An experimental approach to behavior, personality traits, and gender in varying structures

Lang, Hannes
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Gowdy, John M.
Kantor, Shawn Everett
Caporael, Linnda R.
Chabris, Christopher F.
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Ecological economics
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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 United States
This electronic version is a licensed copy owned by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY. Copyright of original work retained by author.
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The findings of behavioral economics research contribute to the improvement of microeconomic theory and the understanding of human psychology. The purpose of this dissertation is to enhance the understanding of human decision making behavior by researching the effects of exogenous variations in punishment structures, and the behavior of individuals in different economic games with regard to personality and gender differences. This research tests a published theory that questions the current practice in law enforcement in one segment, and looks at the underlying personality traits responsible for decision-making in economic games in another.
This dissertation, while grounded in theory, contains mostly empirical work, which was collected through multiple online and laboratory experiments with monetary incentives. This collection of work includes more traditional economic theories and tools, as well as interdisciplinary methods. The theories are based on law and economics and microeconomics, while the analysis of the data is conducted with econometric and non-parametric tools. The interdisciplinary measurements and tools used in this dissertation are taken from psychology and are used to determine personality characteristics. The findings are then put in context of the current and growing literature in the fields of behavioral, evolutionary, and neuroeconomics.
Finally, a test on the behavior in the public goods game will show a gender difference in the distribution of contributions to a public goods. The behavior of both, females and males, is analyzed with regard to personality traits and significant variables are found. This finding shows a gender difference that is in line with some evolutionary perspectives and confirms the hypothesis that more rational subjects will maximize their own monetary outcome.
An alternative approach will also be used to explain the variety of behavior in the dictator and the ultimatum game. While it has been shown before that the variety of behavior depends on the environment and an individual's personality characteristic (Boone et al., 1999; Borghans et al., 2008; Deck et al., 2008; Swope et al., 2008; Dohmen et al., 2010; Visser and Roelofs, 2011; Almlund et al., 2011; Ben-Ner and Kramer, 2011; Oda et al., 2014), the research in this dissertation will show that changing the environment can mean a change in the personality characteristic used for evaluating the choice. Through experiments subjects' personality traits were analyzed. It was then tested how these traits affected the subjects' decision making behavior when playing typical economic games. The data shows that depending on the environment, subjects' behavior is correlated with different personality traits. These findings bridge the gap between neuroeconomics, behavioral economics, and psychology.
The analysis of behavior in exogenous variations in the punishment structure will show that the traditional approach to deterring crime does not necessarily yield the highest deterrence and alternative approaches have to be given serious thought. The findings from an economic experiment suggest that a decreasing punishment structure yields higher deterrence in a risky environment. It also shows that as the first fine increases the marginal deterrence effect diminishes and that maximum deterrence can already be reached before the maximum fine.
August 2014
School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences
Ecological Economics, Values, and Policy Program
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY
Rensselaer Theses and Dissertations Online Collection
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