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Regular version of the site

Research Seminar 2015

2 December

Title: The role of temporo-parietal junction(TPJ)’s and right lateral prefrontal cortex (rLPFC)’s neural activity in third-party punishment’s condition

Speaker: Oksana Zinchenko  

Abstract: Research in field of social rules have demonstrated that humans have strong preferences for equity and reciprocity, and have a tendency to reject rather than accept offers that are perceived as being unfair. In case that others are intentionally disadvantaged, humans often punish unfair behavior at their own expense, regardless of the likelihood of receiving anything in return. The motivation of such costly acts (called ‘‘costly’’ punishment) probably reinforce cooperation and to avoid inequity within social groups. Previous results in fMRI show that two different networks involved in decision-making process for cooperation: cognitive control system, which perform «objective» evalution of stimulus and social cognition system which includes evaluation of emotional components about possible threat or trust. So-called cognitive control system consists of lateral prefrontal cortex, social cognition system includes temporal-parietal junction, medial prefrontal cortex and amigdala. We propose a research to distinguish an influence at emotional perception of unfair economic behavior and its consequences at third-party punishment.

25 November

Title: The Preference Reversal Phenomenon with a Single Lottery: A Paradox of Regret Theory

Speaker: Serge Blondel (Univ. Angers)

Abstract:  The preference reversal (PR) phenomenon appears not restricted to the standard version, where the order of preference, for two lotteries, is inconsistent between choosing and pricing. PR is observed also with a single lottery: it is a paradox for regret theory. It is observed with various probabilities of winning, here from 10% to 80%, and is simpler than PR since it is obtained with only two decisions (one choice, one price) instead of three (one choice, two prices). (JEL C91, D81)

18 November

Title: Social conformity and risk attitudes

Speaker: Tatiana Babkina  (SkolTech)

Abstract:  Our main goal is to investigate social conformity in risky choices. We hypothesize that an individual will conform to group risky (or risk averse) choice. The conformity index will be more in socialized group  in contradistinction to non-socialized. Since the payoffs will be determined only after all choices are done, additional information that participants get about choices of others won't change the economic utility of lottery choice. Note: experiment design is based on the ideas and methods from Lahno, Amrei M.; Serra-Garcia, Marta, "Peer Effects in Risk Taking".

11 November

Title: Evolution of cooperative strategies from first principles

Speaker: Mikhail Burtsev (Kurchatov institute)

Abstract: One of the greatest challenges in the modern biological and social sciences is to understand the evolution of cooperative behaviour. General outlines of the answer to this puzzle are currently emerging as a result of developments in the theories of kin selection, reciprocity, multilevel selection and cultural group selection. The main conceptual tool used in probing the logical coherence of proposed explanations has been game theory, including both analytical models and agent-based simulations. The game-theoretic approach yields clear-cut results but assumes, as a rule, a simple structure of payoffs and a small set of possible strategies. Here we propose a more stringent test of the theory by developing a computer model with a considerably extended spectrum of possible strategies. In our model, agents are endowed with a limited set of receptors, a set of elementary actions and a neural net in between. Behavioural strategies are not predetermined; instead, the process of evolution constructs and reconstructs them from elementary actions. Two new strategies of cooperative attack and defence emerge in simulations, as well as the well-known dove, hawk and bourgeois strategies. Our results indicate that cooperative strategies can evolve even under such minimalist assumptions, provided that agents are capable of perceiving heritable external markers of other agents. Verification of model’s predictions with the real data on aggression in archaic egalitarian societies has demonstrated that simulation results are in line with observed correlations in cross-cultural data.

28 October

Title: Individual differences in attitudes towards uncertainty as the key-factor in decision making: hypothesis and results

Speaker: Maria Chumakova (NRU HSE)

Abstract: The report will consist of three parts. The first part will focus on the research results obtained in studies of decision making in the research team led by T.V. Kornilova. These results demonstrate the unity of intellectual and personal traits in the regulation of decision making. The second part of the report will describe theoretical model of attitudes towards uncertainty as the key-factor in decision making and possible sources of individual differences in these attitudes. The third part will demonstrate current research results obtained in studies based on the theoretical model of individual differences described above, and further research hypothesis.

