Funded seeds 2020

Winter 2020

Overcoming low environmental concerns with nudges? The role of values and attention.

› Tina A.G. Venema, Department of Psychology and Behavioral Sciences

› Collaborators: Stefan Pfattheicher (Psychology and Behavioral Sciences)

The impact of animal-based protein sources on climate change has increased to unsustainable proportions. In order to prevent further damage, experts warn that people’s consumption patterns need to change. However, meat and dairy products have formed the main protein source in western diets for decades, and are tied to basic human values such as Hedonic indulgence and Tradition. In concrete choice situations, such as when deciding what to have for dinner, these values tend to overrule any environmental concerns a person might have. The priority amongst people’s goals and values influence which aspects in choice situations are perceived and, consequently, taken into consideration. 

In this project we investigate if Nudges might help people to make more sustainable food choices by drawing their attention to it. Nudges are subtle changes in the environment where the decision is made, such that the desirable choice becomes easier and/or more appealing. With the help of an eye-tracker we will investigate if previously overlooked choice options due overpowered environmental concerns can be made into viable choice options with the help of nudges. 

Bad counsel: human vs. machine advice in moral decision-making

› Nicola F. Maaser, Department of Economics and Business Economics   

Computers provide decision support in areas as diverse as business operations, medicine and policing, and many of those decisions have a moral dimension. In this project, we ask whether advice from a machine affects moral decision-making, and our perception of a moral decision, differently from advice by a human partner.
   Social sciences research found immoral behavior to be more prevalent in collective settings compared to individual decision-making. One reason is that individuals tend to experience reduced guilt when collaborating with others on a dishonest act. Second, when unethical acts benefit others (as well as self), altruism can motivate dishonest behavior: “helping others” allows people to justify bad behavior and still preserve their moral self-image.
   We expect that both these facilitating factors do not apply in human-computer interactions. This leads to the hypothesis that receiving advice from a computer instead of a human being makes deciders less prone to immoral behavior. We design an incentivized laboratory experiment to submit this hypothesis to a rigorous test. The results of the project provide a basis for assessing the impact of machine input on moral decision-making, and serve as a stepping-stone for further investigations.

Exponential Growth Bias and Social Preferences

›  Jonas Pilgaard Kaiser, Department of Economics and Business Economics

Many of the choices we make have consequences that reach far into the future. But a substantial literature within cognitive psychology demonstrates that people make systematic errors when trying to predict future developments, specifically when these developments involve exponential growth. This is critical for decisions on redistribution. Because when policy-makers decide on a tax rate, they not only change how income is distributed, but also how wealth accumulates over time. This study thus builds on the insight that when wealth grows exponentially (from stock market returns, interest rates, etc.), absolute inequality also increases exponentially. If people underestimate this development, their voting behaviour may not reflect their true social preferences. In this study, I examine experimentally the influence of such an exponential growth bias on people’s distributive preferences. To do so, I extend the standard voting experiment across multiple rounds with compounding interest. My theory-driven hypothesis is that people will prefer more redistribution once they realise the true extent of inequality. Thus, this study aims to make important contributions to both the theoretical and experimental literature on social preferences.

Remembering Play to Remember to Play. A Cross-Cultural Study on Autobiographical Memories of Childhood Play and Nostalgia Advertising

› Alejandra Zaragoza Scherman, Department of Psychology and Behavioural Sciences

Parents often encounter advertisements for toys, as well as messages that encourage them to play with their children in order to foster learning through play. While the advertisements seek to persuade to purchase a product, the messages attempt to communicate the value of play, and encourage parents to play with their children. Nostalgia advertising is a widely used and effective strategy to market goods and services. However, it has also been used to promote behavioural change. This project will collect parental autobiographical memories of childhood play in several countries. These memories will be used to create nostalgia advertisements and messages. The effectiveness of these advertisemens and message to persuade parents to purchase a toy and to engage their children in play will be examined.
   Research Question: Is nostalgia advertising as effective to promote behavioural change as it is to market products, compared to non-nostalgia advertising?  

