Research

2017
Iris Bohnet,, Herrmann, B., Paryavi, M., Tran, A., & Zeckhauser, R. (2017). Improving Outcomes in the Trust Game: The Games People Choose in Oman, the United States, and Vietnam. In Trust in Social Dilemmas . Oxford, Oxford University Press.Abstract

This chapter shows how people in three culturally different contexts, Oman, the United States and Vietnam, deal with trust situations. We offer two trust-fostering mechanisms principals can choose from—a mitigation-based approach, decreasing the principal’s cost of betrayal, and a prevention-based approach, increasing the agent’s benefits of trustworthiness. We refer to the former as “insurance” and to the latter as “bonus.” We measure what choices principals make, how agents respond to them and how both parties’ behaviors compare to a situation where insurance or bonus was assigned by chance.  We find some differences among the studied countries; but overall, our results show strong similarities. About two-thirds of our principals prefer the safety of the insurance mechanism.  However, by insuring themselves, they make it less likely for their trust to be rewarded. The remaining one-third of our principals prefer sending a bonus, making themselves vulnerable to the agent. This vulnerability pays off by tripling the likelihood of trustworthiness compared to when insurance is chosen. Still, when a bonus is chosen, only about half of the agents reward trust. This fraction is not sufficient to make the principals whole.  In terms of expected payoffs principals would be better off with insurance.

2016
Iris Bohnet,, & Saidi, F. (2016). Informational Inequity Aversion and Performance (Working paper).Abstract

This paper provides experimental evidence on how informational differences may translate into performance differences in competitive environments. In a laboratory tournament setting, we manipulate beliefs about the effort-reward relationship by varying how much information people receive on the potential impact of luck on outcomes. We find that an informational disadvantage worsens the understanding of the effort-reward relationship, and significantly lowers performance. Our study is inspired by informational differences in the labor market where some individuals have less data on the determinants of economic success than others -- due to social networks or the availability of similar others to learn from.

performance_info1.pdf
Iris Bohnet,, van Geen, A., & Bazerman, M. H. (2016). When Performance Trumps Gender Bias. Joint Versus Separate Evaluation. Management Science , 62 (5), 1225-1234. Publisher's VersionAbstract

We examine a new intervention to overcome gender biases in hiring, promotion, and job assignments: an “evaluation nudge,” in which people are evaluated jointly rather than separately regarding their future performance. Evaluators are more likely to focus on individual performance in joint than in separate evaluation and on group stereotypes in separate than in joint evaluation, making joint evaluation the money-maximizing evaluation procedure. Our findings are compatible with a behavioral model of information processing and with the System 1/System 2 distinction in behavioral decision research where people have two distinct modes of thinking that are activated under certain conditions.

when_performance_trumps_gender_bias_final.pdf
Iris Bohnet,. (2016). What Works: Gender Equality by Design . Harvard University Press. Publisher's VersionAbstract

 What Works in HARDCOVERWhat Works

Gender Equality by Design

Iris Bohnet

 

Gender equality is a moral and a business imperative. But unconscious bias holds us back, and de-biasing people’s minds has proven to be difficult and expensive. Diversity training programs have had limited success, and individual effort alone often invites backlash. Behavioral design offers a new solution. By de-biasing organizations instead of individuals, we can make smart changes that have big impacts. Presenting research-based solutions, Iris Bohnet hands us the tools we need to move the needle in classrooms and boardrooms, in hiring and promotion, benefiting businesses, governments, and the lives of millions.

What Works is built on new insights into the human mind. It draws on data collected by companies, universities, and governments in Australia, India, Norway, the United Kingdom, the United States, Zambia, and other countries, often in randomized controlled trials. It points out dozens of evidence-based interventions that could be adopted right now and demonstrates how research is addressing gender bias, improving lives and performance. What Works shows what more can be done—often at shockingly low cost and surprisingly high speed.

