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Maggian, Valeria (2013) Lies, Incentives and Self-confidence. [Ph.D. thesis]

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Abstract (english)

The present thesis is composed by three chapters, each of them making contributions to three distinct topics in behavioral Economics. The chapters can thus be read independently from each other. The first chapter concerns an experimental analysis which aim is to examine the development of social preferences with respect to age and how they are related with lying behavior of children. The second chapter investigates the role of reciprocity in exacerbating inefficient and opportunistic behavior in hierarchical organizations, when conflict of interests between its members arises at different levels. Finally, the third chapter contains a theoretical model explaining the emergence of the gender gap in top job positions in line with recent evidence provided by experimental Economics. While both the first and the second chapter in this thesis present experimental evidence, the experimental methods differ across them. In particular, in the first chapter we report evidence from an artefactual field experiment while the second chapter presents a conventional framed laboratory experiment . By using experiments, we are able to control and to impose exogenous variation to the environment where people make decisions. The third chapter applies a theoretical approach, with the model based on recent experimental evidence on the research topic of interest. Experimental Economics represents a useful contributor to Economic theory, strengthening its predictions or providing new insights for future development (Falk and Heckman, 2009). In the first two chapters of the present thesis, experiments allow us to observe and investigate the development of lying behavior during childhood and the emergence of an opportunistic conduct in the job environment, observations which are difficult to detect with empirical data. Finally, in the third chapter we translate the recent experimental research on gender differences in a more formal and tractable manner, through a stylized model.
The first chapter of the thesis experimentally examines how the interaction between lying aversion and social preferences affects children’s behavior when playing a modified version of the dictator game. In the last decade, many experimental studies in Economics have investigated the role of other regarding preferences in determining the behavior of individuals: these empirical findings have confirmed that individuals are not just interested in maximizing their own welfare but, with some limitations, they have a concern for the welfare of the others (Henrich et al., 2004, Fehr and Schmidt, 2006). Paralleling to this stream of investigation, the lying behavior of individuals has been objective of interest of many experimental studies (Gneezy, 2005; Mazar et al., 2008). However, it is still a matter of discussion whether these features are innate or if they evolve over time, and how different incentives and contexts affects their development. In order to answer these questions it is interesting to analyze the behavior of children when facing relevant economic decisions in a controlled environment. In particular, in a sample of 637 children, aged between 7 and 14, we find strong aversion to lying at all ages, and especially among females. We find that while children become more concerned about other’s welfare as aging, they are not prone to violate moral norms in order to implement their other-regarding preferences. On the contrary, lying is more likely to be determined by selfish and envy motives, at all ages.
The second chapter investigates the emergence of a dark side of reciprocity in the working environment. Reciprocity has been shown to be a desirable feature in organizations, reducing the costs of aligning interests between the principal and the agent. Both laboratory and field experiments (see Fehr and Falk (2008) for an overview of recent results), have provided evidence that workers respond to generous wage levels by exerting above minimal effort, confirming the gift-exchange hypothesis first formulated by Akerlof (1982). In hierarchical organizations, however, conflict of interests between its members may emerge at multiple levels: in such a situation, reciprocity exacerbate, rather than alleviate, the negative effects of members’ misalignment of objectives. The second chapter of this thesis consists in a laboratory experiment which aim is to analyze the selection and effort distortions resulting from agents persecuting their personal interest by taking advantage of workers’ reciprocal concerns. The results show that sharing part of the three-level hierarchical organization’s profit with workers, rather than only with agents, impedes the latter to exploit their powerful position at the disadvantage of the organization.
The third chapter is about the role of self-confidence in determining females’ underrepresentation in high skilled occupations. Relying on recent experimental evidence which explains the occupational gender gap as the result of different preferences and attitudes of men and women with respect to risk, ambition, self-confidence and willingness to compete (Gneezy et al., 2003; Niederle and Vesterlund, 2007; Datta Gupta et al., 2013), we derive a model to explain the emergence of gender segregation in the labor market as a result of females’ biased beliefs regarding their ranking position with respect to other (male) candidates, when abilities are equally distributed among them. In particular, in our model, women self-select into low-skilled occupations according to their (mis)perceptions about their opportunity to be successfully recruited when competing for better positions. The third chapter further illustrates the powerful impact of affirmative actions in restoring efficiency in the job matching equilibrium between firms and workers. Indeed, in line with recent experimental evidence (Balafoutas and Sutter, 2012; Niederle et al., 2013), we provide a theoretical foundation to sustain the importance of implementing calibrated gender quota in order to restore the efficiency of job matching between high skilled firms and candidates, by encouraging skilled women to enter competition for top job market positions and thus increasing the diversity of qualified applicants.

