Scientific (?) Research

Yes, the page title is another bad, self-effacing joke.  I like the academic research I did once upon a time.

Doctoral Dissertation

You can find the whole dissertation here, or you can get it from a “legitimate” source by searching for my name here.  The title of my dissertation is another one of those dual-meanings that I mention on the “About” page.  The title is “Seemingly Unrelated Manuscripts: Experiments on Human Behavior.”  The obvious interpretation is the lack of a common link between the chapters, but I discuss this in the main text.  The nerdy joke is a reference to seemingly unrelated regressions.  Yeah, I am giant nerd, and I feel no shame about it in the slightest bit.

ABSTRACT.  Formal and informal institutions, such as laws and social norms, are pervasive in daily life.  They help maintain cooperation by coordinating and constraining individuals’ behaviors.  However, our understanding of the comparative benefits and the endogenous emergence of institutions remains limited.  Here, we study the emergence and performance of sanctioning institutions in a public goods context when individuals are free to migrate between different institutions.  We show experimentally that efficient peer and centralized sanctioning emerge as dominant institutions that immediately generate and maintain high levels of cooperation without much need for costly punishment.  The quick establishment of high cooperation is due to both the self-selection of prosocial individuals into these institutions and the institutions’ intrinsically beneficial properties.  In addition, voluntary migration into the centralized sanctioning institution leads to the selection of stable prosocial leaders who refrain from antisocial punishment, while remnants of antisocial punishment still exist under peer punishment.

If you came here because of this EJMR thread, you can still find my original response here.
[2] What you see is what you get?  The effect of facial cues on trust-related behavior
with Bastiaan Oud, Jan Engelmann, Eva Krumhuber, and Ernst Fehr
ABSTRACT.  Economic and social life are dominated by encounters with strangers, and we need to determine which of these strangers to interact with and which ones to avoid.  This paper analyzes the willingness and ability to discriminate between unknown individuals based on “first impressions” in a laboratory experiment. We use a modified trust game in which subjects observe a photograph of their counterpart but the counterpart does not observe the subject’s photograph.  Behavior of both first-movers and second-movers is affected by perceptions of trustworthiness, even though only first-movers have a strategic motive to use these perceptions.  In a second experiment, we show that subjects are unable to predict behavior of individuals based on observing the same photographs when monetary incentives are present.  Finally, we show that specific facial features causally determine perceptions of trustworthiness by using weakly morphed photographs.  Overall, our results demonstrate that many people discriminate based on first impressions yet, paradoxically, these perceptions are wholly uninformative; in addition, we decompose reciprocal behavior into dispositional reciprocity and type-based reciprocity, disentangling motives for reciprocity in lab experiments.
[3] Commonalities and conundrums in linking utility with neural subjective value
with Christopher Burke, Kerstin Preuschoff, Philippe Tobler, and Ernst Fehr
No public abstract at the moment.  Chapter is currently being revised by Chris Burke, Philippe Tobler, and me.  You can still read the dissertation version at the links above.


[4] Juri Fujiwara, Nobuo Usui, Soyoung Q. Park, Tony Williams, Toshio Iijima, Masato Taira, Ken-Ichiro Tsutsui, and Philippe N. Tobler. (2013). Value of freedom to choose encoded by the human brain. Journal of Neurophysiology, 110, 1915-1929.

Work not-so-much in progress that I may post on the front page about at some point

[5] Brain connectivity in lateral prefrontal cortex predicts support for redistributive taxation
with Christopher Burke (lead author), Ernst Fehr, and Philippe Tobler
Manuscript has been around for a while.  Christopher Burke has presented it at conferences in the past.  I think he presented it as a poster at the 2013 annual meeting of the Society for Neuroeconomics.
[6] What will he do next? Imaging of mentalizing in an observed iterated trust game
with Christoph Mathys (lead author), Lars Kaspar, Lilian Weber, Ernst Fehr, and Klaas Enno Stephan
Manuscript has been around for a while.  Christoph Mathys presented it as a conference poster at, I think, the 2013 annual meeting of the Organization for Human Brain Mapping several years ago. Here’s the short version he submitted.
[7] Institutions, cooperation, and state capacity
I really liked this idea and never had the chance to work on it in much depth.  The vague name is enough for now, and I will likely post the idea on the front page at some point.  I was mainly interested initially in the origin of states and the evolution of small-scale societies, but the general idea is applicable to all organizations and social movements.  Maybe I’ll spam Joe Henrich with my thoughts one day.

[8] Robustness and identifiability: Is there a “non-identifiable victim effect”?

I also really liked this idea and never had the chance to work on it in much depth.  I did supervise a Master’s thesis on practical experimental design.  The basic idea is a play on the “identifiable victim effect,” which suggests we are always more likely to help an identifiable rather than, for example, a statistical victim.  I suspect there are “unsympathetic” groups which we may be willing to help in the abstract and via social welfare mechanisms but that we are also averse to helping when they are identifiable.  Maybe I’ll spam Deborah Small and Ilana Ritov with my thoughts one day.