I am an Assistant Professor (W2) of "Sustainable Economic Policy" at the Technical University of Munich (TUMCS for Biotechnology and Sustainability).
My research focuses on individual decision making by integrating insights from behavioral ecology, anthropology, and psychology into economics. I am particularly interested in studying the mechanisms for the evolution of prosociality and the deep-rooted factors that explain the origins and variation of preferences across countries.
Here are some of the projects I am currently involved in.
The evolution of social complexity and human cooperation
Costly punishment and indirect reciprocity may be relevant at different stages of human societal complexity. We hypothesize that cooperation is mainly sustained by concerns for one’s social image in communities where social density is high, i.e. where connections are highly clustered among individuals and then reliable information on one’s reputation can be quickly transmitted across the social network. On the contrary, we conjecture that costly punishment is the main factor of cooperation in societies where social density is relatively low. We test this hypothesis in a tribal small-scale society of Papua New Guinea.
(With Susann Adloff, Peter Andre, Federico Camelli, Lorenz Götte, Gianluca Grimalda, Eleanor Power, Christoph Schütt, and Matthias Sutter)
Animal spirits: the natural geography of economic behavior
Which role does geography play in explaining the large variation in human behavior and preferences across the globe? To identify the direct effect of geography, we use insights from behavioral ecology and propose the behavior of wild animals as an exogenous measure of behavioral constraints of geography. We construct a global grid-cell database of average animal behavior and
analyze the spatial correlation between animal and human behavior in three important economic domains: future orientation, migration, and gender roles. Animal behavior significantly predicts human behavior in all three domains. The spatial correlation holds for hunter-gatherer societies, modern societies (across and within countries), and also extends to second-generation immigrants. Our results suggest that geography has had a direct and persistent effect on human preferences.
(With Toman Barsbai)
Religion and prosociality across the globe
In this study we analyze newly available, globally representative data on preferences and world religions (Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Judaism). We find that individuals who report believing in such religions also exhibit more prosocial preferences, as measured by their levels of positive reciprocity, altruism and trust. We further document heterogeneous patterns of negative reciprocity and punishment across world religions. The association between religion and prosocial preferences is stronger in more populous societies and weaker in countries with better institutions. The interactive results between these variables point towards a substitution effect between religious and secular institutions, when it comes to prosocial preferences.
(With Thomas Dohmen and Felipe Valencia Caicedo)
The origins of inequality acceptance and the reward of merit
In this project we analyze psychological traits from which human sense of fairness has originated and empirically test whether some psychological universal traits exist in the way humans deal with inequality. We implement this study in small-scale societies of Papua New Guinea. The small-scale societies are transitioning from a traditional system of exchange to a market-based system. In this way, they make it possible to study how greater exposure to markets shape individual attitudes. We sample villages that are connected through road to the main market town in the region and some others that are not, thus giving us quasi-exogenous variation in exposure to markets. Our project will permit the analysis of tolerance of inequality under different contexts and experimental conditions, thus offering an in-depth understanding of human behaviour in dealing with inequality.
(With Gianluca Grimalda and Matthias Sutter)
Gender differences in stereotypes of risk preferences: Experimental evidence from a patrilineal and a matrilineal society
Management Science, 63(10), pp. 3268-3284.