Our research focuses on human behavior in economically relevant situations, using methods of experimental economics and game theory. In particular, we study the individual willingness to act to the benefit of the collective interests in situations in which ‘homo economicus’ would not do so. In such social dilemma situations we focus on the role of fairness, reputation, punishment, leadership, identity concerns, and social norms.
Our current research can be categorized into four areas:
- Behavioral Economics in the Field
- Behavioral Economics and Markets
- Leadership and Cooperation in Teams
- Social Comparisons
Working papers, recently published work and descriptions of the research areas can be found below.
Behavioral Economics in the Field
In this area, we take our research out to the world. We follow two major approaches: (1) transferring our insights from several decades of research in behavioral economics to address real-world challenges, often in cooperation with local partners and (2) testing theories from behavioral economics and psychology in the field. In the development context, we already conducted large-scale RCTs and lab-in-the-field experiments in Namibia, Thailand, India, and Kosovo. We ultimately aim to make behavioral insights available to policy makers. Our research in this area has been funded, for instance, by the German development bank KfW, the EEPSA, and the University of Cologne’s Excellence Strategy.
Large-Scale Field Experiments on Public Utilities in Namibia and Kosovo
- Using Behavioral Insights to Decrease Non-Payment for Public Utilities (Bettina Rockenbach, Sebastian Tonke, and Arne Weiss)
- Imperfect Knowledge and Resource Conservation: Evidence from a Large-scale Field Experiment to Fight Water Scarcity (Sebastian Tonke)
- Using Identity Labels to Decrease Non-Payment for Water in Kosovo (Sebastian Tonke)
Field Experiments on Time Preferences in Thailand
- Field evidence on the contested role of time preferences in resource management (Suparee Boonmanunt, Thomas Lauer, Bettina Rockenbach, and Arne Weiss)
- The persuasive power of patience in groups (Suparee Boonmanunt, Thomas Lauer, Bettina Rockenbach, and Arne Weiss)
- Communication and intertemporal decisions for a group (Suparee Boonmanunt)
Field Experiments on Social Norms in Namibia, USA, Canada and Germany
- Self-Serving Behavior of the Rich Causes Contagion Effects among the Poor (Bettina Rockenbach, Sebastian Tonke, and Arne Weiss)
- Moral punishment in everyday life, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 2018, 44(12) 1697–1711 (Wilhelm Hofmann, Mark J. Brandt, Daniel C. Wisneski, Bettina Rockenbach, Linda J. Skitka).
- Altruistic punishment does not increase with the severity of norm violations in the field, Nature Communications, 2016, 7, 13327 (Loukas Balafoutas, Nikos Nikiforakis & Bettina Rockenbach)
- Direct and indirect punishment among strangers in the field, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), 2014, 111/45, 15924-15927 (Loukas Balafoutas, Nikos Nikiforakis, Bettina Rockenbach)
Field Experiment on Psychology of the Poor in Namibia
- Self-Affirmation and Productivity: A Field Experiment Among the Marginalized Poor (Bettina Rockenbach, Sebastian Schneiders, Björn Vollan, and Arne Weiss). Working paper available upon request.
Experiments on Pro-Environmental Behavior and Sustainable Consumption in India and Germany
- Who Keeps India Clean? How Local and National Identity Can Increase Pro-Environmental Behavior (Sören Harrs). Working paper available upon request.
- Can Nudges Reconcile the Conflict Between Short-Term and Long-Term Climate Change Mitigation? An Inter-Generational Public Goods Experiment (Robert Böhm, Özgür Gürerk, and Thomas Lauer)
- Crowding-in sustainable consumption under varying opportunity costs (Thomas Lauer, Anne Schielke, and Christopher Zeppenfeld)
- Incentivizing sustainable consumption choices – A natural field experiment on reducing disposable cup usage (Thomas Lauer and Laura Tillmann)
Behavioral Economics and Markets
In this area, we integrate concepts of behavioral economics into the study of market behavior. We use lab experiments and economic theory to study, for example, the role of social responsibility and ethical behavior in the presence of competition. Our research in this area aims to increase our understanding of when markets work well and when they fail, taking into account more realistic behavior and preferences of consumers.