Abstract (italian)

La presente tesi è composta da tre capitoli, ciascuno dei quali facenti riferimento a tre distinti ambiti di ricerca dell’Economia comportamentale. Ciascun capitolo può quindi essere letto in maniera indipendente rispetto agli altri. Il primo lavoro consiste in un’analisi sperimentale volta ad analizzare lo sviluppo di comportamenti disonesti condizionatamente all’emergere di preferenze sociali nei bambini, in diverse fasce d’età e per genere. Il secondo lavoro analizza il ruolo della reciprocità nell’esacerbare, invece che nell’alleviare, l’emergere di comportamenti opportunistici e inefficienti all’interno di organizzazioni di tipo gerarchico, nelle quali i conflitti di interessi si evidenziano su più livelli. Infine, il terzo capitolo consiste in un modello teorico che intende spiegare il presente divario tra uomini e donne nelle posizioni di management basando le proprie assunzioni sulle ultime evidenze sperimentali. Nonostante i primi due capitoli siano entrambi basati su dati sperimentali, il metodo applicato è differente. In particolare, mentre il primo capitolo consiste in un field experiment realizzato con i bambini all’interno delle scuole, il secondo capitolo si basa su un tradizionale esperimento in laboratorio. Attraverso l’economia sperimentale è possibile controllare l’ambiente in cui gli individui prendono le loro decisioni, imponendo delle variazioni esogene sulla variabile di interesse. Il terzo capitolo utilizza un approccio teorico, basando le proprie assunzioni sui recenti sviluppi offerti dall’Economia comportamentale e sperimentale. L’Economia sperimentale rappresenta un importante strumento della teoria economica, ne rafforza i risultati e permette di creare nuove basi per migliorarne il potere predittivo (Falk and Heckman, 2009). Nei primi due capitoli della tesi la realizzazione degli esperimenti ci permette di analizzare lo sviluppo di comportamenti disonesti rispetto all’età e l’emergere di comportamenti opportunistici nell’ambiente di lavoro, entrambi comportamenti difficili da osservare con l’utilizzo di altri metodi di ricerca differenti dall’esperimento. Infine, nell’ultimo capitolo, le recenti evidenze offerte dall’Economia sperimentale relativamente alle differenti attitudini di uomini e donne sono formalizzate in un modello teorico al fine di spiegare il divario occupazionale tra i due sessi.
Il primo capitolo della tesi ha come obiettivo l’analisi dello sviluppo della disonestà nei bambini, condizionatamente allo sviluppo delle loro preferenze sociali. Tale analisi é realizzata tramite un esperimento basato su una versione modificata del Dictator Game. Negli ultimi decenni, molti lavori sperimentali si sono concentrati sull’analisi del ruolo delle preferenze sociali nell’influenzare le decisioni degli individui: i risultati dimostrano che gli agenti economici non sono interessati esclusivamente alla massimizzazione del loro interesse personale ma, seppure con alcune limitazioni, tengono in considerazione anche gli effetti che le loro decisioni avranno sul benessere di altri indivdui (Henrich et al., 2004, Fehr and Schmidt, 2006). Parallelamente a questa area di ricerca, l’economia sperimentale si è concentrata sulle condizioni e i contesti che determinano comportamenti disonesti negli individui (Gneezy, 2005; Mazar et al., 2008). Eppure, ancora non è chiaro se tali evidenze siano il risultato del processo di socializzazione degli individui o siano caratteristiche innate. Per tale motivo è interessante esaminare in un ambiente controllato come diversi incentivi e contesti influenzino l’evoluzione di tali comportamenti nei bambini, in situazioni economicamente rilevanti. In particolare, nell’esperimento realizzato con un campione di 637 bambini, tra i 7 e i 14 anni, abbiamo rilevato una forte avversione a mentire a tutte le età, specialmente tra le bambine. Nonostante al crescere dell’età i bambini siano più propensi a valutare l’effetto delle loro scelte sul payoff altrui, essi non sono più propensi a mentire per apportare benefici monetari ad altri loro pari. Al contrario, la disonestà è maggiore tra i bambini che esprimono preferenze di tipo egoista, indipendentemente dall’età.
