Newsletters 2021

19/11 - Colloquium by César Fuster Llamazares


César Fuster Llamazares

University of Oxford

Wednesday, 24th November @ 2:00 PM
Butler Room (Nuffield College) + Online: request the link
Taxing the Rich: Disentangling the Puzzle
What factors do individuals consider when thinking about taxing the rich? Despite several studies showing that inequality has increased in the past decades, marginal top tax rates have not gone back to the levels reached in the post-war period. A prominent approach in political economy suggests that individuals below the mean income should be willing to tax…
Read full abstract

26/10 - Colloquium by Musashi Harukawa

Following our announcement last week in the newsletter, we were able to meet with the IT team at Nuffield to discuss the possibility of us running the colloquia series as a hybrid event. We are pleased to say that we will be able to offer this term’s colloquia series in a hybrid format for both presenters and participants.

If you are interested in presenting your work (either in person or online), please contact and indicate your preferred format.

If you are interested in participating in the colloquia series in-person, please check our calendar for upcoming events.  If you are interested in participating online, please make sure to sign up for the talk on our website to ensure you will receive the link to join the session on the day of the presentation.

The details of CESS’s next colloquia are presented below.


Musashi Harukawa

University of Oxford

Wednesday, 3rd November @ 14:00 PM
Does Microtargeting Work? Evidence from an Experiment During the 2020 United States Presidential Election
Political science research consistently shows that political advertisements have small and uniform effects. This contrasts with claims that microtargeted campaigning can sway electoral outcomes and poses a threat to society. This paper introduces a novel experimental design simulating a targeted campaign to empirically test whether targeting political advertisements can be effective. Participants in an online survey experiment view one of five anti-Biden advertisements. Respondents assigned to control are allocated advertisements at random. This data is used to train a model predicting Biden favorability from advertisement and pre-treatment traits. Respondents in the treatment group view the advertisement that this model predicts to be the most effective. The difference between targeted and random allocation is an 8.7 percentage point increase in Biden dislike and a 7.1 percentage point decrease in intent to vote Biden among unaligned voters who had not yet cast their vote (N=586). The effect is negligible among partisan voters.
Request the link

15/10 - Michaelmas 2021

Welcome back fellow researchers & experimentalists!


The CESS team is excited for the return of Oxford students in time for the start of Michaelmas 2021. We hope to reopen the lab and resume in-person events later this term! In the meantime, we have a number of announcements and events to mark in your calendar.

In preparation for reopening our laboratory (depending on the success of mock sessions), the CESS team is looking to hire some laboratory assistants to help ensure that our lab experiments are run as smoothly and safely as possible. Lab assistants may be asked to aid with signing subjects in for a session, situating subjects in the laboratory and helping experimenters during a session. The hourly salary for laboratory assistants is £15/h. If you are interested in this position or know someone who may be, please send a brief cover letter and resume outlining your qualifications to

CESS Applied Research Methods Course – 2021


Building on our previous success, CESS offered another iteration of its Applied Research course in August. This course focused heavily on discussing recent developments in experimental social science methodology. Using a combination of taught and practical sessions, this intensive course was run over the course of a single week. The course brought together researchers (PhD and masters students) and practitioners (from NGOs, UN and International Organizations) from greater than 10 different countries around the globe. We view this opportunity as a unique chance for participants to share their experiences and methodological approaches through a combination of lecture and informal discussion. If this sounds like an intriguing opportunity, look for an announcement of the next iteration in spring 2022!

We are excited for the return of the CESS Colloquia Series in Michaelmas 2021. The colloquium series is dedicated to providing experimentalists with an opportunity to present their experimental designs and/or preliminary results for feedback from researchers from a wide array of disciplines. To learn more about some of the benefits resulting from presenting in our series, please read our “researcher spotlight” below.