21 October

Title: The Effect of Alcohol on Decision Making in Economic Games

Speaker: Alexis Belianin (ICEF NRU HSE)

Abstract: We present the design and discuss the preliminary results of (apparently) the first experimental Russian-based experimental study of decision-making in economic contexts under affection of alcohol. Effects of alcohol consumption have been relatively well-documented in neuropsychology, as well as in economics using large-scale survey data. A few studies of alcohol in economic experiments suggest the effect of alcohol on behaviour is limited when doses are moderate (which is the treatment we adopt as well). We design an experiment aimed at testing the effect of alcohol at three levels: individual, relational and strategic, and report significant effect only at the second level, in variants of Ultimatum game, known as Envy and Impunity games, where alcohol seems to mitigate sensitivity to one's relative losses. Limitations and potential extensions of these results are also discussed.

14 October

Topic: Research project presentation

Speaker: Zachary Yaple (Dept of Psychology, NRU HSE)


Abstract: Transcranial Alternating Current Stimulation (tACS) is a noninvasive stimulation technique that has been shown to enhance cognitive performance by means of entraining neural oscillations within adjacent cortical structures. For this study, we investigated whether it was possible to influence reward processing and cognitive control by frequency-specific tACS by targeting the bilateral prefrontal cortex. Stimulation was delivered online at 5, 10, 20, 40 Hz on the left and right lateral prefrontal cortex while respondents performed a modified volunteer task switching paradigm, in which gains and losses were granted depending on whether respondents chose to switch or repeat mental sets. This design allowed us to determine whether behavioural measures of cognitive control and risk versus certainty differed with respect to gain and loss domains. Preliminary results revealed a frequency specific modulation of 20 Hz tACS on the reaction time difference between responses to risk and certainty options in the gain domain. This effect may underline an interference of tACS of unexpected gains. To conclude, our findings support the notion that economic decision-making can be modulated using tACS. 

11 June

Title: Corruption behavior: evidence of the laboratory experiments from Russia and France

Speaker: Tatiana Zhuravleva (RANEPA and the Gaidar Institute)

Abstract: The evidence of corruption in Russia is difficult to refute. An empirical investigation of the determinants of corruption is hampered by the lack of data. Our research refers to the new direction of laboratory corruption experiment that allows collecting the required data for the analysis. We conducted a series of experiments with students-economists in Russia and France. We contribute to the literature by modifying the standard “firm-official-citizen” game introducing the cooperation effect among citizens. This modification allows us to analyse their beliefs about the behavior of the other citizens, i.e. beliefs about the tolerance of corruption. We use non-neutral language in the experiment.

We vary our experimental design by increasing the size of damage per unit of punishment for firms and officials and by changing the deterministic punishment system to the stochastic one. We test a range of hypotheses:

1)      In more corrupt countries there are both higher propensity to engage in corrupt behavior and a lower propensity to punish corrupt behavior;

2)      Women have the lower incentives to engage in corrupt behavior;

3)      More effective punishment system decreases the incentives to engage in corrupt behavior, and this effect is stronger in less corrupt countries.

We find that in Russia subjects offer and take bribes more often than in France. This result accords with other cross-country evidence. Moreover, the average level of offered bribes in Russia is also higher. In France the probability of offering and accepting bribe in higher for men than for women, moreover women are more sensitive to punishment, but this is not the case in Russia. Switching to the more effective punishment system lowers the level of corruption in France, and again this is not the case in Russia. Surprisingly, we do not find that in Russia subjects punish bribery less frequently than in France. 

