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Research Projects

These are some of the current research projects of Ratiolab's research team:

These are some of the recent associate research projects in Ratiolab:


Positive and negative externalities in inter-group relations

Principal investigators: Gary Bornstein and Ori Weisel

When groups interact in strategic settings, individual contributions toward their group often affect the other group as well. We explore situations where individuals can act selfishly by withholding contribution, contribute to the in-group without affecting the out-group, or contribute to the in-group with varying degrees of positive or negative effects on the out-group, extending and generalizing existing research which has focused on negative externalities of in-group cooperation.

Supported by The Israel Science Foundation (Grant 535/05).


Trust and cooperation behind the veil of ignorance

Principal investigator: Ori Weisel

When contributions in a public goods game are made public, but the endowments from which those contributions were made are kept private, it is difficult to interpret low contributions – are they due to limited resources, or to selfishness? It is proposed that the basic trust level of individuals is related to how they interpret low contributions, and consequently, to the dynamics of cooperation in a repeated 4-person public goods game.

Supported by The Israel Foundations Trustees.


Punishment, Cooperation, and Cheater Detection in “Noisy” Social Exchange

Principal investigators: Gary Bornstein and Ori Weisel

We explore if and how punishment is effective in enhancing cooperation in 4-person public good games when private resources are private knowledge. This question is particularly relevant given a body of research demonstrating that punishment is effective in enhancing cooperation when there is full information about other's resources. Published as DOI: 10.3390/g1010018, Games.

Supposrted by the U.S.-Israel Binational Science Foundation (2003299).


Predicting Behavior in Televised Game Shows

Principal investigators: Einav Hart, Gary Bornstein, Eyal Winter.

Our study explores the ability to predict players' behavior in a Prisoner's Dilemma (PD) type of game. We use "Split or Steal" video clips – a televised game show depicting a (very) high stake version of PD-esque game. Based on relevant psychological and economic literature, our main hypothesis is that motivated observers will predict the players' decisions more accurately than non-motivated observers. In order to examine the effect of incentives on prediction accuracy, we vary the reward for correct predictions; we conjecture that the bigger the reward, the more accurate the prediction. In addition, we explore correlations between the observers' accuracy and the players' decisions. We hypothesize that observers will more readily believe the players and consider them cooperators than assume that they will defect.

Supported by Trilateral Grant


Recent Associate Research Projects

The Role of Impulses in Shaping Behavior

Principal investigators: Judith Avrahami and Yaakov Kareev

We explore the extent to which decision behavior is shaped by short-lived reactions to the outcome of the most recent decision. To that end, repeated decision-making behavior is studied in individual decision tasks (over the internet) and in strategic tasks - The Parasite Game and the Volunteer Dilemma - in the Ratiolab. Parts already published as DOI: 10.1002/bdm.707, Journal of Behavioral Decision Making.

Supported by Israel Science Foundation grant 539/07


Allocation of Resources in Competition

Principal investigators: Judith Avrahami, Yaakov Kareev, and Peter Todd

The question of how to allocate one’s resources is ever present and is further accentuated in the face of competition. In some competitions the resources available can only be used for the race but in others, resources not spent remain valuable assets for the competitor making them into All-Pay auctions. We study both types of competitions.
We study how players, facing an opponent with more, less, or equal resources, distribute their resources among a number of fields, knowing that on every round only one field, randomly drawn, would determine the winner in that round. The focus here is on the dynamics of behavior, testing if and how a comparison of one’s own and one’s opponent’s recent allocation affects the upcoming one.
We also study how players spend their resources in competition in which the resources not invested can be kept, but those invested are lost. The literature on experimental all-pay auctions reports over-dissipation. We look for factors that may explain and moderate this behavior. Here too, the focus is on the dynamics of play and of the impact of short-lived regret on behavior.

Supported by Binational Science Foundation Grant 2009/238


Detection of Change in Strategic Interactions

Principal investigators: Judith Avrahami, Yaakov Kareev, and Klaus Fiedler

We study the detection of change in the preferences – and hence the behavior – of others with whom an individual interacts. More specifically, we study situations in which one’s benefits are the result of the joint actions of one and one’s partner when at times the preferred combination is the same for both and at times it is not. In other words, what we change is the payoffs associated with the different combinations of interactive choices and then look at choice behavior following such a change. Published as a discussion paper (DP 557) of the Center for the Study of Rationality.

Supported by Israel Science Foundation grant 539/07 and German-Israeli Foundation (GIF) Grant 1020-303.4/2008


Auctions with a Stochastic Number of Naive Bidders

Principal investigators: Assaf Romm, Ran Shorrer , Eyal Winter

Conservatism in Bayesian updating is a well-documented phenomenon in Psychology (see Edwards, 1968). We solve a theoretical problem of analyzing first-price auctions with stochastic number of bidders, where every bidder is conservative in her updating of the prior belief over the realized number of bidders. We find that such naivety should induce auctioneers to commit to revealing the number of bidders, as opposed to earlier results mentioned in the literature (e.g. McAfee and McMillan, 1987). We bolster our predictions by running a set of lab experiments, showing evidence of such naivety in the context of first-price auctions with stochastic number of bidders. This work is strongly related to the emerging literature on Auction Theory in presence of incomplete rationality, and as experimental data shows, there is still much research to be carried in this line of investigation.

Supported by Thyssen Grant


Non-Consequentialist Voting

Principal investigators :Moses Shayo , Alon Harel

Standard theory assumes that voters' preferences over actions (voting) are induced by their preferences over electoral outcomes (policies, candidates). But voters may also have non-consequentialist (NC) motivations: they may care about how they vote even if it does not affect the outcome. When the likelihood of being pivotal is small, NC motivations can dominate voting behavior. To examine the prevalence of NC motivations, we design an experiment that exogenously varies the probability of being pivotal yet holds constant other features of the decision environment. We find a significant effect, consistent with at least 12.5% of subjects being motivated by NC concerns.

Supported by Chair of Phillip P. Mizock and Estelle Mizock


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