Typically, the colloquia are held on Wednesdays from 14:00-15:00. Participation and attendance is open to all students and faculty. CESS intends to return to in-person colloquia this term (regulations and college guidance permitting). If you are interested in presenting your work, please contact

The Centre prides itself on its ability to facilitate experimental social science research for academics around the world. 2021 has posed unique and unexpected challenges for experimentalists but CESS has worked tirelessly to ensure that experiments can still be conducted. We are pleased to highlight one of the rising researchers who collaborated with CESS to conduct their research during summer 2021:

Itzhak Rasooly

Itzhak is a DPhil (PhD) candidate in economics at the University of Oxford and a tutor in microeconomics at St Hugh’s College, University of Oxford. His research explores topics such as auction theory, level-k thinking and social information. His work is funded by Oxford’s Department of Economics and Global Priorities Institute. Prior to starting his doctorate, Itzhak received a MPhil in Economics at the University of Oxford.

Itzhak first approached CESS in Michaelmas 2020 to run an experiment aimed at testing the level-k model of auctions (for more details, see the abstract below). To finalise the design of his experiment, Itzhak participated in the colloquium series organized by CESS to receive feedback on his design and advice on how to adapt it to our virtual laboratory setting. The experiment was piloted at the end of 2020 and the data collection was successfully completed in the summer 2021 using CESS Virtual Lab facilities. For a summary of his intriguing results, please find the abstract of Itzhak’s working paper below:

Going… going… wrong: a test of the level-k (and cognitive hierarchy) models of bidding behaviour

In this paper, we design and implement an experiment aimed at testing the level-k model of auctions. We begin by asking which (simple) environments can best disentangle the level-k model from its leading rival, Bayes Nash equilibrium. We find two environments that are particularly suited to this purpose: an all-pay auction with uniformly distributed values, and a first-price auction with the possibility of cancelled bids. We then implement both of these environments in a (virtual) laboratory in order to see which theory can best explain observed bidding behaviour. We find that, when plausibly calibrated, the level-k model substantially under-predicts the observed bids and is clearly out-performed by equilibrium. Moreover, attempting to fit the level-k model to the observed data results in implausibly high estimated levels, which in turn bear no relation to the levels inferred from a game known to trigger level-k reasoning. Finally, subjects almost never appeal to iterated reasoning when asked to explain how they bid. Overall, these findings suggest that, despite its notable success in predicting behaviour in other strategic settings, the level-k model (and its close cousin cognitive hierarchy) cannot explain behaviour in auctions.

CESS Office Hours


In addition to our colloquium series, we are pleased to announce an additional opportunity for researchers to receive informal feedback on their experiments. CESS will begin offering office hours twice a week, on Monday & Thursday from 12:00-13:00.

  • On Mondays, the office hour will be hosted by Tommaso Batistoni via Zoom (or in-person by request) and will primarily be an opportunity for researchers to ask questions about programming experiments. We ask interested researchers to contact CESS’s Postdoctoral researcher and lead programmer, Tommaso, at to reserve a time slot and to provide a brief overview of their questions.
  • On Thursdays, the office hour will be hosted by Noah Bacine via zoom (or in-person by request) and will primarily be an opportunity for researchers to ask questions about their experimental designs.  We ask interested researchers to contact CESS’s assistant director, Noah, at to schedule a time slot and to provide a brief overview of their questions.

31/05 - Colloquium by Đorđe Milosav

Virtual Colloquium

Đorđe Milosav

Trinity College Dublin

Wednesday, 2nd June @ 12:00 PM
Affecting State Legitimacy from Abroad. The Effects of Visa Policies on Citizens’ Willingness to Obey the State
Previous scholarship on state legitimacy, understood as the willingness of citizens to obey state authorities, suggests that the citizens’ perception of legitimate rule is most strongly influenced by high quality of government and procedural justice (Levi et al. 2009a; Rothstein 2009). Yet, based on the previous empirical work by Gilley (2006b), it seems that many citizens are willing to obey state authorities in spite of very poor quality of government service (QoG). Therefore, in this research project I am investigating why some citizens express high levels of state legitimacy in spite of lower levels of QoG. Based on the previous work on System Justification Theory (Jost and Andrews, 2011), I argue that citizens are more likely to legitimize a state with poor QoG if they perceive that they cannot escape it through emigration. If regular migration is mainly determined by visa regimes a country holds with potential host countries, I expect that varying visa regimes affect the level of escapability differently.In order to test this argument, I conducted a pilot survey experiment on a sample of Serbian undergraduate students (N=80). The results provide no support for the hypothesized mechanism. Yet, as a theoretical extension of the initial argument, it can be argued that system justification “gets activated” only in instances where the perceived responsibility of the new visa policies is on the country of origin. The preliminary results from this pilot study shows some support for this claim.
Get the link

