Cues, Conformity, and Choice Architecture : Empirical Essays on Influence

University dissertation from Stockholm : Department of Economics, Stockholm University

Abstract: This thesis consists of three papers summarized as follows.  “Can Indifference Make the World Greener?” We test whether the default option can nudge people to save resources in a simple, non-dynamic, decision task with only two alternatives, and where people have been explicitly informed about the recommended course of action. In a natural field experiment we switch printers’ default option, from one-sided to two-sided printing, at a random point in time. The results confirm that roughly one third of all printing is determined by the default alternative, and a green default therefore saves resources on average about 15 percent.  “Is Liking Contagious?” In this paper we set up a natural field experiment on the social networking service Facebook to study whether people are more prone to Like a status update if someone else has done so before. We distinguish between three treatments: (i) one unknown person Likes the update, (ii) three unknown persons Like the update and (iii) the most connected person Likes the update. Whereas the first condition had no effect, the latter two more than doubled the probability to press the Like button, implying that both the number of predecessors and social proximity matters. Neither limited attention, nor observational learning, is consistent with the results. Conformity is therefore the most plausible mechanism behind our finding.  “Do Watching Eyes Affect Charitable Giving? Evidence from a Field Experiment” The presence of implicit observation cues, such as picture of eyes, has been shown to increase generosity in dictator games, and cooperative behavior in field settings. In this paper I test if a picture of watching eyes affects unconditional giving in a natural environment, where the recipient is a charity organization. This setting avoids: (i) experimenter demand effects, (ii) that the facial cue reminds subjects of a human counterpart, and (iii) a social multiplier effect. I find no general effect, but during days when relatively few other people visited a store the picture of eyes increased donated amount by 30 percent. This result indicates that subtle social cues can invoke reputation concerns in humans.

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