Essays on framing effects in experimental economics

Wilhelm, Jan; Harbring, Christine (Thesis advisor); Gürerk, Özgür (Thesis advisor)

Aachen (2017)
Dissertation / PhD Thesis

Dissertation, RWTH Aachen University, 2017


The dissertation project comprises three papers that all use the method of the economic experiment. At the onset, the author examines the economic and psychological literature on framing effects. The results of the papers forming the main body of the dissertation project are discussed in the light of the existing literature.Based on a distinction between actively harming a person - frequently called commission - and failing to act when something bad happens to a person - often referred to as omission -, borrowed from psychology, two economic experiments are designed. As both acts, i.e. omission and commission, are modeled in a strategically identical way, the different sabotage actions might be seen as different framings of the same action, i.e. improving one’s own position at the cost of the other player. The first paper explores whether there is a behavioral difference between active and passive sabotage. For this purpose, a real-effort experiment with real sabotage in a dyad is used. Based on an exogenously given probability, a subject’s sabotage might be discovered. Active and passive sabotage are significantly different with respect to how they are perceived from a moral perspective, and significant behavioral differences are observed when detection of sabotage is possible. In this case, passive sabotage is higher compared to active sabotage. The second paper explores how omission and commission might be reduced. In the team treatments, all variations of the first paper are used as well, while in the treatments with code of conduct, no detection probability is considered. Both a team bonus and a code of conduct have the potential to mitigate the problem of passive sabotage, while no significant effect on active sabotage is observed.The second part deals with motivational crowding out through control. Control is modeled as the decision to restrict the choice set of the dictator in a modified dictator game. Using a within-subject design with the strategy method, we elicit the transfer decision for both cases, with or without control. We build on previous empirical findings stating that hidden costs can only be observed when subjects are not expecting control. We explore whether the expectation of not being controlled can be stimulated through an attribute framing, either a positive or a negative one. The positive framing influences the likelihood of subjects not expecting control, while we fail to find such an effect for the negative framing