17 April

Title: Data manipulation in the public sector: evidence from Russian regional government

Speaker: Alexander Kalgin (HSE Dept of Public Administration)

Abstract:The aim of this project is to find whether the national system of performance measurement in the Russian public sector is affected by deliberate data manipulation  and to investigate the strategies of data manipulation. Using mixed methods I demonstrate that locally generated data are more likely to be manipulated than data reported by external agencies. Instead of improving managerial decisions, performance indicators have become a tool of symbolic bureaucratic accountability not linked to real managerial activities. 25 current and former civil servants from three regional governments in Russia were interviewed (including three ministers of economic development); quantitative data were obtained from a publicly available performance dataset covering the period of 2007-2011 (with data for a unified list of over 300 indicators from 83 regional governments). Two strategies of data manipulation were identified: a “prudent bureaucrat” strategy consisted in minimizing long-term risks by reporting “more-normal-than-real” figures; a more ambitions “reckless bureaucrat” strategy aimed at inflating figures to maximise credit. Systematic application of these two strategies has produced a detectable bias in the overall performance data with “prudent bureaucrat” strategy dominating. Performance reporting creates a “bureaucratic panopticon” and resulting behaviour may be understood using Michel Foucault’s notion of normalisation. The decision to engage in data manipulation may be explained by the attitude towards risk-taking.

Paper is available here http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/14719037.2014.965271 

3 April

Title: Preliminary results of Cognitive Control and Risk Preferences  

Speaker: Zach Yaple 

Abstract: The goal of the current study is to investigate the missing link between cognitive control and risk related behavior in the context of the promotion of gains and prevention of losses. Thus far in this project, I have gathered behavioral evidence that integrates cognitive control via switching between mental sets and economic decision making via risk and certainty choices. The results demonstrate that people have a preference for risk in the punishment domain when compared to the reward domain, but only for cases in which one has to apply more cognitive effort into the task.

23 March

Title: Cognitive and Neural Processes in Delay Discounting 

Samuel McClure (Stanford)

Venue: Wednesday March 25, 16:40, room K9  

Delay discounting, expressed in preferences between outcomes available at different points in time, relates to a number of important life outcomes ranging from academic and professional success to impulsivity and addiction. Moreover, delay discount rates are known to covary with a number of inter- and intra-individual factors. In this talk, I will present work that we have done to understand the cognitive and neural processes that give rise to delay discounting and hence the dimensions along which delay discount rates vary.

Our findings identify distinct cognitive functions subsumed by mesolimbic reward structures (particularly the ventral striatum, vStr, and ventromedial prefrontal cortex, vmPFC) and the lateral prefrontal cortex (lPFC). I will review some evidence that these systems independently contribute to variability in delay discount rates. However, the vmPFC/vStr and lPFC should not be considered truly independent. I will conclude my talk with recent work identifying mechanisms by which the systems interact during the choice process. The nature of this interaction suggests a means by which lPFC may interact with value signals derived from vmPFC to implement a form of self-control.

6 March

Topic: Crime and (de)stigmatization: behavioural experiment, preliminary results by  Zinaida Pogosova, Anna Shestakova, Vasily Klucharev, Alexis Belianin

Alexis Belianin 

We present and discuss preliminary results of a behavioural experiment (updated design), which is aimed at measurement of worth of (de-)stigmatization in case of criminal prosecution, and its comparison of the revealed willingness-to-pay to the norm that is currently adopted by Russian legislation. Preliminary results indicate that de-stigmatization indeed has its value, but is much lower than the norm, amounting to less than 0.5 of the damage from underlying criminal activity.

27 February

Topic: Monetary sacrifice among strangers is mediated by endogenous oxytocin release after physical contact by Vera B. Morhenn, Jang Woo Park, Elisabeth Piper, Paul J. Zak

Jang Woo Park

Humans frequently sacrifice resources to help others—even strangers. The proximate mechanisms inducing such sacrifices are not well understood, and we hypothesized that touch might provoke a sacrifice of money to a stranger. We found that touch significantly elevated circulating oxytocin (OT) levels but only when it was followed by an intentional act of trust. Touch followed by trust increased monetary sacrifice by 243% relative to untouched controls. We also found that women were more susceptible than men to OT release and monetary sacrifice after touch. This suggests that touch draws on physiologic mechanisms that support cooperative behaviors in humans.

