Jan
23
Tue
Colloquium: Sveinung Arnesen – University of Bergen @ CESS Seminar Room
Jan 23 @ 12:30 pm – 1:30 pm

Title
By What Authority? Uncovering The Conditional Mandate from Referendums in EU Membership Decisions

Abstract
A virtue of democratic decision-making procedures is that the foundations in which decisions are made are thought to enhance the legitimacy of the decision. We study the nuances of this assumption and ask under what conditions democratic decisions are seen as legitimate in the eyes of the people. Speci cally, we investigate what mandate citizens award an EU membership referendum in three European non-member and three member countries based on the level of turnout, size of majority, and favorability of the outcome.

Jan
30
Tue
Colloquium: Jiao Peiran – University of Oxford @ CESS Seminar Room
Jan 30 @ 12:30 pm – 1:30 pm

Title
Learning in Categories and the Attention Constraints of Investors

Abstract
Investment based on asset categories (aka style investing) is considered a cause of major financial anomalies, such as the abnormal stock price gains of companies that changed to dotcom names during the Internet bubble without other changes in strategy. However, the reasons for this categorical behavior are unclear. In this project, we will conduct the first experimental test of the hypothesis that attention constraints contribute to style investing. The efficient allocation of limited attention can encourage learning in categories, because category-level data provides information about all members, whereas stock-specific data provides information only about the individual stock. This theory predicts that attention to categories is driven by the confluence of psychological elements, like information-processing ability, and economic elements, like the number of stocks within a category. We plan to directly investigate these predictions by measuring the amount of time participants spend looking at category-level vs stock-specific information in a simulated financial environment, varying these psychological and economic predictors. Moreover, we can test whether information-processing ability in our financial context relates to broader cognitive traits. Thus, we hope to shed light on how limits on the ability to process information may result in economic anomalies that persist and even grow at large scales.

Feb
6
Tue
Colloquium: Joseph Peissel – University of Oxford @ CESS Seminar Room
Feb 6 @ 12:30 pm – 1:30 pm

Title
Correcting cognitive biases through Brief Information Provision

Abstract
This paper sets out a debiasing strategy based on Brief Information Provision (BIP), and tests its effectiveness in debiasing the Anchoring Bias, Availability Bias, Optimism Bias, and Present Bias, four of the key cognitive biases involved in the consumption of negative externalities such as cigarettes and fast foods.

A BIP debiasing strategy involves providing individuals with brief, easy to understand information on the bias they are likely to suffer from, including:

  • A layman’s definition of the bias
  • A common example of how the bias may occur in everyday life

The previous debiasing literature has put forward various measures for addressing cognitive biases, from training interventions to feedback mechanisms informing individuals of their biased decision making, but such strategies consistently lack a method of effective application outside of the laboratory. BIP takes a different approach; rather than teaching participants how to avoid biases, it asks whether biases can be alleviated simply by telling participants about them. In this regard, BIP has wide ranging applicability; a two or three sentence informational intervention could be posted on cigarette boxes, at the bottom of gambling adverts, or even printed on food menus in the same way as compulsory calorie posting.

The effectiveness of BIP as a debiasing strategy will be tested in a simple Individual Random Assignment Design (IRA), involving a treatment group (exposure to BIP) and a control group (no exposure to BIP). The treatment group will first read BIP, and then proceed to answer the same questionnaire as the control group, which is designed to elicit the four biases mentioned above. Mean differences between the two groups will be compared for each bias, where the effectiveness of BIP would be demonstrated by a statistically significant reduction in the bias shown by the treatment group.

Feb
20
Tue
Colloquium: David Ronayne – University of Oxford @ CESS Seminar Room
Feb 20 @ 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm

Title
When Good Advice is Ignored: The Role of Envy

Abstract
In a novel incentivized, online experiment involving 1,500 participants we find that good advice is frequently ignored. In our experiment, the rational actions were to ignore advice when it was “bad” and accept it when was “good”. However, participants chose to ignore good advice about a quarter of the time and appeared to trade-off rationality against behavioral factors. Through the implementation of novel treatments, we find that the fundamental human trait of envy played a major and varied explanatory role in determining the propensity of individuals to accept good advice. Our between-subject treatment shows that good advice was followed less often when the adviser was highly remunerated, while our within-subject treatment reveals that good advice was followed less often when the adviser was more skillful than advisees, rather than luckier. When the adviser was superior in skill, envy played a “positive” role: those with a higher dispositional level of envy were on average more likely to take good advice. However, when remuneration was high, a “negative” side of envy emerged: the positive association between envy and the propensity to take good advice was lost. Our conceptualization of advice suggests we need control for participants’ susceptibility to the sunk cost fallacy. To do so, we constructed a new scale to measure susceptibility to the fallacy which, among our participants, we found to be robustly negatively associated with the propensity to take good advice.

Mar
6
Tue
Colloquium: Ross James Gildea @ CESS Seminar Room
Mar 6 @ 12:30 pm – 1:30 pm

Title
The Political Psychology of Issue Selection in Transnational Advocacy Networks

Abstract
Why do international non-governmental organizations (INGOs) expend considerable material and communicative resources to help alleviate some forms of humanitarian crises, while other crises fail to attract similar levels of attention? How can we explain why some humanitarian issues are selected for attention by transnational advocacy networks (TANs) over others? Existing scholarship has posited that issue attributes help determine the advocacy agendas of transnational actors. Issues which fit well with pre-existing national and international agendas, resonate with accepted transnational norms, or exude a simple causal chain of blame, such as those pertaining to bodily harm and legal ill-treatment of innocent or vulnerable people, are putatively conducive to selection. However, these explanations remain without empirical corroboration, with recent empirical studies suggesting that variation in the issues which are prioritized by transnational actors cannot be accounted for through existing explanatory frameworks. This study will advance a political psychology approach to the question of humanitarian issue selection by TANs. Drawing on insights from behavioural decision research, particularly advances in theoretical and experimental work in cognitive psychology, it empirically tests the proposition that heuristic-led judgement on the part of key decision-makers in TANs is a central determinant in the (non-)adoption of humanitarian issues by advocacy networks. The proposed explanation will be investigated empirically through a mixed-method research design, encompassing a paired-conjoint experiment with UK NGO workers and qualitative case studies involving three major humanitarian organizations.

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