24/05 - Colloquium by Mirko Reul

Virtual Colloquium

Mirko Reul

Graduate Institute Geneva

Wednesday, 26th May @ 12:00 PM
“Becoming Disloyal”: Evidence from a Lab Experiment
How does social conflict influence political behavior? In conflict settings, social groups treat otherwise tolerated behaviors as threatening: associating with ethnic others, profiting from inter-group trade, or collaborating with peace processes can be perceived as allegiance to the enemy. These “defector labels” are applied in a variety of social settings, from people’s homes and workplaces to public forums and social media. And those who are labeled as defectors may be ostracized, imprisoned, tortured or killed. I suggest that defector labels have a polarizing effect on political behavior: the labeled must either prove their conformity to the ingroup, or defect to seek security, social or economic support from the outgroup. A computer-assisted lab experiment is designed to understand the conditions that lead to conformity or defection, and how authorities may manipulate these conditions to divide populations whom they view as enemies. The experiment is designed as a “narrativized” Social Deduction Game 1, where players must work as a team to identify an enemy among them in order to maximize group rewards. Labeled defectors choose to remain in their group or switch sides to a rival group. In one treatment condition, labeled defectors are primed to receive social support from other players to remain in their group. In another treatment condition, they are primed to receive economic punishment for remaining in their group. Across conditions, I compare the propensity of labeled and unlabeled players to sacrifice personal for group rewards. The results shed light on the relationship between social cohesion and government security practices, which aim to generate popular compliance in conflicts between rival political authorities.
Get the link

17/05 - Colloquium by Simon Finster

Virtual Colloquium

Simon Finster

University of Oxford

Wednesday, 19th May @ 12:00 PM
“Sharing in Hard Times: on the Willingness to Give Towards COVID-19 Vaccines
About 80% of the population in resource-poor countries will not receive a COVID-19 vaccine in 2021 (Katz et al. 2021). An equitable global vaccine distribution would reduce not only the number of deaths and economic hardship, but also the occurrence of viral mutations with potentially devastating effects. Hence, vaccine redistribution to resource-poor countries can be justified through altruism and self-interest. However, only a few countries committed to sharing vaccines early on. How willing are people in resource-rich countries to share? What makes them donate towards vaccines in times of adversity? Our study aims to measure how the narratives of altruism and self-interest impact the willingness to donate. Understanding the inclination of individuals in resource-rich countries to share is essential for ensuring that vaccine redistribution policies are accepted among the general public. The goal of our study is to support the design of a global vaccination strategy with data on individual sharing behaviour, laying a foundation for policy and outreach.
Get the link

27/04 - Trinity 2021

Welcome back to Trinity term, 2021. We have lots of great events lined up for you this term and beyond, so get ready to do some experimental social science!


As part of CESS’s continued commitment to the training and mentorship of junior experimentalists, we are excited to announce our new introductory course on oTree.


Online oTree Course – Summer 2021


This course aims to introduce students and researchers in the social sciences to oTree, a leading framework based on Python to develop and administer experiments in the social sciences. The course is best suited for absolute or semi-beginners, as it does not assume any prior knowledge of programming either in Python or in any front-end language such as JavaScript, HTML, CSS. Over the span of the course, participants will develop the skills necessary to program experiments of medium complexity and the ground work to feel confident working with the oTree framework. The course is conducted intensively and includes:

  • two optional priming sessions on Python and front-end languages of 3h each;
  • 12h of live teaching sessions conducted over Zoom app, split in 4 bi-weekly sessions of 3h each;
  • one office hour per week in groups of max 5 participants;
  • small programming assignments in-between live classes.


» Registration Deadline

24th May 2021


» Registration Fee

Oxford affiliated: £160 (£220 with primer sessions)

Others: £200 (£260 with primer sessions)


Further details and registration



We are pleased to confirm that we are running the following course for a second year in collaboration with UNICEF.


