Monthly Archives: June 2007

Oxytocin and other-regarding behavior

Angela Stanton presented at ESA 2007 yesterday a joint paper with Sheila Ahmadi and Paul Zak on the impact of Oxytocin on other-regarding behavior. It shows that oxytocin increases other-regarding behavior.
Here is the abstract

“Human beings routinely help others even when the helper receives no benefit and the person helped is a stranger. Altruistic behavior toward non-kin, exerting costly effort to benefit a stranger, is often found in laboratory economic experiments. Frequently the help offered to strangers in these games is sending an offer that is generously above and beyond a fair one. Why are people generous? Is there a benefit to acting generously toward strangers? Oxytocin enhances prosocial emotions and reduces anxiety, allowing cooperation with strangers. Would enhanced prosocial emotions lead to enhanced other-regarding behaviors, like amplified generosity? If yes, generosity might be an evolutionary means to cooperation with non-kin and group selection. We hypothesized that subjects on OT would become more generous than those on placebo in the UG. Our result shows that indeed, OT significantly enhances generosity. Generous subjects take a larger loss than stingy ones, suggesting that the group of the generous might fair poorer than the group of the stingy. However, while individually generosity in the UG was more costly with respect to take-home money, the generous group as a hole faired equal to the stingy group. Thus generosity in the UG benefits the generous group, suggesting that evolutionarily speaking generosity might be an important tool for successful cooperation and group selection.”

Get the paper and presentation at

Blood Donations and Incentives

The ESA 2007 World Meeting continues and my pick for the afternoon of the first day is Blood Donations And Incentives: Evidence From A Large-scale Field Experiment by Lorenz Goette and Alois Stutzer. Here is the abstract:

“We conduct a large-scale field experiment to examine the impact of various manipulations on blood donations: More than 10000 blood donors were randomly assigned to one of four treatment conditions: a baseline conditions, an appeal, truthfully stating that blood donations were particularly urgent during this time of the year, a condition that promised a lottery ticket as an incentive for blood donations, and a condition that promised a health test as an incentive. This allows us to examine different theories regarding the impact of incentives on blood donations. Overall, we find that only the lottery ticket condition significantly increases blood donations. However, we find strong heterogeneity in the treatment effects. Generally, irregular donors respond much more strongly to the treatments than regular donors. There is a strong and positive effect of the lottery ticket incentive on blood donations among irregular blood donors. Regular blood donors do not respond well to any intervention. Urging regular blood donors to donate reduces donations significantly. This negative effect is weakened if a health test or the lottery ticket is offered. Thus, overall, our results lend little support to the notion that incentives reduce blood donations, as has previously been conjectured (Titmuss, 1970). However, our results also show for some groups of donors, interventions may reduce the motivation to donate blood. This effect, however, is not due to the use of incentives.”

Economic Environmental Law -seminar 25.-26.10.2007 call for papers

The three themes selected for the event are:

Economic Environmental law – general and special issues Environmental Protection Technology and Law European Waste Law, Policy and Technology

Special theme on afternoon 25 October will be European Waste Law and Industrial Side-flows.

Key note speakers:
Professor, Dr. Ludwig Krämer, University of Bremen, Germany Justice of the Supreme Administrative Court, Dr. Pekka Vihervuori, Supreme Administrative Court, Finland Professor, Dr. Gert van Calster, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium Professor, Dr. Christoph Bey, University of La Rochelle, France

Interested contributors are invited to submit proposals. There are two morning sessions for researchers presentations (20 min each). Abstracts (150 words)are asked to be sent no later than 3 August to Final version of the papers should be available some weeks before the seminar.

Call for papers at

Feedback types, punishment behavior, and cooperation levels in a public-good experiment

First session of the first day at ESA 2007. I’m happy to say there are many interesting papers. My pick from the morning session is ‘Feedback Effects In Public Good Experiments With Punishment’ at

Here is the abstract:

“Decentralized punishments, that is, punishments carried out by individuals without the intervention of a central authority, is one way of fostering and promoting social norms. Decentralized punishments have been studied in the laboratory and shown to be effective in promoting cooperation. In this paper, I examine the effect of different feedback types on punishment behavior and cooperation levels in a public-good experiment. In one treatment, participants are informed only of the individual contributions of the other group members to the public good (contribution feedback). In a second treatment, instead of receiving information regarding contributions, participants are informed about the payoffs of the other people in their group (payoff feedback). In a third treatment, individuals receive information regarding both contributions and payoffs of the other group members (full feedback). Based on this feedback, individuals make their punishment decisions. I find that information about payoffs reduces significantly both the frequency with which punishments are observed, as well as the contribution levels. Consequently, cooperation increases over time under contribution feedback, it remains stable under full feedback, and breaks down under payoff feedback. I conjecture that the reason for these results is that information about individual payoffs promotes selfish behavior.”

The State of Behavioral Economics in Undergraduate Microeconomics Teaching

The State of Behavioral Economics in Undergraduate Microeconomics Teaching: A Review of Textbooks is the title of the paper I’ll be presenting at the ESA 2007 World Meeting in Rome this week (parallel session 2- stream 8, 29 June 2007, from 14.30 to 14.40).

Here is a link to the first VERY PRELIMINARY draft of the paper and below is the abstract of the paper.

Please do not quote wihout permission of the author. All comments are vey welcome!


The purpose of this paper is to analyze to what degree the undergraduate teaching of microeconomics incorporates the key contributions of behavioral economics.

The analysis is based on the textbooks adopted for teaching undergraduate introductory courses in principles of economics and microeconomics during the academic year 2006-2007 in the 30 world’s top economics departments.

The textbooks are analyzed to see whether they present and discuss key concepts in behavioral economics, which following Mullainathan and Thaler (2001), are organized into three groups under the headings of bounded rationality, bounded selfishness, and bounded will-power.

The analysis suggests that behavioral economics is still relatively under represented in microeconomics introductory textbooks compared to its importance in research. Seven of the 14 textbooks examined so far, do not mention behavioral economics at all. Among the remaining seven textbooks, only three dedicate more than 1 % of total pages to behavioral economics related concepts: Mankiw (2006), Varian (2006), and Frank (2006) respectively with 1.08%, 2.1%, and 7.4% of total pages dedicated to behavioral economics.

In the textbooks most of the discussion of behavioral economics focuses on bounded rationality while bounded selfishness and bounded will-power are much less discussed.

The paper concludes with some reflections about the possible causes of the under representation of behavioral economics in microeconomics introductory textbooks and on the reasons why more space should be dedicated to it in teaching introductory microeconomics

Author Keywords: behavioral economics, economics education and teaching of economics, experimental economics, microeconomics, psychology, textbooks.

JEL classification codes: A22, B49, B59, D01