Studying the spread of (dis)honesty in a network of teams

› Simon Karg, Department of Management

› Collaborators: Karolina Scigala (Department of Psychology and Behavioural Sciences), Panagiotis Mitkidis (Department of Management)

Dishonesty is usually examined and understood within the context of a dyadic relationship, with one person being dishonest, and the other person being the deceived. Yet, dishonesty also occurs in larger social settings, with multiple people collaborating in order to deceive a third party. This phenomenon of so-called collaborative corruption is the topic of this project. In particular, we will investigate how collaborative cheating develops and spreads over time within a larger network of groups. In this, we will use a newly developed experimental paradigm (the rely-or-verify game), in which participants are teamed up in pairs (with one participant being the leader, the other being the subordinate). Over several rounds of this game, these teams will be able to either play honestly, or cheat collaboratively. By re-matching participants after a set number of rounds, we can thus investigate how adopted team strategies of honesty or dishonesty propagate throughout a larger network of teams. Analyzing this dynamic, we especially focus on the role of team leaders. Holding that behavior is shaped by the interaction of people and situations, we hypothesize that honest leaders inspire honesty in others and build honesty-enhancing environments.

The effect of product aesthetics on consumers' recycling behavior

› Ada Maria Barone, Department of Management

› Collaborators: Jessica Aschemann-Witzel (Department of Management), Matteo De Angelis (Department of Business and Management, Luiss University, IT) 

Consumers are responsible for what happens to a product after use and as such they are responsible for both the amount of solid waste generated and the success of recycling programs. However, despite the overall advantages of this practice, consumers are still reluctant to engage in recycling behaviors, with product containers and packaging making up the largest portion of solid waste generated. Indeed, while in Europe each consumer is producing an average of half a tonne of waste, only 40 percent of waste is being reused or recycled in the EU. Similarly, the percentage of packaging being recycled has been stagnating in the US in recent years.

While prior research has shed light on the psychological factors influencing recycling decisions, less is known about how characteristics of the product itself affect consumers' recycling intentions. Building on prior research about the effect of product aesthetics on product usage and consumption, we extend knowledge on this topic by investigating how product aesthetics (high vs. low) affects consumers' likelihood of recycling a product. In this sense, we bridge marketing literature on product aesthetics and research on sustainability to explore the effect that product aesthetics has on consumers' recycling behaviors.

Thinking back, thinking forward to buy and act sustainably now

›  Sinué Salgado, Department of Psychology and Behavioural Sciences

How thinking about events in one’s personal past or events yet to occur in one’s personal future, influences consumer decisions to act and buy sustainably? This projects aims to investigate this in relation to consumer behaviour and sustainability. Research on consumer behaviour suggests that thinking about one’s own past and/or future plays a central role in consumers’ choices, and that the length of the future horizon consumers have in mind likely moderates this effect. Accordingly, when consumers think about endearing past events (e.g., their first trip to the beach as children) and associate them with a limited future time horizon (e.g., the vacation period being in 2 months from current day), they show more favourable attitudes and evaluations towards a given product or service (e.g., a paddling board). Importantly, this effect is absent when the future time horizon is open or not constrained. These findings are relevant for sustainability research where change in attitudes and consumption habits have been hard to attain, and where research concentrates mainly on long future time horizons and events seemingly deprived of subjective/personal involvement. Thus, this project aims to research the specific interplay between autobiographical reasoning, consumer behaviour and sustainability.

Turning the blind eye: The relationship between information avoidance and visual attention

› Caroline Kjær Børsting, Department of Management

› Collaborators: Aleksandr Batuev (Department of Management)

Most of us are occasional cheaters; yet, we like to think of ourselves as the holy Mary, straight as an arrow in our moral choices. In order to reconcile this dissonance, we warmly welcome any moral carte blanche that life may give us. Recent research within unethical behavior suggests that information avoidance-like processes may lead to ethical blind spots in individuals’ gaze, which could be used to justify one’s unethical behavior: if I have not seen it, I cannot act upon it. As a consequence, this self-imposed carte blanche is expected to have a facilitative effect on cheating. It remains unknown how information avoidance is physically manifested in gaze behavior, and specifically which attentional mechanisms are driving such avoidance behavior. This eye-tracking study examines – as the first of its kind – the attentional mechanisms underlying information avoidance, and aims at informing future avenues for how information avoidance might be reduced, in turn reducing unethical behavior.