Applied Research Methods with
Hidden, Marginal and Excluded Populations


Hybrid Interactive Training


23 – 27 August 2021 (one week course, full time / 35 hrs.)
Class times: 9:30 – 13:00 and 14:00 – 17:30


» Course Outline

Focusing on Hard-to-Reach populations, the course provides an introduction to research methods developed for working with marginal, hidden, and excluded populations such as children, migrants, sex workers, homeless individuals, refugees/displaced persons and/or victims of violence, conflicts, human trafficking, HIV/AIDS, drugs. Aimed to promote action-oriented research, the course introduces the main theories and research approaches on exclusion and marginalization employing both quantitative and qualitative approaches. It addresses the risks associated with faulty or weak research methodology, data collection, and analysis in the resulting conclusions drawn and evaluation of policies and programs. The course will provide tools to address key issues such as the lack of known sampling frame; the concepts of impact, attribution and contribution; and the political dimension of research findings. The course explores topics such as: estimation and sampling techniques; participatory research; evidence-based policy versus policy-based evidence; innovation, crowdsourcing and the use of technology; the art of combining qualitative and quantitative methods; and ethical considerations arising when conducting research with hidden and marginalized populations.

» Provisional Structure

This intensive course is structured using a combination of morning and afternoon sessions. The course brings together academics (PhD and masters students) and practitioners (from NGOs, UN and International Organizations), creating a unique opportunity for experience sharing and methodological cross-fertilization. Participants will be encouraged to present their past/ongoing/future work to be used and discussed during the course. Combining both taught and practical sessions, the main emphasis of the course is on acquiring practical skills in doing research.


Further details and registration


The Centre prides itself on its ability to facilitate experimental social science research for academics around the world. This year has posed unique and unexpected challenges for experimentalists but CESS has worked tirelessly to ensure that experiments can still be conducted. We are pleased to highlight one of the rising researchers who partnered with CESS to conduct their research in Hilary 2021:

Jonas Frey

Jonas is a doctoral candidate at Saïd Business School where he investigates horizon dependent risk preferences using experiments. Prior to starting his doctorate, Jonas received a Masters of Arts in Banking and Finance from University of St. Gallen.

Jonas first contacted CESS in late 2018 to present an experimental design in CESS’s colloquia series. About a year later, Jonas taught an oTree workshop organized by CESS to arm academics with the skills necessary to program their own experiments. In October 2019, Jonas approached the lab to run his experiment, “Horizon Dependent Risk Aversion,” which sought to understand how risk preferences change depending on when the outcome of the risk is realized. By the end of Michaelmas 2019, Jonas had successfully run his first laboratory experiment with CESS.

As is the case for many doctoral students using experiments, Jonas faced a new set of challenges in completing his doctoral studies with the advent of COVID-19. However, CESS, ever industrious, offered a viable alternative in the form of the virtual laboratory. Taking full advantage of the resources available to him, Jonas approached CESS to run two additional experiments. The first one, “Optimal Stopping in a Dynamic Salience Model”, was conducted in early 2021 and sought to study how individuals manage the decision to sell an asset in a dynamic environment. The second one, “Common Ownership and Anticompetitive Behavior,” is currently being run to study how common ownership can discourage competition among competing firms.

Optimal Stopping in a Dynamic Salience Model
(with Markus Dertwinkel-Kalt and Mats Köster)

While many puzzles in static choices under risk can be explained by a preference for positive and an aversion towards negative skewness, little is known about the implications of such skewness preferences for decision making in dynamic problems. Guided by salience theory, we theoretically and experimentally analyze the implications of skewness preferences for optimal stopping problems. We find strong support for all salience-based predictions in two laboratory experiments, and we document a positive relationship between skewness preferences revealed in static and dynamic decisions. Based on these findings we conclude that the static salience model —unlike (static) cumulative prospect theory— can be reasonably applied to dynamic decision problems. Our results have important implications for common optimal stopping problems such as when to sell an asset, when to stop gambling, when to enter the job market or to retire, and when to stop searching for a house or a spouse.

