On the Internet you can be anyone: An experiment on strategic avatar choice in online marketplaces

by Diya Abraham, Ben Greiner and Marianne Stephanides

in Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, 2023. DOI: 10.1016/j.jebo.2022.11.033


In order to decrease social distance and increase trust on their platforms, many online marketplaces allow traders to be represented by profile pictures or avatars. In a laboratory experiment, we investigate whether the presence of seller avatars affects trading behavior in a market. We contrast markets without avatars with markets where avatars genuinely represent traders and markets where avatars can be freely changed at any time and may thus be chosen strategically. At the aggregate level, we find that the presence of genuine avatars increases the trustworthiness of sellers, but that this effect is undone when avatars can be chosen strategically. We do not detect aggregate effects on buyers’ trusting choices. Female avatars are more trusted, and correspondingly in the treatment with free avatar choice men are more likely to represent themselves with a female avatar than vice versa.

Does gender moderate the influence of emotions on risk-taking? The meta-analysis reloaded

by Matteo M. Marini

in Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Finance, 2022. DOI: 10.1016/j.jbef.2022.100700


This paper is a follow-up investigation to the aggregate data meta-analysis by Marini (2022), the latter being designed to detect what study characteristics moderate the effect of emotions on risk preferences. Our work purports to strengthen the findings of Marini (2022) by taking into account gender as a moderator, as well as to extend the analysis along the dimension of country-level individualism. These goals are pursued by pooling individual participant data from the subset of studies that make use of multiple price lists as risk elicitation method. We find that gender does not moderate the influence of emotions on risk propensity and subjects take greater risks when studies are conducted in individualist countries, supporting the evidence of a positive link between individualism and risk-seeking even with respect to participants experiencing no emotion.

The political cost of sanctions: Evidence from COVID-19

by Tommaso Reggiani together with Andrea Fazio and Fabio Sabatini

in Health policy, 2022. DOI: 10.1016/j.healthpol.2022.06.008


We use survey data to study how trust in government and consensus for the pandemic policy response vary with the propensity for altruistic punishment in Italy, the early epicenter of the pandemic. Approval for the management of the crisis decreases with the size of the penalties that individuals would like to see enforced for lockdown violations. People supporting stronger punishment are more likely to consider the government’s reaction to the pandemic as insufficient. However, after the establishment of tougher sanctions for risky behaviors, we observe a sudden flip in support for the government. Higher amounts of the desired fines become associated with a higher probability of considering the COVID policy response as too extreme, lower trust in government, and lower confidence in the truthfulness of the officially provided information. These results suggest that lockdowns entail a political cost that helps explain why democracies may adopt epidemiologically suboptimal policies.

Residential-Based Discrimination in the Labor Market

by Štěpán Mikula and Tommaso Reggiani

in The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, 2022. DOI: 10.1515/bejeap-2021-0331


Through a correspondence study, this paper investigates whether employers discriminate job applicants based on their living conditions. Exploiting the natural setting provided by a Rapid Re-housing Program, we sent 1347 job applications for low-qualified front-desk jobs in Brno, Czech Republic. The resumes exogenously differed in only one main aspect represented by the address of the applicants, signaling both the quality of the neighborhood and the quality of the housing conditions in which they were living. We found that while the higher quality of the district has a strong effect in increasing the hiring chances (+20%) the actual improvement of the living conditions standards, per se, does not generate any significant positive effect.

Broadband Internet and social capital

by Tommaso Reggiani together with Andrea Geraci Mattia Nardotto Fabio Sabatinid

in Journal of Public Economics, 2022. DOI: 10.1016/j.jpubeco.2021.104578


We study the impact of broadband penetration on social capital in the UK. Our empirical strategy exploits a technological feature of the telecommunication infrastructure that generated substantial variation in the quality of Internet access across households. The speed of a domestic connection rapidly decays with the distance of a user’s line from the network’s node serving the area. Merging information on the topology of the network with geocoded longitudinal data about individual social capital from 1997 to 2017, we show that access to fast Internet caused a significant decline in civic and political engagement. Overall, our results suggest that broadband penetration crowded out several dimensions of social capital.

