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Does Studying Economics Make You Selfish, Dishonest or Uncooperative?. 6 September 2011. Kasia Grabowska and Judith Shapiro, LSE ( k.a.grabowska@lse.ac.uk and j.c.shapiro@lse.ac.uk ). 30 years of evidence in a nutshell. Economics students reported to differentially:

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does studying economics make you selfish dishonest or uncooperative

Does Studying Economics Make You Selfish, Dishonest or Uncooperative?

6 September 2011

KasiaGrabowska and Judith Shapiro, LSE

(k.a.grabowska@lse.ac.uk and j.c.shapiro@lse.ac.uk)

30 years of evidence in a nutshell
30 years of evidence in a nutshell

Economics students reported to differentially:

  • Free-ride (Marwell and Ames, 1981)
  • Not share (ultimatum game) (Carter and Irons, 1991)
  • Defect (prisoners’ dilemma) and favour dishonesty (Frank et al, 1993)
  • Profit maximise without a conscience (Rubinstein, 2006)
  • Frank et al (1993) `
  • Profit maximise callously (Rubinstein, 2006)
however
However….
  • They do not engage as much in pro-social behaviour (donation) but arguably self-selection, essentially for business economics students (Frey and Meier, 2003,2004, 2005) ‘Rather, this natural experiment suggests that the particular behavior of economists can be explained by a selection effect’
  • Profoundly ironic development
  • http://freyplag.wikia.com/wiki/FreyPlag_Wiki
is economic theory to blame
Is economic theory to blame?
  • Fisman et al (2009): evidence says yes (Yale Law students)
  • Gintis and Khurana: ‘A quick check of major undergraduate or graduate microeconomics textbooks will convince skeptics of the ubiquity of the Homo economicus model: never does this model make any other assumption than that individual objectives are to maximize some combination of leisure and monetary reward.’
  • Flatly untrue, eg Frank, Sloman and Wride, Lipsey and Crystal and virtually every current university text
need for further evidence
Need for further evidence…
  • Partial and unsystematic
  • A-Level Economics students
  • LSE Visit Day April 2011
  • ‘Convenience sample’
  • All Rubinstein profit-maximising question
      • Lacks ‘rich choice scenario’ (Fisman et al, 2009)
  • Compare with ‘Golden Balls’
  • Possibility of accumulating evidence through Network teaching
a level students
A-level Students

However…‘Is that the right answer?(…)we might not do so in the real life though…’

lse bsc economics visit day 2011
LSE BSc Economics Visit Day 2011

Note: way of presenting questions DOES matter

convenience sample
Convenience sample

‘The question is a little ambiguous. Is this a trick question?’

slide9
‘I would lay off the finance department, don’t know how many they are, but I always found them quite irritating’
  • ‘Some say "don't lay people off if you can afford to keep them". Remember that this is asking your clients to donate charity money to your employees. Literally. You have to be really careful not to overdo it, because competition will drive you out of business and you'll have to lay everyone off!’
  • ‘Lower salaries would be a "Solomonic solution“’
  • ‘You continue to employ 100 but first you check: whether it’s possible to renegotiate salaries and what is the forecast during downturn. What about impact on the brand of the company?
implications for action
Implications for action?
  • Assure presentation of maximising behaviour is sufficiently nuanced and not crowded-out by technical emphasis
  • Present the case for cooperation and the possibility it will occur, for example via classroom and lab games
  • But, collect evidence as it is not clear that the economics class/lecture is a main locus for value formation