Behavioral Political Economy 2015

December 14-15, 2015
NYU Abu Dhabi

New Models of Agents, Beliefs, Preferences, and Sophistication

Political science is largely a “borrowing” discipline, using methods and approaches first derived in the other social sciences. Initially political scientists mostly were de facto sociologists, social psychologists, or psychologists, who studied politics. Beginning approximately 60 years ago, economics-style tactics also achieved a toehold. Subsequently, a small but significant group of political scientists and economists, sometimes working together, often independently, have built a body of economics-style research on political science questions, typically called “political economy” (although that name has other meanings as well).

This research, albeit influential, is still controversial within the discipline, for two principal reasons. First, because of the applied nature of the discipline to a particular realm of behavior, the abstraction and formalization used in economic theory is seen by many political scientists as not applicable or useful. Second, much political economy research has been built using traditional economics’ assumptions about individual choice, which are unattractive to political scientists trained in approaches drawn from sociology and psychology. The combination, then, of formal, abstract models built with assumptions that appear contrary to long held conceptions of human behavior, has limited the influence of political economy research within the discipline.

Recently the explosion of behavioral approaches and greater influence of experimental reasoning within economics has led to a similar, but smaller, eruption within political economics.[1] The newer behavioral models are now bringing new answers to old questions in political science such as the paradox of not voting. They contribute to creating a richer dialogue between political economic theory and empirical facts.

[1] The true story is more nuanced. Despite overall impressions within political science and without, political economy research has always had somewhat of a behavioral focus; many political economists (such as William Riker, Charles Plott, Elinor Ostrom, Richard McKelvey, Peter Ordeshook, Thomas Palfrey, and Roger Myerson) have conducted experimental research and grappled with the limitations of standard rational choice theory in explaining observed behavior. Nevertheless, these approaches are now receiving renewed interest with advances in behavioral economics.


Stefano DellaVigna (keynote), UC Berekely Voting to Tell Others
Thomas Palfrey (keynote), California Institute of Technology Ignorance and Bias in Collective Decisions
Daniel Chen, Toulouse Institute for Advanced Studies
Ideological Perfectionism on Judicial Panels
Eric Dickson, New York University Disentangling the Effects of Legitimacy and Deterrence on Compliance: An Experimental Investigation
Enrique Fatas, University of East Anglia Sacrifice: An Experiment on the Political Economy of Extreme Intergroup Punishment
Tarun Jain, Indian School of Business Social Identity and Governance: The Behavioral Response to Female Leaders
Aaron Kamm, NYU Abu Dhabi Plurality Voting Versus Proportional Representation in the Citizen-Candidate Model
Peter Loewen, University of Toronto Are Politicians Bad Economic Decision Makers?
Isabel Marcin, Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods
Communication and Voting in Heterogeneous Committees: An Experimental Study
Francesco Passarelli, Bocconi University and University of Teramo
Loss Aversion in Politics
Alessandro Saia, University of Bologna Voting Behavior and Random Seating Arrangements
Simon Siegenthaler, NYU Abu Dhabi Social Changes and the Conformity Trap
Erik Snowberg, CalTech Empirical Links between Behavioral Economics and Political Behavior
Guido Tabellini, Bocconi University Electoral Competition with Rationally Inattentive Voters
Karine van der Straeten, Toulouse School of Economics
Communicating on Electoral Platforms

Poster Presentations

  • Han Il Chang, NYU Abu Dhabi
    A Behavioral Model of Reciprocity in Clientelism
  • Jan Klingelhoefer, RWTH Aachen University
    The Swing Voters' Blessings
  • Daniel Mueller, University of Mannheim
    Can a Common Currency Foster a Shared Social Identity across Different Nations? The Case of the Euro
  • Carlo Horz, New York University
    How Do Parties React to Electoral Defeats? Motivation, Learning, and Polarization
  • Sönke Ehret, New York University
    Who Wants a Privilege? Voting on Equal Opportunity in Contests
  • Kai Ou, New York University
    Production, Political Inequality, and Voting
  • Jonathan Rogers, NYU Abu Dhabi
    Robin Hood or Machiavelli? The Effect of Cheating on Altruism
  • Veronique Gille, University of Louvain
    Does the Identity of Leaders Matter for Education? Evidence from the First Black Governor in the US
  • Dominik Duell, Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse
    Determinants of Discrimination in Strategic Settings