Lab-Sophistication: Does Repeated Participation in Laboratory Experiments Affect Pro-Social Behaviour?


by Tommaso Reggiani together with Tiziana Medda, and Vittorio Pelligra

in Games, 2021. DOI: 10.3390/g12010018


Experimental social scientists working at research-intensive institutions deal inevitably with subjects who have most likely participated in previous experiments. It is an important methodological question to know whether participants that have acquired a high level of lab-sophistication show altered pro-social behavioural patterns. In this paper, we focus both on the potential effect of the subjects’ lab-sophistication, and on the role of the knowledge about the level of lab-sophistication of the other participants. Our main findings show that while lab-sophistication per se does not significantly affect pro-social behaviour, for sophisticated subjects the knowledge about the counterpart’s level of (un)sophistication may systematically alter their choices. This result should induce caution among experimenters about whether, in their settings, information about lab-sophistication can be inferred by the participants, due to the characteristics of the recruitment mechanisms, the management of the experimental sessions or to other contextual clues.

Responding to (un)reasonable requests by an authority

by Tommaso Reggiani together with Vittorio Pelligra, and Daniel Zizzo

in Theory and Decision, 2020. DOI: 10.1007/s11238-020-09758-0 


We consider the notions of static and dynamic reasonableness of requests by an authority in a trust game experiment. The authority, modeled as the experimenter, systematically varies the experimental norm of what is expected from trustees to return to trustors, both in terms of the level of each request and in terms of the sequence of the requests. Static reasonableness matters in a self-biased way, in the sense that low requests justify returning less, but high requests tend to be ignored. Dynamic reasonableness also matters, in the sense that, if requests keep increasing, trustees return less compared to the same requests presented in random or decreasing order. Requests never systematically increase trustworthiness but may decrease it.

Sandwich feedback: The empirical evidence of its effectiveness

by Michal Ďuriník together with Jakub Procházka, and Martin Ovcari

in Learning and motivation, 2020, vol. 71. DOI: 10.1016/j.lmot.2020.101649


This experiment tests the effectiveness of “sandwich” feedback. 91 university students solved 12 mathematical problems from the secondary-school curriculum. After the time limit, we assigned them randomly to one of three possible treatments. One group received corrective computer-administrated feedback, describing the mistakes with their methods and solutions. The second group received sandwich feedback, consisting of the same corrective part presented between two general positive statements unrelated to the participants’ actual performance. The third group did not receive any feedback. Afterwards, the participants had 10 min to prepare for the second set of similar problems. Participants who received sandwich feedback utilized more time on preparation and solved more problems from the second set than the participants from the other two groups. This study provides only partial evidence for the effectiveness of sandwich feedbacks as it tested the effect under one specific condition using computer-mediated written feedback on math test. Further replications are needed to test the effect under various conditions, to test various forms of sandwich feedback, to explain the mechanism of sandwich feedback and to show whether the effect of sandwich feedback is caused by the specific sequence of feedback components or by mere presence of positive statements.

Delegation and coordination with multiple threshold public goods: experimental evidence

by Tommaso Reggiani together with Luca Corazzini and Christopher Cotton

in Experimental economics, 2019. DOI: 10.1007/s10683-019-09639-6


When multiple charities, social programs and community projects simultaneously vie for funding, donors risk mis-coordinating their contributions leading to an inefficient distribution of funding across projects. Community chests and other intermediary organizations facilitate coordination among donors and reduce such risks. To study this, we extend a threshold public goods framework to allow donors to contribute through an intermediary rather than directly to the public goods. Through a series of experiments, we show that the presence of an intermediary increases public good success and subjects’ earnings only when the intermediary is formally committed to direct donations to socially beneficial goods. Without such a restriction, the presence of an intermediary has a negative impact, complicating the donation environment, decreasing contributions and public good success.

Civility and trust in social media

by Tommaso Reggiani together with Angelo Antoci, Laura Bonelli, Fabio Paglieri, and Fabio Sabatini

in Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization. 2019, vol. 160. DOI:10.1016/j.jebo.2019.02.026


Social media have been credited with the potential of reinvigorating trust by offering new opportunities for social and political participation. This view has been recently challenged by the rising phenomenon of online incivility, which has made the environment of social networking sites hostile to many users. We conduct a novel experiment in a Facebook setting to study how the effect of social media on trust varies depending on the civility or incivility of online interaction. We find that participants exposed to civil Facebook interaction are significantly more trusting. In contrast, when the use of Facebook is accompanied by the experience of online incivility, no significant changes occur in users’ behavior. These results are robust to alternative configurations of the treatments.