CESS is excited to announce the return of our colloquium series in Trinity 2021. The colloquium series is dedicated to providing experimentalists with an opportunity to present their experimental designs and/or preliminary results for feedback from researchers across a wide array of disciplines. Participation and attendance is open to all students and faculty. Below we present our first talk of the term, but there are still open slots for students interested in presenting a novel experimental design this term.

Typically, the colloquia are held on Wednesdays from 12:00-13:00 (except for the first this term [28th April] which occurs from 14:00-15:00). If you are interested in presenting your work, please contact

In light of COVID-19, this term’s colloquia will be presented via Zoom app. Individuals interested in attending a talk should signup via the upcoming events page on our website. When you access the upcoming events page or the abstract for an individual talk, there will be a button that brings you to a short form to signup to receive the link to attend the talk. If you experience any difficulty signing up for a talk via our website, you may also contact with the title of the colloquium you wish to attend.


This week colloquium

Carlos Rivera

University of California, Berkeley


Wednesday, 28th April @ 14:00-15:00
Typically, the colloquia are held from 12:00-13:00
“Political participation among Latinx in the USA”
I am exploring the psychological underpinnings of civic engagement and political participation among the Latino population in the USA. This project addresses political participation among Latinos in the U.S. in two distinct domains, personality traits and cognitive styles. To date, little work has been done to explore the direct effect that links personality traits and cognitive styles to political participation among Latinx. The current project is a novel approach to bridge this gap by exploring the psychological, emotional, and cognitive styles that influence political participation. Research (Putnam, 1993, 2000) shows that individuals can lose trust and faith in their fellow citizens and institutions, choose to withdraw from vital interdependent social networks, and embrace a ‘go it alone’ approach to citizenship. Despite the clear links between personality traits and political participation (e.g., Cawvey, Hayes, Ganache, & Monday, 2017; Mondak, 2010), to my knowledge, no work has explored the direct and indirect psychological effects on the formation of social trust among Latinos in the U.S. My research project is a necessary innovation to reduce that gap. My theoretical framework assumes that civic engagement has psychological components that impact both the individual and society. Specifically, I seek to develop a broad psychological model of civic engagement that includes the affective, cognitive, and behavioural elements of political participation. I predict that political participation will vary as a function of cognitive and personality traits. My methodology includes an online survey and experiment to explore participant’s personality traits, cognitive styles, and political preferences. More broadly, this project is a novel first step in a long-term plan of elucidating the social psychological consequences of political participation.
Get the link


We are delighted to announce that the Department of Politics & International Relations (DPIR) is now offering additional funding to their students for lab, virtual lab, and other online experiments conducted through CESS.

For the past 15 years, CESS has been conducting lab experiments for DPIR students and staff such that students are only responsible for the direct subject payment costs that they incur as part of the experiment and programming assistance in excess of 5 hours. Additional funding is now available which means that more complex programming and experiments and other subject pools can be fully funded by DPIR.

If you are a DPIR student interested in running an experiment through CESS, we encourage you to present your experimental design in our colloquia series which provides an opportunity for researchers to get feedback on their experimental design from an interdisciplinary audience of experienced experimentalists. If you feel your experimental design is ready to run, then submit the details of your experimental design using the following link and a CESS team member will contact you to follow-up:


Request an estimate to run an experiment


If you have general questions about working with CESS, please visit our website at or contact us at