Product Details

HARDCOVER
$26.95 • £19.95 • €24.50
ISBN 9780674089037
Publication: March 2016
400 pages

2012
Iris Bohnet,, Herrmann, B., Al-Issis, M., Robbett, A., Al-Yahya, K., & Zeckhauser, R. (2012). The Elasticity of Trust: How to Promote Trust in the Arab Middle East and in the United States. In Restoring Trust in Organizations and Leaders: Enduring Challenges and Emerging Answers . Oxford, Oxford University Press. Publisher's VersionAbstract

To trust is to risk. When we lend someone money, we make ourselves vulnerable, hoping that the borrower will reward our trust and return the money at a later stage, possibly with interest or a reciprocal favor added. Generally, people are more willing to engage in a risky activity, such as buying a stock or starting a business, the greater the expected returns from the activity. This chapter examines whether willingness to trust follows the same logic, that is, whether it responds to changes in the expected value of trusting, much like willingness to take risk responds to changes in the expected value of risk taking in three countries of the Arab Middle East, namely, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and in the United States. The chapter shows that trust is promoted very differently in the Middle East than in the United States.

Iris Bohnet,, & Meier, S. (2012). Trust, Distrust and Bargaining. In The Oxford Handbook of Economic Conflict Resolution . Oxford, Oxford University Press. Publisher's VersionAbstract

This article compares the framing of trusting actions and the role of extending trust versus the lack of distrust in achieving exchange efficiencies. It uses experiments to investigate empirically the impact of the presumption of trust. It also reports new evidence comparing behavior in the distrust game (DTG) and the trust game (TG). The data indicates that the parties to a negotiation should build trust incrementally as healthy skepticism signals merely a lack of trust and not a betrayal signaled by loss of trust. In the experiments, the default of full trust increased efficiency and inequality, with trustors much worse off than trustees, and much worse off than they would have been if they had withdrawn all trust. Trust building is important for the parties to be able to share information on issues and underlying interests.

2010
Iris Bohnet,. (2010). Gender Equality: A Nudge in the Right Direction. The Financial Times. Publisher's VersionAbstract
It is not always easy to make what is seen to be the right choice – choosing an apple over a bar of chocolate, or paying money into a savings account rather than buying a new pair of shoes – but there might be a solution, and it may only take a nudge.
Iris Bohnet,, Herrmann, B., & Zeckhauser, R. (2010). "Trust and the Reference Points for Trustworthiness in Gulf and Western Countries." Quarterly Journal of Economics , CXXV (2), 811-828. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Why is private investment so low in Gulf compared to Western countries? We investigate cross-regional differences in trust and reference points for trustworthiness as possible factors. Experiments controlling for cross-regional differences in institutions and beliefs about trustworthiness reveal that Gulf citizens pay much more than Westerners to avoid trusting, and hardly respond when returns to trusting change. These differences can be explained by subjects' gain/loss utility relative to their region's reference point for trustworthiness. The relation-based production of trust in the Gulf induces higher levels of trustworthiness, albeit within groups, than the rule-based interactions prevalent in the West.

bohnetherrmanzeckhauser_trust.pdf
2009
Iris Bohnet,. (2009). Experiments. In P. Bearman & P. Hedström (Ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Analytical Sociology (pp. 639-665) . Oxford, Oxford University Press. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Analytical sociology is a strategy for understanding the social world. It is concerned with explaining important social facts such as network structures, patterns of residential segregation, typical beliefs, cultural tastes, and common ways of acting. It explains such facts by detailing in clear and precise ways the mechanisms through which the social facts were brought about. Making sense of the relationship between micro and macro thus is one of the central concerns of analytical sociology. The approach is a contemporary incarnation of Robert K. Merton's notion of middle-range theory and presents a vision of sociological theory as a tool-box of semi-general theories each of which is adequate for explaining certain types of phenomena. The Handbook brings together some of the most prominent sociologists in the world. Some of the chapters focus on action and interaction as the cogs and wheels of social processes, while others consider the dynamic social processes that these actions and interactions bring about.