20 February

Topic: Cooperating with the future

Anna Shestakova

Overexploitation of renewable resources today has a high cost on the welfareof futuregenerations1–5.Unlike in other public goods games, however, future generations cannot reciprocate actions made today. What mechanisms can maintaincooperationwith the future?To answer this question, we devise a newexperimental paradigm, the ‘Intergenerational Goods Game’. A line-up of successive groups (generations) can each either extract a resource to exhaustion or leave something for the next group. Exhausting the resource maximizes the payoff for thepresent generation,but leaves all future generations empty-handed. Here we show that the resource is almost always destroyed if extraction decisions are made individually. This failure to cooperate with the future is driven primarily by a minority of individuals who extract far more than what is sustainable. In contrast, when extractions are democratically decided by vote, the resource is consistently sustained. Voting10–15 is effective for two reasons. First, it allows a majority of cooperators to restrain defectors. Second, it reassures conditional cooperators16 that their efforts are not futile. Voting, however, only promotes sustainability if it is binding for all involved. Our results have implications for policy interventions designed to sustain intergenerational public goods. (Hauser et al. 2014)

13 February

Topic: Changing social norm compliance with noninvasive brain stimulation

Vasily Klucharev

by Ruff CC, Ugazio G, Fehr E., Science. 2013 Oct 25.

 All known human societies have maintained social order by enforcing compliance with social norms. The biological mechanisms underlying norm compliance are, however, hardly understood. We show that the right lateral prefrontal cortex (rLPFC) is involved in both voluntary and sanction-induced norm compliance. Both types of compliance could be changed by varying the neural excitability of this brain region with transcranial direct current stimulation, but they were affected in opposite ways, suggesting that the stimulated region plays a fundamentally different role in voluntary and sanction-based compliance. Brain stimulation had a particularly strong effect on compliance in the context of socially constituted sanctions, whereas it left beliefs about what the norm prescribes and about subjectively expected sanctions unaffected. Our findings suggest that rLPFC activity is a key biological prerequisite for an evolutionarily and socially important aspect of human behavior.

6 February

Topic: Alcohol and Behaviour: prospects for an experimental study in Russia

Alexis Belianin

This is a rather rough proposal for an experimental study of decision-making in economic contexts under affection of alcohol. Effects of alcohol consumption have been relatively well-documented in neuropsychology, as well as in economics using large-scale survey data. There is, however, very few studies of alcohol in behavioural economic experiments, and apparently no neuroeconomics study at all. We will review the existing approaches and revealed problems of such studies, and propose draft design for a multidisciplinary  experiment in Russia, aiming to disentangle the clinical, neurological and behavioural effects of (alledged) alcohol consumption on risk taking in individual decisions and social interactions.

23 January

Topic: Probability and Utility: How to interpret Risk

Zach Yaple

During a risk/certainty gamble task, one may be faced with the decision to either choose a 100% chance of receiving $50 or to take a 50% chance to double their money. Since in both cases the expected value is equal, it is most optimal to select only one option throughout the duration of gambles since statistically you should get the same accumulative result in the long term. However, I argue that, to the non-rational decision maker, this notion is not so obvious. I propose that while individuals with a tendency to be risk aversive attend more towards the probability of a gamble, risk seeking individuals are perhaps more irrational, focusing more on the utility of a gamble. Ultimately, both risk seeking individuals and risk aversive individuals fail to see that the choices are equivalent.

16 January

Topic: Non-selfish behaviour from a cognitive perspective

Marco Colosio

Social behavior is driven by several factors such as the perception of the behaviors of others, by individual’s identity and self-image concerns and social norms. Although social norms encourage non-selfish behavior (i.e. reciprocity), self-interest is clearly a powerful motive in the markets. Often people are frequently kinder than purely self-interested, conforming to the norms of fairness and reciprocity even in environments that promote material self-interest. In our meeting I will present a couple of works that try to explain cognitive basis of non-selfish economic behaviors in real markets: the Pay-what-you-want and Pay-it-forward. Together, we shall discuss these phenomena from the perspective of neuroeconomics.



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