The Pied Piper: Prizes, Incentives, and Motivation Crowding-in

by Tommaso Reggiani together with Luigino Bruni, Vittorio Pelligra, and Matteo Rizzolli

in Journal of Business Ethics. 2019, vol. 156. DOI:10.1007/s10551-019-04154-3



In mainstream business and economics, prizes such as the Presidential Medal of Freedom are understood as special types of incentives, with the peculiar features of being awarded in public, and of having largely symbolic value. Informed by both historical considerations and philosophical instances, our study defines fundamental theoretical differences between incentives and prizes. The conceptual factors highlighted by our analytical framework are then tested through a laboratory experiment. The experimental exercise aims to analyze how prizes and incentives impact actual individuals’ behavior differently. Our results show that both incentives (monetary and contingent) and prizes (non-monetary and discretional rewards) boost motivation to perform if awarded publicly, but only prizes crowd-in motivation promoting virtuous attitude.

Determinants of Decision-making on the Mitigation of Global Environmental Issues in the Context of Subjective Rationality

by Jiří Špalek together with Jan Říkovský

in Fresenius Environmental Bulletin. 2019, vol. 28, no. 1.



The poverty in developing countries of the world represents a global environmental issue under Millennium Development Goals. One of the ways how to mitigate this global environmental problem ise humanitarian response. But, there is a considera- ble knowledge gap in environmental scientific liter- ature concerning the application of humanitarian aid as a support tool for addressing of it. This paper deals with application of the economic experiment method in an analysis of determinants of decision-making on the mitigation of global environmental issues using humanitarian aid in the context of subjective ration- ality. The methods in this study are based on experi- ment drawing on mathematical economic models supporting by statistical analyses. This methodolog- ical approach offers the opportunity for selfish be- haviour in accordance with the game theory, thus al- lowing us to compare reality with traditional as- sumptions. Selected assumptions are transformed into hypotheses whose validity is consistent with the approach and conclusions of the presented study. The conducted experiment confirmed all the tested hypotheses and many other hypotheses could be ver- ified by other experiments of a different design. The environmental discourse concerning human deci- sion-making has long been dominated by the concept of people as strictly rational beings motivated only by profit (e.g. in the form of drawing ecosystem ser- vices) and perfectly capable of analysing all the con- sequences of their decisions. Although the growing influence of behavioural economics has facilitated the explanation of some kinds of observed behav- iours, the umbrella term “subjective rationality” suf- fers due to its general broadness. The presented study is striving to find a way of synthesising the currently used sophisticated analytical methods with the be- havioural perspective on decision-making on the mitigation of global environmental issues.

Time preferences, cognitive abilities and intrinsic motivation to exert effort

by Rostislav Staněk, and Ondřej Krčál

in Applied Economics Letters. 2019, vol. issue 12. DOI:10.1080/13504851.2018.1529387



The experimental literature has found a positive relationship between patience and performance in cognitive tests that are not incentivized by money. It has also been shown that unincentivized cognitive tests capture not only cognitive ability (CA), but also intrinsic motivation related to the test takers’ personality traits. In order to determine whether the relationship between patience and test scores is driven by intrinsic motivation or CA, we run an experiment in which subjects take either incentivized or unincentivized cognitive tests. We find that while incentivized test scores positively correlate with patience, the unincentivized scores are not related to the time preferences of our subjects. The observed correlation between patience and cognitive test scores therefore seems to be driven by CA rather than by intrinsic motivation related to personality traits.

Social decision-making in the brain: Input-state-output modelling reveals patterns of effective connectivity underlying reciprocal choices

by Rostislav Staněk, and Jiří Špalek together with Daniel Shaw, Kristína Czekóová, Martin Gajdoš, and Michal Brázdil