Il secondo capitolo analizza l’emergere di un “lato oscuro” della reciprocità nell’ambiente di lavoro. La reciprocità è solitamente considerata come una caratteristica desiderabile all’interno delle organizzazioni, in quanto riduce il costo di riallineare gli interessi divergenti tra il principale e l’agente. Esperimenti recenti, sia realizzati in laboratorio che nel mondo reale, hanno dimostrato che i lavoratori reciprocano il loro datore di lavoro lavorando più di quanto ci si aspetterebbe quando viene loro offerto uno stipendio al di sopra del minimo accettabile, confermando l’ipotesi del gift-exchange formulata inizialmente da Akerlof (1982). Tuttavia, nel secondo capitolo dimostriamo come nelle organizzazioni gerarchiche gli interessi dei membri che le compongono possano divergere su più livelli: in tale situazione la reciprocità esaspera, invece di alleviare, le inefficienze risultanti da tali conflitti di intesse. Il secondo capitolo di questa tesi analizza, attraverso un esperimento in laboratorio, le distorsioni sia sulla selezione dei lavoratori che sulla loro produttività come conseguenza del comportamento opportunista degli agenti i quali, sfruttando la reciprocità dei lavoratori, perseguono i propri interessi personali a danno dell’organizzazione in cui sono assunti. I risultati dell’esperimento dimostrano inoltre che condividere una piccola parte dei profitti dell’organizzazione anche con i lavoratori impedisce agli agenti di sfruttare la loro posizione di potere in modo illegittimo.
Il terzo capitolo è relativo al ruolo della fiducia in se stessi nel determinare il limitato numero di donne in posizioni lavorative di alto livello. Recenti risultati sperimentali mostrano come la sotto-rappresentanza delle donne nel management delle organizzazioni possa dipendere dalle loro diverse attitudini e preferenze rispetto al rischio, all’ambizione, alla fiducia in se stessi e alla volontà di competizione rispetto agli uomini (Gneezy et al., 2003; Niederle and Vesterlund, 2007; Datta Gupta et al., 2013). Il terzo capitolo della tesi presenta quindi un modello teorico che spiega l’emergere della segregazione occupazionale come il risultato delle percezioni erronee delle donne relativamente alla loro (inferiore) abilità rispetto agli uomini, quando invece le abilità sono equamente distribuite tra i due sessi. Il particolare, il modello dimostra come le donne si auto-selezionino in lavori mediocri come conseguenza alla loro (errata) convinzione di non essere all’altezza della selezione quando sono in competizione con gli uomini per posizioni di più alto livello. Al fine di restaurare l’efficienza dell’incontro tra domanda e offerta nel mondo del lavoro, il modello dimostra quindi l’importanza di implementare delle quote che garantiscano l’accesso delle donne nelle suddette posizioni lavorative. Infatti, in linea con quanto recentemente dimostrato in ambito sperimentale (Balafoutas and Sutter, 2012; Niederle et al., 2013), il terzo capitolo spiega come tali politiche possano positivamente influenzare il mercato del lavoro, aumentando la diversità dei candidati ma senza intaccarne l’efficienza.

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EPrint type:Ph.D. thesis
Tutor:Nicolç, Antonio
Ph.D. course:Ciclo 25 > Scuole 25 > ECONOMIA E MANAGEMENT
Data di deposito della tesi:29 July 2013
Anno di Pubblicazione:31 July 2013
Key Words:Reciprocity, Self-confidence, children, Social preferences
Settori scientifico-disciplinari MIUR:Area 13 - Scienze economiche e statistiche > SECS-P/01 Economia politica
Struttura di riferimento:Dipartimenti > Dipartimento di Scienze Economiche e Aziendali "Marco Fanno"
Codice ID:6163
Depositato il:23 Oct 2014 15:02
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