Research that can be done in the lab includes (but is not restricted to):
- Studies on social preferences: We know that people care about what others have and how they are being treated. In other words, people have social preferences. What is the content of these preferences? Most models of social preferences hypothesize that people prefer to distribute material benefits following certain principles such as equality, fairness and reciprocation. At the lab, we defend the idea that many prosocial and antisocial behaviours are due to people willing to change others’ opinion or state of mind. For instance, people want to influence the opinion that others have of them and this can lead them to behave generously even when they do not predict any long-term material gains from it.
- Predicting others’ social decision: Trust is one of the buzzwords in economics. Yet, we know little about how the beliefs that others are trustworthy or not are being formed: what kind of cues are taken into account, what kind of human cognitive ability is put to work? At the lab, we benefit from the department’s expertise on social cognitive abilities. Our goal is to investigate how these abilities gear belief formation of people put in strategic situations.
- Group decision making: research in behavioural economics has successfully listed a large set of cognitive biases that individuals make. Yet, many important economic decisions are taken by groups. Will the very same mistakes be made? And what group dynamics will favour better decision making? Sperber and Mercier’s recent theory of argumentative reasoning provides interesting predictions that are worth being tested.
- Cognitive ergonomics for policy-making and others: behavioural economics has been shown to be highly relevant to policy making (c.f. Thaler and Sunstein’s Nudge). It can inform policy makers so that they design and build cognitive environments that foster good decision-making. Of course, the goal of building environments that are ergonomics from a cognitive point of view extends to many other domains, starting with human-computer interfaces. At the lab, we are willing to contribute to this applied research by focusing on how cognitive environments mediate socio-economic interactions.