in Human Brain Mapping. 2019, vol. 40, issue 2. DOI:10.1002/hbm.24446



During social interactions, decision‐making involves mutual reciprocity—each individual's choices are simultaneously a consequence of, and antecedent to those of their interaction partner. Neuroeconomic research has begun to unveil the brain networks underpinning social decision‐making, but we know little about the patterns of neural connectivity within them that give rise to reciprocal choices. To investigate this, the present study measured the behaviour and brain function of pairs of individuals (N = 66) whilst they played multiple rounds of economic exchange comprising an iterated ultimatum game. During these exchanges, both players could attempt to maximise their overall monetary gain by reciprocating their opponent's prior behaviour—they could promote generosity by rewarding it, and/or discourage unfair play through retaliation. By adapting a model of reciprocity from experimental economics, we show that players' choices on each exchange are captured accurately by estimating their expected utility (EU) as a reciprocal reaction to their opponent's prior behaviour. We then demonstrate neural responses that map onto these reciprocal choices in two brain regions implicated in social decision‐making: right anterior insula (AI) and anterior/anterior‐mid cingulate cortex (aMCC). Finally, with behavioural Dynamic Causal Modelling, we identified player‐specific patterns of effective connectivity between these brain regions with which we estimated each player's choices with over 70% accuracy; namely, bidirectional connections between AI and aMCC that are modulated differentially by estimates of EU from our reciprocity model. This input‐state‐output modelling procedure therefore reveals systematic brain–behaviour relationships associated with the reciprocal choices characterising interactive social decision‐making.

Differences in facial affect recognition between non-offending and offending drivers

by Jan Řezáč together with Martina Trepáčová, Pavel Řezáč, Veronika Kurečková, Petr Zámečníka, and Lenka Kopečková

in Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour. 2019, vol. 60. DOI:10.1016/j.trf.2018.11.009


It is assumed that emotion recognition is a complex process related to prosocial and antisocial behaviour (Marsh & Blair, 2008). The present study focuses on the connection between recognizing emotions and safe/unsafe driving. We studied whether there are differences in response time in facial emotion recognition. Fifty-one non-offenders and 41 offenders completed a Pictures of Facial Affect test (Ekman & Friesen, 1976) wherein photographs of prototypical facial emotional expressions were presented. Results show differences between the groups in response time to all emotions whether answers were correct or incorrect. Data show that non-offenders are faster in recognizing emotions than are offenders. These findings demonstrate that offenders exhibit specific deficits in response time for facial affect expressions.

The Short Maximization Inventory

by Michal Ďuriník together with Jakub Procházka, and Hynek Cígler

in Judgment & Decision Making. 2018, vol. 13(1). 



We developed the Short Maximization Inventory (SMI) by shortening the Maximization Inventory (Turner, Rim, Betz & Nygren, 2012) from 34 items to 15 items. Using the Item Response Theory framework, we identified and removed the items of the Maximization Inventory that contributed least to the performance of the original scale. The construct validity assessed for SMI is similar to the full MI and is in line with the predictions from the literature: the Satisficing subscale is positively related to the indices of well-being, while the Decision Difficulty and Alternative Search subscales are negatively related to well-being. The new scale retains the good psychometric properties of the original scale. Furthermore, its brevity allows researchers to use the scale in studies in which maximization is not the primary focus. Although the SMI lacks the “High Standards” subscale, as did the original MI, we believe that SMI is a step towards developing a reliable and conceptually sound measure of maximizing that can be used in various research designs.

A dual-fMRI investigation of the iterated Ultimatum Game reveals that reciprocal behaviour is associated with neural alignment

by Rostislav Staněk, Jiří Špalek, and Jan Řezáč together with Daniel Shaw, Kristína Czekóová, Radek Mareček, Lenka Kopečková, Tomáš Urbánek, and Michal Brázdil

in Scientific reports. 2018, 8. DOI:10.1038/s41598-018-29233-9.



Dyadic interactions often involve a dynamic process of mutual reciprocity; to steer a series of exchanges towards a desired outcome, both interactants must adapt their own behaviour according to that of their interaction partner. Understanding the brain processes behind such bidirectional reciprocity is therefore central to social neuroscience, but this requires measurement of both individuals’ brains during real-world exchanges. We achieved this by performing functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) on pairs of male individuals simultaneously while they interacted in a modified iterated Ultimatum Game (iUG). In this modification, both players could express their intent and maximise their own monetary gain by reciprocating their partner’s behaviour – they could promote generosity through cooperation and/or discourage unfair play with retaliation. By developing a novel model of reciprocity adapted from behavioural economics, we then show that each player’s choices can be predicted accurately by estimating expected utility (EU) not only in terms of immediate payoff, but also as a reaction to their opponent’s prior behaviour. Finally, for the first time we reveal that brain signals implicated in social decision making are modulated by these estimates of EU, and become correlated more strongly between interacting players who reciprocate one another.

