a glimpse at some of our research projects


More Bad News: A Cross-National Psychophysiological Exploration of Negativity Biases in Reactions to Network News

Literatures, across the social sciences, document the human tendency to prioritize negative information. The importance of this “negativity bias” in the political sphere is clear. Negativity biases affect the content of political news, and structure the content of political debate. And almost all the existing literature, has ignored the possibility that negativity biases may vary across political and social contexts. Thus, this project aims to answer one particular question: Does the negativity bias, evident in our reactions to news content, vary across countries and cultures? Using psychological and physiological measurements, this project aims to capture reactions to network news across 18 countries, including India. The CESS Nuffield – FLAME University team completed the India portion of this experiment in May 2017.

Principal Investigator(s):

Professor Stuart Soroka, University of Michigan

Professor Patrick Fournier, University of Montreal

Professor Lilach Nir, Hebrew University


Experimental Investigation of Judicial Decision-Making: India

There is considerable speculation about cross-country differences in legal reasoning in general and judicial reasoning in particular. For example, scholars have long speculated about differences between common and civil law reasoning. It is extremely difficult to assess such speculation empirically, however, because the reasoning occurs inside the lawyers’ and judges’ brains, with lawyers strategically choosing what to reveal to the outside.

This project uses a novel case-based instrument to assess such claims. The study has been conducted with judges in the US, China, Germany, France, Argentina and Brazil. CESS Nuffield – FLAME University conducted the India portion of the project in February 2018.

Principal Investigator(s):

Professor Holger Spamann, Harvard Law School

Professor Vikramaditya Khanna, University of Michigan Law School

Dr. Pavan Mamidi, CESS Nuffield – FLAME University


Injunctive and Descriptive Social Norms Regarding Cheating: Cross Cultural Evidence

Institutions, both formal and informal, are critical determinants of economic growth and development, and social norms are a fundamental underpinning of institutions. This project aims to understand the impact of underlying social norms regarding cheating behavior cross-culturally. It uses experimental methods to examine injunctive social norms (subjects’ shared beliefs regarding the social acceptability of behavior) and descriptive social norms (subjects’ beliefs on others’ behavior) across several countries, including India, Guatemala, Turkey, Sweden, and the UK. These countries vary considerably according to widely used macro-level indicators such as the Corruption Perception Index, Rule of Law Index, etc.

The project also classifies individuals according to the interpretation of their injunctive norms into different types of ethic systems. Initial analysis suggest that these countries differ in the degree of heterogeneity in injunctive social norms. The CESS Nuffield – FLAME University team completed the data collection for the India portion of this project in October, 2017.

Principal Investigator(s):

Professor Diego Aycicena, Universidad del Rosario

Professor Benjamin Beranek, University of Nottingham

Professor Lucas Rentschler, Utah State University

Dr. Jonathan Schulz, Harvard University


An Experimental Investigation of the Determinants of Teacher Quality: Risk, Patience or Altruism?

Can we predict the performance of a teacher based on relatively easy-to-measure behavioral traits? Would these characteristics be better predictors of teacher performance than traditional characteristics like educational certifications, and years of experience? These are the major questions that we seek to answer with this experiment. Our measurement is done in two phases. In the first, we test the behavioral characteristics of teachers, and in the second we try to correlate these to the performance of students in standardized board examinations, that we source through administrative data.

CESS Nuffield-FLAME University is conducting this lab-in-the-field experiment with approximately 240 10th and 12th grade teachers in Pune.

Principal Investigator(s):

Professor Chetan Dave, NYU - Abu Dhabi


Does Gender Representation in the Police Affect Institutional Legitimacy? Experimental Evidence from India

Gender representation in political institutions has been found to produce positive social and economic effects along with positively altering perceptions of women in leadership roles. Nonetheless, there remains an open question about whether representation for women in unelected bureaucratic institutions—especially the police—would generate analogous outcomes. The goal of this project is to contribute to the scholarly literature on representative bureaucracies by probing whether increased representation for women in the police affects institutional legitimacy.

The experiment measures people’s perception of the police depending on police gender, as seen for a fictional news bulletin of a crime report, prepared by a leading Indian news channel for this experiment. The experiment has been piloted in the field and on Amazon MTurk, and is expected to be fielded in Fall 2018.

Principal Investigator(s):

Dr. Sharon Barnhardt, CESS Nuffield – FLAME University

Mr. Nirvikar Jassal, University of California, Berkeley


The Effect of Inter-Ethnic Civic Networks on Individual’s Agency to Establish Cross-Group Communication Ties in Public Goods Games

Scholars and public policy makers alike are interested in promoting interactions that help members of identity groups form bonds that would make inter-group conflict less likely. What are the best mechanisms for promoting cooperative behaviour? Following the contact hypothesis (Allport, 1954), positive interpersonal interactions between identity groups working towards a common goal - such as resource management or climate adaptation - should decrease individual prejudice towards the out-group and build inter-group social networks that make conflict costly. Further, qualitative research has found that associational forms of engagement (such as neighbourhood groups, sports clubs, and business associations) by individuals from different communities is effective at promoting inter-ethnic cooperation in urban India and preventing riots (Varshney, 2001).

This study will test the hypothesis that civic engagement by individuals from different identity groups in India promotes cooperative behaviour using a lab-in-the-field design in Pune. Further, we will measure communication and punishment in a public goods game and expect to observe communication over punishment as a means of regulating cooperation.  The experiment is expected to be fielded in August 2018.

Principal Investigator(s):

Dr. Sharon Barnhardt, CESS Nuffield – FLAME University

Ms. Kimberlee Chang, University of Colorado Boulder


Treatment Effect and Subject Pool Diversity: Evidence from Lab Experiments

Most subject pools in experiments conducted in social sciences are drawn from undergraduate students who are usually perceived as a “convenience sample” and preferred to non students for methodological reasons. We expect them to understand the instructions better, be better able to reason in the abstract than other people, and be a relatively more homogenous population. However, an important question is whether students differ in fundamental determinants of behavior in economic games. For example, do they differ in their ability to reason strategically, in their attitudes toward risk or in their pro-sociality? And does this matter for their behavior in experimental games?

This study exploits the inauguration of CESS experimental labs in Oxford (UK), Santiago (Chile),  and Pune (India) to compare the behavior of students and non-students in a number of classic experimental games like the Trust Game, the Beauty Contest, and the Second-price Auction. This lab-in-the-field experiment will be carried out in June 2018 using a combination of Pune undergraduate students and non-student subjects.

Principal Investigator(s):

Professor Raymond Duch, Nuffield College, University of Oxford

Mr. Felipe Torres, King's College London