What do you currently work on? Please state the research question and what you expect to learn from your research.
I’m particularly interested in social norm change. Social norms guide our behavior and interactions in a variety of economically and socially interesting domains (corruption, tax evasion, collective action, altruistic sharing, among others). Despite progress in uncovering the importance of social norms in many economically interesting settings, our understanding of the factors that influence individuals’ willingness to comply with social norms is still incomplete and – importantly – how and why compliance erodes.
This is important because norm compliance can quickly erode in response to changes in the social or political landscape. In my ongoing work (with Bicchieri, Gächter & Nosenzo) we attempt to uncover these dynamics. We focus on the role of social interactions in a non-strategic environment in which we isolate norm changes and also show who are the ones contributing to the degradation of norm compliance.
ECONtribute’s goal is to advance a new paradigm for the analysis of markets & public policy. In your mind, what are the key societal challenges? And how can economists answer to these?
Historically, many of the insights that economists have produces focused on isolated behaviors in tightly controlled environments. While useful and important as a starting point, we are all well aware of the fact that actual behaviors are much more complex and evolve dynamically. Studying the impact of interventions not only in form of a snapshot but also its mid- and long-term impact is vital.
It’s exciting to see that economists have been at the forefront of the scientific revolution to bring their research ‘to the field’ and take on these challenges. In order to achieve sustainable social change, the next big challenge will be to tie this research stronger to actual policy change — beyond ‘just’ publishing them. It’s exciting to see that researchers who are part of ECONtribute are key figures of this movement.
What are the implications of your own research for policymaking and/or for our understanding of society and the economy?
Understanding not only what happens but also why is particularly policy relevant. For example, social norms research of the past has mainly focused on finding ways to change behavior, but spent less time investigating why behavior change failed. n the context detailed above, our rich setting also allows us to study who contributes to collective change in compliance over time. We find that correcting deviant behavior often requires the combination of social and economic incentives.
Simple nudges might be insufficient at times, or even backfire. Understanding why the latter happens — and how to achieve long-lasting change — is another stream of research that I pursue (with Bolton & Schmidt, among others). For research to be relevant to policymakers, us researchers need to provide guidance not only on what works, but what doesn’t, why, and what to do about it. With this, the hope that misguided efforts will be minimized and resources are allocated where they are most needed.