Research

Published Papers

The Probability of Pluralistic Ignorance (this is the working paper version)

Accepted in Journal of Economic Theory

I develop a theory of group interaction in which individuals who act sequentially are concerned with conforming to what they believe is the majority attitude. Social learning may result in pluralistic ignorance, an outcome in which individuals conform to a mistaken sense of the majority attitude, earning the majority’s disapproval and possibly underproviding public goods. Uncertainty about the population distribution of attitudes affects what individuals learn about the group. A central finding is that the learning dynamics have a different impact on the probability of pluralistic ignorance in small and in large groups. I derive the maximum and minimum probabilities of pluralistic ignorance for groups of different sizes, as a function of the preferences for conformity and of uncertainty over attitudes. The theory guides empirical research towards asking how likely pluralistic ignorance is to arise in different conditions.

 

Audience Effects in Anonymous Pro-Social Followership (with Michael J. Hiscox)
 
Accepted in Economics Letters, March 2022

In an experiment, second-movers anonymously donate more if they expect first-movers to donate more, but only increase donations with their first-mover’s actual donation if there is an audience. Absent a first-mover, subjects are unaffected by the expected donation of first-movers.

 

Working Papers

Pluralistic Ignorance and Collective Action

Individuals who sequentially choose whether to contribute to a public good are concerned about conforming to what they believe is the majority attitude. Social learning may result in pluralistic ignorance, an outcome in which individuals conform to a mistaken sense of the majority attitude. The paper extends the model of Fernandez-Duque (2021), "The Probability of Pluralistic Ignorance" to allow for externalities that create an incentive to influence others. First, I generalize the results of the earlier paper, by deriving the maximum and minimum probabilities of pluralistic ignorance for groups of different sizes, as a function of the preferences for conformity and of uncertainty over attitudes. Second, I show a non-monotonic relationship between the probability of pluralistic ignorance and the probability of collective action, and characterize the probability with which rapid social change affects pluralistic ignorance. Third, I characterize how the probability of of pluralistic ignorance affects social welfare in small and large groups.

What's in an in-group? Experimental evidence from regionalism in Mexico

Who we act pro-socially towards  and want to redistribute to is at the heart of many economic and political questions, and a key piece is to understand who individuals consider is in their in-group. Through two complementary experiments on charitable giving in Mexico, I study how primes interact with group attachment to determine whether a subject's in-group includes the whole nation or a smaller region. The in-group includes the whole nation if subjects are attached more to the nation or if the nation is primed---otherwise the in-group only includes a smaller region.  Those more attached to the region widen their in-group with the prime, but their in-group generosity diminishes. Thus, priming a broad group results in its members getting the watered-down pro-sociality of those attached to a smaller group.  

 

Work in Progress

Endogenous Interaction and Spillovers in Peer Groups (with Ben Golub and Evan Sadler)

Policy is often concerned with the optimal composition of peer groups -- e.g., for production or education -- in the presence of peer effects. There is evidence, however, that endogenous link formation decisions determine which peer effects operate: sub-sets of individuals choose whether to interact productively, in addition to making other choices (e.g., effort in learning). Their decisions depend on all their attributes, their prior relationships, and on what is going on in the rest of the group -- a set of endogenous decisions omitted from standard peer effects models. We propose a tractable model that incorporates endogenous link formation. To test the model, we have partnered with an NGO focused on early childhood development in rural Mexico. The experimental design varies the composition of playdate groups that meet during bi-weekly events organized by the NGO. The design proceeds in two stages. In the first stage, we estimate parameter values of our model based on group performance.The second stage features three arms: status quo, the standard model that ignores endogenous link formation, and our model. We hypothesize that explicitly incorporating endogenous linking decisions will significantly improve our outcomes of interest: caregiving practices and children's neurodevelopment.