17/05 - Colloquium by Andrew Lewis

Virtual Colloquium

Andrew Lewis

University of Oxford

Tuesday, 9th March @ 2:00 PM
“Give US the Ballot? Prejudice, Competition & Support for Voting Access in the US”
Do American citizens believe their government should provide frictionless means of voting to those eligible and prepared to vote? What do voters believe constitutes a reasonable or unreasonable impediment to voting — and do these democratic preferences change depending onthe identities of potential voters or the competitiveness of the race? We interrogate these questions in a host of survey experiments focused on people’s beliefs about voting access and reform. Our findings draw from and advance a number of literatures. First, we separate issues of ease (e.g. how long one waits to cast their ballot) from those of eligibility or registration (e.g. voter ID laws) to more closely proxy citizens’ beliefs about the physical act of voting, an area that has received less attention than other voting restrictions (Pettigrew, 2020). Second, we design and administer an information treatment about voting wait times — consisting of photos from polling locations across the US — to see if becoming aware of the protracted wait times some voters face (quite a different experience from that of the modal voter) has an effect on beliefs about increasing the ease of voting (i.e. reform). In the third and fourth experiments, we interrogate whether and how the identity of inconvenienced voters affects respondents’ propensity to support reform: in the former, we randomly assign real photos of queues at polling locations across the US that prominently feature either Black or white voters; in the latter, we focus on wait times in precincts that are predominately in- or out-party, and see if voters’ preferences for ease change when those inconvenienced are co-partisans versus partisan rivals. Finally, we show participants similar photographs from other democracies to see if long wait times are more or less tolerated in one’s own country, with an eye toward how partisan competition colors beliefs about fairness.
Get the link

01/03 - Colloquium by Mats Ahrenshop

Virtual Colloquium

Mats Ahrenshop

University of Oxford

Tuesday, 2nd March @ 2:00 PM
“How Does the Coverage of Public Services Affect Citizen Tax Morale?”
Influential theories in political economy posit that citizens’ willingness to pay tax is linearly increasing in public service provision by governments, sustaining the fiscal contract between citizens and the state. However, it is unclear why citizen tax morale is often high even when there are spatial inequalities in the coverage of and access to public services. I test just how high coverage of public services needs to be in order to sustain high tax morale: does a reduction in the coverage of public services weaken or strengthen citizen tax morale? I propose an online survey experiment that aims to prime respondents’ perceptions of the coverage of an important public service provided by government and measure respondents’ willingness to pay tax. Informational vignettes provide subjects with real-world information about how many U.S. residents have or lack access to the nearest trauma care unit. By selectively providing and withholding information about access from a research statement drawn from a published medical study, I form three treatment groups that receive primes on varying levels of healthcare coverage: near-universal coverage; imperfect coverage; and low coverage and test their effect on respondents’ willingness to pay taxes. Additionally, I present measurement strategies to provide some evidence on possible mechanisms.
Get the link

15/02 - Colloquium by CESS

Virtual Colloquium

The Centre for Experimental Social Sciences (CESS)

Nuffield College, University of Oxford

Tuesday, 16th February @ 2:00 PM
“The Centre for Experimental Social Sciences: What We Do and How We Do It”
The Centre for Experimental Social Sciences at Nuffield College is dedicated to producing cutting edge research and facilitating experiments for social scientists around the world. This talk is an opportunity to learn more about the research we help produce and the various tools we employ to produce it. Additional attention will be given to discussion of how COVID-19 has impacted the experimental social sciences and the novel methods we have used to create our virtual laboratory.
Get the link

25/01 - Colloquium by Gian Luca Pasin

Virtual Colloquium

Gian Luca Pasin

University of Milan

Tuesday, 26th January @ 2:00 PM
“What Explains Northern vs. Southern Italy’s Tax Compliance Gap?”
There is a widely document North South gap in tax payment in Italy such that people in the North pay a greater proportion of their tax commitments than those in the South. Despite extensive work and a wide range of potential explanations, the precise reasons why this gap remains is still not understood. Here I simultaneously study three potential explanations: institutional, individual, and social, and put them against each other to see which accounts best for the observed gap. Uniquely, I do this for a nationally representative sample of Italians (N≈1200) using a combined survey and vignette experiment allowing me to study both associations and causal associations.
Get the link

15/01 - Hilary 2021


We are back with our newsletter – Hilary 2021. We have lots of great events lined up for you this term and beyond, so get ready to do some experimental social science!

CESS is excited to announce the return of our colloquium series in Hilary 2021. The colloquium series is dedicated to providing experimentalists with an opportunity to present their experimental designs and/or preliminary results for feedback from researchers across a wide array of disciplines. Participation and attendance is open to all students and faculty.