Iris Bohnet,, & Greig, F. (2009). Exploring gendered behavior in the field with experiments: Why public goods are provided by women in a Nairobi slum. Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization , 70 (1), 1-9. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Women, and particularly women in all-female groups, appear to be especially adept at providing public goods in developing countries. We use a one-shot Public Goods game to explore the effect of sex and a group's sex composition on the voluntary provision of public goods in a Nairobi slum. Sex heterogeneity hurts the voluntary provision of public goods because women—but not men—contribute less in mixed-sex than same-sex groups. Women contribute as much as men in same-sex groups. This result is driven by women's pessimism and men's optimism about others’ contributions in mixed-sex groups rather than by gendered social preferences.

bohnetgreig2009.pdf
Iris Bohnet,, & Meier, S. (2009). The Oxford Companion to Emotion and the Affective Sciences. In D. Sander & K. R. Scherer (Ed.), The Oxford Companion to Emotion and the Affective Sciences. (pp. 179-180) . Oxford, Oxford University Press. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Few areas have witnessed the type of growth we have seen in the affective sciences in the past decades. Across psychology, philosophy, economics, and neuroscience, there has been an explosion of interest in the topic of emotion and affect.

2008
Iris Bohnet,, Greig, F., Herrmann, B., & Zeckhauser, R. (2008). Betrayal Aversion: Evidence from Brazil, China, Oman, Switzerland, Turkey, and the United States. American Economic Review , 98 (1), 294-310. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Due to betrayal aversion, people take risks less willingly when the agent of uncertainty is another person rather than nature. Individuals in six countries (Brazil, China, Oman, Switzerland, Turkey, and the United States) confronted a binary-choice trust game or a risky decision offering the same payoffs and probabilities. Risk acceptance was calibrated by asking individuals their "minimum acceptable probability" (MAP) for securing the high payoff that would make them willing to accept the risky rather than the sure payoff. People's MAPs are generally higher when another person, rather than nature, determines the outcome. This indicates betrayal aversion.

betrayal_aversion_2008.pdf
Iris Bohnet,, & Bowles, H. R. (2008). Special Section: Gender in Negotiation Introduction. Negotiation Journal , 24 (4), 389–392. Publisher's Version gender_in_negotiation_2008.pdf
Iris Bohnet,, & Greig, F. (2008). Is There Reciprocity In A Reciprocal-exchange Economy? Evidence Of Gendered Norms From A Slum In Nairobi, Kenya. Economic Inquiry , 46 (1), 77-83. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Norms of reciprocity help enforce cooperative agreements in bilateral sequential exchange. We examine the norms that apply in a reciprocal-exchange economy. In our one-shot investment game in a Nairobi slum, people adhered to the norm of “balanced reciprocity,” which obligates quid-pro-quo returns for any level of trust. The norm is gendered, with people more likely to comply when confronted with women rather than men, and differs from “conditional reciprocity,” prevalent in developed countries, according to which greater trust is rewarded with proportionally larger returns. Balanced reciprocity produces less trust and trustworthiness and smaller gains from trade than conditional reciprocity. (JEL C72, C91)

reciprocity_bohnet_greig.pdf
Iris Bohnet,. (2008). Trust in experiments. In S. N. Durlauf & L. E. Blume (Ed.), The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics (2nd ed.) . Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Trust is the willingness to make oneself vulnerable to another person's actions, based on beliefs about that person's trustworthiness. This article focuses on interpersonal trust and trustworthiness between two people, a trustor and a trustee, as measured in laboratory experiments. A trustee behaves trustworthily if he voluntarily refrains from taking advantage of the trustor's vulnerability. Trust applies to all transactions where the outcome is partly under the control of another person and not fully contractible. The article discusses measurement issues, the motives for and influences on trust and trustworthiness (incentives, repetition and demographic variables) and questions of external validity.

