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70-386 Behavioral Decision Making. Lecture 17: WEIRD Subjects. Paper Presentation. Administrative. Tuesday: Nudges and policy issues (policy ≠ political) Final Exam Thursday FCEs Currently 8/13 of you responded.

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70-386 Behavioral Decision Making

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70-386Behavioral Decision Making

Lecture 17: WEIRD Subjects

Paper Presentation


  • Tuesday: Nudges and policy issues (policy ≠ political)

  • Final Exam Thursday

  • FCEs

    • Currently 8/13 of you responded.

    • If 11/13 respond by the beginning of class on Tuesday, I’ll post one of the exam’s essay questions by Tuesday night, for you to think about before the exam.

Last Time

  • Simultaneous move games

    • “prisoner’s dilemma”

    • Common interest coordination games

      • And some less common interest

    • Signaling

So what?

  • Are these behaviors “biases”?

  • No… not in the same way as Heuristics and Biases.

    • Not so much System 1 vs System 2 with these results.

    • There are biases at play – like in negotiation exercises, etc.

  • Maybe it’s just different preferences.

    • People prefer “fairer” allocations.

Experiments and Randomization

Standard inference using experiments requires a few things but two in particular:

  • Random assignment to treatment

  • A representative population

    Point (1) is what is normally the focus of discussion, since it’s often hard to do.

    But (2) is often a big limitation that no one talks about.







Yes, I’m weird. (as if there was really a question…)

Almost everything we know about social science is based on WEIRD subjects.

  • And mostly WEIRD subjects between the ages of 18-22! Who are disproportionately likely to student a social science topic.

  • What happened to Random Sampling?!

Subject pools

Henrich, Heine, & Norenzayan (2010) presents a meta study on many of the findings we’ve discussed

  • From 2003-2007, 96% of subjects in the studies published in top Psych journals were from Western countries. (Arnett 2008)

  • 2/3’s of American samples used in articles in JPSP were composed of solely undergraduates

    • American undergrad 4000 times more likely to be a research participant than a person outside the West.

Does it matter?

  • Maybe?

  • Most say NO.

    • The skeptic in me says they have a strong incentive to say “NO”

    • But honestly we really don’t know because there have been few replications in non-WEIRD societies.

  • The bigger problem is that we don’t have much of a theoretical basis to predict differences (at least in econ and psych)

What is a Social Science Theory?

An example

  • Interesting experiments running the Ultimatum and Dictator Games in small, tribal, communities:

  • Dictator Game:

An example

  • Ultimatum Game, offers:

An example

  • Ultimatum Game, acceptance rates:

  • Even some evidence of rejecting “more than fair” offers (>80% of pie)

Not Just Games

  • Fundamental Attribution Error

    • Might not be so “fundamental:”

      • Americans attend to dispositions at the expense of situations (Gilbert & Malone 1995)

      • East Asians more likely to infer that behaviors are strongly controlled by the situation

  • Any others that we’ve discussed in that class that might be different?

  • Would there be a difference if we ran the experiments on Education City vs Qatar University?

So does it make a difference?

  • Maybe?

  • Again, the problem is that we don’t have much of a theoretical basis to predict differences

    • What’s the mechanism?

      • Left to Right search vs Right to Left is well defined.

      • Is the group different than that one, isn’t well defined. How is it different? Why?

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