Typically, the colloquia are held on Tuesdays from 14:00-15:00. If you are interested in presenting your work, please contact

In light of COVID-19, this term’s colloquia will be presented via Zoom app. Individuals interested in attending a talk should signup via the upcoming events page on our website (  When you access the upcoming events page or the abstract for an individual talk, there will be a button that brings you to a short form to signup to receive the link to attend the talk. If you experience any difficulty signing up for a talk via our website, you may also contact with the title of the colloquium you wish to attend.

Upcoming colloquia


19th January – 2pm

Jasmine Bhatia & Steve L. Monroe

University of London
Yale-NUS College, Singapore

“Does Conflict Undermine Preferences for Female Leadership? Experimental Evidence from Afghanistan”


26th January – 2pm

Gian Luca Pasin

University of Milan

“What Explains Northern vs. Southern Italy’s Tax Compliance Gap?”


16th February – 2pm


Nuffield College
University of Oxford

“The Centre for Experimental Social Sciences: What We Do and How We Do It”


2nd March – 2pm

Mats Ahrenshop

University of Oxford

“Spatial Allocation of Public Goods and the Fiscal Contract: How Geographical Distance to Infrastructure Projects Affects Citizen Tax Morale”


9th March – 2pm

Andrew Lewis

University of Oxford


Researcher Spotlight

The Centre prides itself on its ability to facilitate experimental social science research for academics around the world. This year has posed unique and unexpected challenges for experimentalists but CESS has worked tirelessly to ensure that experiments can still be conducted. We are pleased to highlight one of the rising researchers who partnered with CESS to conduct their research in Michaelmas 2020.


Nahema Marchal

Nahema Marchal

Nahema is a doctoral candidate at the Oxford Internet Institute and a researcher at the Computational Propaganda Project, where her work focuses on the relationship between online political communication and affective partisan polarisation. Other research interests include the spread of misinformation online and the impact of artificialintelligence on politics and democratic processes.

Prior to joining the OII, Nahema worked as content editor at Dow Jones Media Group and as program officer for a number of not-for-profit organisations including the World Policy Institute and the Center for Public Scholarship. Nahema holds an MA in Political Theory from the New School for Social Research in New York and a B.Sc. in Political Science and International Relations from the University of Bristol.

Nahema Marchal contacted CESS in the fall regarding her project, “In-Group Love vs Out-Group Hate? Testing the Effects of Exposure to Partisan Online Comments on Affective Polarisation”. Prior to finalizing her design, Nahema took advantage of CESS’scolloquium series to receive feedback from experts in a variety of fields. Afterwards, we assisted Nahema with programming and rolling out her experiment to Amazon Mechanical Turk workers.

“In-Group Love vs Out-Group Hate? Testing the Effects of Exposure to Partisan Online Comments on Affective Polarisation”

Affective polarisation — intense hostility and distrust across party lines — is a defining feature of contemporary US politics (Iyengar & Krupenkin, 2018). There is growing evidence to support that internet and social media play a role in exacerbating this phenomenon at the individual level (Settle, 2018; Suhay, Bello-Pardo, & Maurer, 2018). Research shows, for example, that being exposed to online comments that explicitly criticise or derogate political opponents drives affective polarisation among party identifiers (Suhay, Bello-Pardo & Maurer, 2018; Gervais, 2015). However the literature has yet to specify whether exposure to in-group praise or forms of collective narcissism online has the same effect on partisan evaluations, and which of these two mechanisms(“in-group love” or “out-group hate”) is the stronger driver of users’ affective responses. The goal of this experiment is to answer these questions.

Research Spotlight: Understanding the Behavioral Impacts of COVID-19

The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic is a tragedy that has touched everycorner in the world. Although CESS is not involved in the important work being done to develop vaccines, we have partnered with researchers doing work to help policy makers respond to this tragedy.  To this end, CESS has facilitated research focused on understanding the role of authority in information acquisition and the impact of COVID-19 exposure on behavioral preferences.  Below, we highlight some of the COVID-19 related research that we have assisted with:

Reliance on scientists and experts during an epidemic: evidence from the COVID-19 outbreak in Italy