2007
Iris Bohnet,, & Baytelman, Y. (2007). Institutions and Trust: Implications for Preferences, Beliefs and Behavior. Rationality and Society , 19 (1), 99-135. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Institutions matter - but how? This article employs experiments to examine whether institutions only affect trust and trustworthiness behavior by changing constraints and thereby the beliefs people hold about others' behavior, as commonly assumed in a rational choice framework, or also by influencing preferences. In a within-subject design, we confront people with an anonymous one-shot trust game, a one-shot game with pre-play communication, post-play communication and a post-play punishment option and a finitely repeated game. Institutions increasing the cost of betrayal as compared to an anonymous one-shot game affect people's beliefs and enhance their willingness to trust and be trustworthy. However, all settings that offer tighter institutional constraints compared to the anonymous one-shot game decrease intrinsically motivated trust. They do not influence trustworthiness. Thus, institutions may also affect preferences. The ‘crowding-out’ of intrinsic trust is of concern as it has been found to be associated with economic performance and democracy.

rationality_and_society-2007-bohnet-99-135.pdf
Hong, K., & Iris Bohnet,. (2007). Status and distrust: The relevance of inequality and betrayal aversion. Journal of Economic Psychology , 28 (2), 197–213. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Trust involves a willingness to accept vulnerability, comprised of the risk of being worse off than by not trusting, the risk of being worse off than the trusted party (disadvantageous inequality), and the risk of being betrayed by the trusted party. We examine how people’s status, focusing on sex, race, age and religion, affects their willingness to accept these three risks. We experimentally measure people’s willingness to accept risk in a decision problem, a risky dictator game, and a trust game, and compare responses across games. Groups typically considered having lower status in the US – women, minorities, young adults and non-Protestants – are averse to disadvantageous inequality while higher status groups – men, Caucasians, middle-aged people and Protestants – dislike being betrayed.

status_and_distrust_hong_bohnet.pdf
2006
Iris Bohnet,. (2006). How Much Should You Trust? - Harvard Business Review. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Much is made of the necessity for trust in productive negotiations. But, the authors contend, people who take trust for granted at the start of a negotiation will be much worse off than if they strive to build trust incrementally and naturally over the course of a relationship. How do you go about building a relationship you can trust? The authors offer guidelines for setting ground rules, creating contingent agreements, assessing whether the degree of trust between partners is justified, and adjusting that assessment as needed.
Ashraf, N., Iris Bohnet,, & Piankov, N. (2006). Decomposing trust and trustworthiness. Experimental Economics , 9 193–208. Publisher's VersionAbstract

What motivates people to trust and be trustworthy? Is trust solely “calculative,” based on the expectation of trustworthiness, and trustworthiness only reciprocity? Employing a within-subject design, we run investment and dictator game experiments in Russia, South Africa and the United States. Additionally, we measured risk preferences and expectations of return. Expectations of return account for most of the variance in trust, but unconditional kindness also matters. Variance in trustworthiness is mainly accounted for by unconditional kindness, while reciprocity plays a comparatively small role. There exists some heterogeneity in motivation but people behave surprisingly similarly in the three countries studied.

ashraf_et_al.2006.pdf
2005
Iris Bohnet,, & Kübler, D. (2005). Compensating the cooperators: is sorting in the prisoner’s dilemma possible? Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization , 56, 61–76. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Choice between different versions of a game may provide a means of sorting. We experimentally investigate whether auctioning off the right to play a prisoner’s dilemma game in which the cost of unilateral cooperation is lower than in the status quo version separates (conditional) cooperators from money maximizers. After the auction, significantly more subjects cooperate in the modified {PD} than in the status quo {PD}, whereas there is no difference between cooperation rates if the two versions of the game were assigned to participants. However, sorting is incomplete and cooperation deteriorates over time.

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