efficacious than personal financial incentives for teachers.
Ran Kivetz, Oleg Urminsky, Yuhuang Zheng
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The goal-gradient hypothesis denotes the classic finding from behaviorism that animals expend more effort as they approach a reward. Building on this hypothesis, the authors generate new propositions for the human psychology of rewards. They test these propositions using a field experiment, secondary customer data, paper-and-pencil problems, and Tobit and logit models. The key finding indicate that (1) participants in a real cafe reward program purchase coffee more frequently the closer they are to earning a free coffee; (2) Internet users who rate songs in return for reward certificates visit the rating Web site more often, rate more songs per visit, and persist longer in the rating effort as they approach the reward goal; (3) the illusion of progress toward the goal induces purchase acceleration (e.g., customers who receive a 12-stamp coffee card with 2 preexisting "bonus" stamps complete the 10 required purchases faster than customers who receive a "regular" 10-stamp card) and (4) a stronger tendency to accelerate toward the goal predicts greater retention and faster reengagement in the program. The conceptualization and empirical findings are captured by a parsimonious goal distance model, in which effort investment is a function of the proportion of original distance remaining to the goal. In addition, using statistical and experimental controls, the authors rule out alternative explanations for the observed goal gradients. They discuss the theoretical significance of their findings and the managerial implications for incentive systems, promotions, and customer retention.