By Pietro Battiston, Ridhi Kashyap, &Valentina Rotondi

Research suggests trust in experts and authorities are important correlates of compliance with public health measures during infectious disease outbreaks. Empirical evidence on the dynamics of reliance on scientists and public health authorities during the early phases of an epidemic outbreak is limited. We examine these processes during the COVID-19 outbreak in Italy by leveraging datafrom Twitter and two online surveys, including a survey experiment. We find that reliance on experts followed a curvilinear path. Both Twitter and survey data showed initial increases in information-seeking from expert sources in the three weeks after the detection of the first case. Consistent with these increases, knowledge about health information linked to COVID-19 and support for containment measures was widespread, and better knowledge was associated with stronger support for containment policies. Both knowledge and containment support were positively associated with trust in science and public health authorities. However, in the third week after the outbreak, we detected a slowdown in responsiveness to experts. These processes were corroborated with a survey experiment, which showed that those holding incorrect beliefs about COVID-19 gave no greater – or evenlower – importance to information when its source was stated as coming from experts than when the source was unstated. Our results suggest weakened trust in public health authorities with prolonged exposure to the epidemic as a potential mechanism for this effect. Weakened responsiveness to expert sources may increase susceptibility to misinformation and our results call for efforts to sustain trust in adapting public health response.


Economic Beliefs and the Local Coronavirus Pandemic

By Raymond Duch, Peiran Jiao, & Thomas Robinson

Early in the pandemic, individuals in numerous countries experienced quite different rates ofCOVID-19 infections and deaths dependent on where they lived. This within-country variation offers an opportunity to study how the intensity of a catastrophic shock to systems affects individuals’ economic preferences — a topic without consensus in the literature. In April 2020, we conducted an online survey with approximately 1500 subjects in China, 800 in Chile, and 800 in Italy. Our sampling strategy deliberately sampled subjects with exposure to different levels of local COVID-19 infections. We find that respondents condition their behavior and economic preferences on this intensity — levels of COVID-19 preventive behavior are correlated with the intensity of community infections, and exposure to intense infection rates is correlated with increased risk aversion, patience, and positive reciprocity. Using machine-learning to estimate individual-level effects, we find notable effect heterogeneity with respect to education levels. Finally, using multilevel regression andpoststratification (MRP) we demonstrate province-level estimates of economic preferences for 107 Italian provinces.

Public Release of O-tree add-ons for Online Experiments

In recognition of the difficulties faced by experimental laboratories and researchers in the face of COVID-19, CESS is releasing some of the oTree add-ons we have developed for running experiments smoothly in a virtual environment. The first add-on that we are releasing today is our chat add-on feature (animation above). This feature is designed to mimic the ability for subjects to ask researchers questions during a normal laboratory experiment and allows real-time communication between researchers and subjects over the course of an experimental session. We plan to release additional add-ons over the course of February 2021. Once released, our add-ons will be accessible here. Any queries regarding the use of the add-ons should be sent to If you are interested running your own experiment in oTree but are unfamiliar with oTree’s framework, we encourage you to read our section about “Getting Involved with Experiments” below.

Get Involved in Experiments!

CESS puts concerted effort into assisting social scientists both at home and abroad. Beyond the assistance we provide on individual projects, CESS runs dedicated courses and seminars introducing researchers to experimental methodology. In the upcoming term, we have two opportunities that we would like to share with you:

An Introduction To Experiments and CESS

On 16/02/21 we will hold a seminar providing an overview of CESS’s offerings and experiments in the social sciences.  This talk will cover various methods and platforms we use for conducting experiments, how we have addressed the unique challenges posed by COVID-19 and how CESS works with researchers to ensure their studies run smoothly. Students who attend and are interested in conducting their own experiments are encouraged to register for the Methodology course being led by CESS team members in the following term.

An Introduction to Experimental Methodology

In Trinity 2021, the director of CESS, Raymond Duch will lead a course focused on developing the tools necessary to run an experiment.  The course will focus on proper experimental design, econometric issues posed by experimental data, and the common pitfalls experienced by junior experimentalists. Following the initial four-week course, an optional four-week course will begin that covers practical application and skills required for creating, programming, and running an experiment.  Although the initial course is currently only open to Oxford students, the optional course that follows is open to academics and students with any academic affiliation.