Social Responsibility in Markets
- Revealing Good Deeds: Disclosure of Social Responsibility in Competitive Markets (Bettina Rockenbach and Lukas Wenner)
- The competitive advantage of honesty, European Economic Review, 2016, 89, 407-424 (Mark Pigors & Bettina Rockenbach)
- Consumer Social Responsibility, Management Science, 2016, 62 (11), 3123-3137 (Mark Pigors & Bettina Rockenbach)
Behavioral Biases in Markets
- Cursedness in Markets with Asymmetric Information: Theory and Experimental Evidence (Lukas Wenner)
- Do Sellers Exploit Biased Beliefs of Buyers? An Experiment. Games and Economic Behavior, 2018, Vol. 110, 194-215 (Lukas Wenner)
- Pushing the Bad away: Reverse Tullock Contests, Journal of the Economic Science Association, 2018, 4(1), 73-85 (Bettina Rockenbach, Sebastian Schneiders, Marcin Waligora)
Leadership and Cooperation in Teams
In this area, we bring behavioral economic concepts to the realm of organizational behavior and team performance. Focusing on the premises for successful leadership, we use lab experiments to study, for example, the role of sanctions, legitimacy, and honesty. We aim to increase our understanding of how the relationship between supervisors and subordinates shapes the success of a team.
- Conditional dishonesty in teams (Thomas Lauer and Anna Untertrifaller)
- Cooperation, Discounting, and the Effects of Delayed Costs and Benefits (Felix Kölle and Thomas Lauer)
- Legitimacy in the lab: Endogenous leader selection, transparency and team performance (Özgür Gürerk, Thomas Lauer, and Martin Scheuermann)
- Leadership: Cooperation, Sanctions and Happiness (Özgür Gürerk, Thomas Lauer, and Nicolas Meier)
- How Leaders Increase Performance and Reduce Cheating in Work Teams (Özgür Gürerk, Thomas Lauer, and Mark Pigors)
- The effect of incentives on quality and quantity in a real-effort experiment (Thomas Lauer)
- Leadership with individual rewards and punishments, Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics, 2018, 74, 57-69 (Özgür Gürerk, Thomas Lauer and Martin Scheuermann)
- Evasive Lying in Strategic Communication, Journal of Public Economics, 2017, 156, 59-72 (Kiryl Khalmetski, Bettina Rockenbach, Peter Werner).
- The Royal Lie, Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 2013, 93, 305-313 (Mareike Hoffmann, Thomas Lauer, and Bettina Rockenbach)
- Not just hot air: Normative codes of conduct induce cooperative behavior, Review of Managerial Science, 2008, 2/3, 183-197 (Thomas Lauer, Bettina Rockenbach, and Peter Walgenbach)
In this area, we integrate psychological research on social comparisons and economic research on cooperation and fairness to enlarge the perspective of comparison processes for human decision making in economic situations. In a series of economic experiments, we investigate how and why social information affects cooperation and fairness. Next to people’s reactions to social information, we also study how and why people - adults and children - acquire social information in the first place. The current research in this area is part of the DFG Research Unit FOR 2150 "Relativity in Social Cognition".
- Social-Comparison Engineering in Children (Jarid Zimmermann, David Buttelmann, Robert Böhm, Bettina Rockenbach)
- The driving forces behind information acquisition in social decisions (Jarid Zimmermann, Robert Böhm, Bettina Rockenbach)
- United We Stand, Divided We Fall: The Limitations of Between-Group Comparisons for Fostering Within-Group Cooperation, Journal of Economic Psychology, 2018, 69, 19-19 (Robert Böhm, Bettina Rockenbach, Jarid Zimmermann)
- The Inter-Group Comparison – Intra-Group Cooperation Hypothesis: Social Comparisons Between Groups Increase Efficiency in Public Goods Provision, PLoS ONE, 2013, 8(2): e56152 (Robert Böhm and Bettina Rockenbach).