Information, belief elicitation and threshold effects in the 5X1000 tax scheme: A framed field experiment

by Tommaso Reggiani together with Leonardo Becchetti, Vittorio Pelligra

in International Tax and Public Finance. 2017, 24: 1026. DOI:10.1007/s10797-017-9474-z



In this paper, we study by means of a framed field experiment on a representative sample of the population the effect on people’s charitable giving of three, substantial and procedural, elements: information provision, belief elicitation and threshold on distribution. We frame this investigation within the 5X1000 tax scheme, a mechanism through which Italian taxpayers may choose to give a small proportion (0.5%) of their income tax to a voluntary organization to fund its activities. We find two main results: (i) providing information or eliciting beliefs about previous donations increases the likelihood of a donation, while thresholds have no effect; (ii) information about previous funding increases donations to organizations that received fewer donations in the past, while belief elicitation also increases donations to organizations that received most donations in the past, since individuals are more likely to donate to the organizations they rank first.

Home bias in sport betting: Evidence from Czech betting market

by Rostislav Staněk

in Judgment and Decision Making. 2017, vol. 12, issue 2.



In sport betting, bettors exhibit home bias when they tend to bet on their home team more often. The paper offers a straightforward method of empirical identification of the home bias in the real-world betting market. Using Czech betting data on the league and the national ice-hockey matches, the paper provides support for the existence of the home bias in the Czech betting market.

Personal interest branding: Source of price premium

by Michal Ďuriník together with Aneta Suchomelová and Jakub Procházka

in Journal of International Consumer Marketing. 2017, vol. 29(1). DOI:10.1080/08961530.2016.1236309



This study looks at whether and why people are prepared to pay more money for products that signalize their personal interests. The design is an intrasubject field experiment carried out using five, real, one-sided Internet auctions. The sample consists of 83 participants from the Czech Flamenco community. In the auction, they placed bids for five types of products—a branded bag, a white shopping bag, a mug, a white top, and a black T-shirt. These items appeared in the auction randomly in Flamenco (bearing visual reference to Flamenco culture) and non-Flamenco generic versions. In the case of the white shopping bag, the mug, and the tank top, the respondents were willing to pay almost double for the Flamenco version in comparison with the generic version. This was partly due to their greater emotional attachment to the Flamenco version of the product. The price difference for the branded bag and the black T-shirt was smaller and insignificant. This study opens up the theme of personal interest branding.

External validity of prospect theory: The evidence from soccer betting

by Ondřej Krčál, and Rostislav Staněk together with Michal Kvasnička

in Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics. 2016, vol. 65. DOI:10.1016/j.socec.2016.07.005



This paper tests whether the prospect theory parameters estimated from laboratory experiments correspond to estimates from real-life betting markets. Using Czech soccer betting data, we estimate the functional forms of the value and probability weighting functions commonly used for the experimental validation of prospect theory. In line with the experimental evidence, we find that bettors are risk averse in the domain of gains and risk seeking in the domain of losses and tend to overweight small probabilities and underweight medium and large probabilities. On the other hand, our findings suggest that bettors do not exhibit loss aversion. This might be at least partly explained by recent experimental evidence suggesting that loss aversion is weaker or absent if the decision-makers are experienced, if they face similar choices repeatedly, and if the decisions are made in a context where offers are usually accepted.

Gender Differences in Beliefs and Actions in a Framed Corruption Experiment

by Miloš Fišar, Jiří Špalek, James Tremewan together with Matúš Kubák

in Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics. 2016, vol. 63. DOI:10.1016/j.socec.2016.05.004


We elicit actions and beliefs in a framed corruption experiment enabling us to investigate how gender differences in corrupt behaviour relate to gender differences in both beliefs about the behaviour of others and the relationship between those beliefs and actions. We find that women are less likely to engage in costly punishment of corruption, and believe corruption to be more prevalent than men. Differences between the genders in the relationship between beliefs and actions provides evidence that men experience a greater psychological cost as a result of social sanctions. Controlling for beliefs and gender differences in sensitivity to beliefs we find that males are, in many instances, more likely to offer bribes, while females are less likely to conform to a norm of bribe-giving. This result was not apparent in the raw data, and highlights the importance of considering beliefs in corruption experiments.

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