Welcome to my website!
I am a postdoctoral research associate at WZB Berlin and a research affiliate at IZA. My research interests are in education, labor markets, organizations, and public policy. I use lab and field experiments as well as analysis of survey and administrative data to study institutional determinants of changes in people's beliefs and behavior, and how these affect individual and social outcomes.
WZB Berlin Social Science Center
Research Unit on Market Behavior
10785 Berlin, Germany
Randomized experiments are often viewed as the “gold standard” of scientific evidence but people’s scepticism towards experiments has compromised their viability in the past. We study preferences for experimental policy evaluations in a representative survey in Germany (N>1,900). We find that a majority of 75% supports the idea of small-scale evaluations of policies before enacting them at a large scale. Experimentally varying whether the evaluations are explicitly described as “experiments” has a precisely estimated overall zero effect on public support. Our results indicate political leeway for experimental policy evaluation, a practice that is still uncommon in Germany.
Effects of Timing and Reference Frame of Feedback: Evidence from a Field Experiment, with Valentin Wagner
Information about past performance has been found to sometimes improve and sometimes worsen subsequent performance. We hypothesize that two factors may help to explain this puzzle: which aspect of one's past performance the information refers to and when it is revealed. In a field experiment, students received information about their absolute rank in the last math exam (level feedback), their change in ranks between the second last and the last math exam (change feedback), or no feedback. Feedback was given either 1-3 days (early) or immediately (late) before the final math exam of the semester. Both level feedback and change feedback significantly improve students' grades in the final exam when given early and tend to worsen them when given late. The largest effects are found for negative change feedback and are concentrated on male students, who adjust their ability beliefs downwards in response to feedback.
Recent research in economics has found that a higher ordinal rank within one's class affects subsequent skill acquisition positively and has linked this finding to the “big-fish-little-pond-effect”, a popular proposition in psychology claiming that assignment to a peer group with lower skills increases one's confidence in academic ability. Findings from a lab experiment suggest that salience of the group assignment mechanism matters for how ability grouping affects ability beliefs. If the assignment mechanism is non-salient, it does not matter for subjects' confidence whether they are assigned to the weaker or the stronger group, however, when the group assignment mechanism is salient, weaker group assignment makes people less confident. Subjects are on average less confident when the group assignment mechanism is salient than when it is non-salient. This is found to be the case due to weaker group assignment making people more underconfident than stronger group assignment making people overconfident, indicating that people overweigh negative information as compared to positive information. These findings may help to understand the effects of ability grouping in the field and may inform the design of educational and workplace environments.
"Confidence in Knowledge or Confidence in the Ability to Learn: An Experiment on the Causal Effects of Beliefs on Motivation" (with D. Sliwka), Games and Economic Behavior, 111, 2018: 122-142 (non-paywalled version here)
"Support for Free-market Policies and Reforms: Does the Field of Study Influence Students’ Political Attitudes?” (with B. Kauder, N. Potrafke, and H.W. Ursprung), European Journal of Political Economy, 48, 2017: 180-197 (non-paywalled version here)
“Effects of German Universities’ Excellence Initiative on Ability Sorting of Students and perceptions of Educational Quality” (with P. Kampkötter), Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics, 173(4), 2017: 662-687 (non-paywalled version here)
We investigate potential spillover effects from the German Excellence Initiative on university education. Using data from a representative student survey, we find that winning the competition allows universities to enroll significantly better high-school graduates in three subsequent admission terms. We then investigate a possible channel explaining the effect on admissions by studying whether the excellence label improves students' perception of educational quality. We find that the label significantly improves students' ratings of a university's educational quality and their job market expectations immediately following the award. However, ratings largely return to previous levels when students are surveyed three years later, although the status persists.
“Ist sanfter Paternalismus ethisch vertretbar? Eine differenzierende Betrachtung aus Sicht der Freiheit” (with S. Lotz), Sozialer Fortschritt/German Review of Social Policy, 63(3), 2014: 52-58
-- English version -- : Is Soft Paternalism Ethically Legitimate? - The Relevance of Psychological Processes for the Assessment of Nudge-Based Policies, Cologne Graduate School Working Paper, 5(2), 2014
In this article we develop a taxonomy of behavioral policy measures proposed by Thaler and Sunstein (2008). Based on this taxonomy, we discuss the ethical legitimacy of these measures. First, we explain two common reservations against nudges (choice architecture) rooted in utilitarian and Kantian ethics. In addition to wellbeing, we identify freedom of action and freedom of will (autonomy) as relevant ethical criteria. Then, using practical examples, we develop a taxonomy that classifies nudges according to the psychological mechanisms they use and separately discuss the legitimacy of several types of behavioral policy measures. We hope to thereby make a valuable contribution to the debate on the ethical legitimacy of behavioral policy making.
Work in Progress (selected)
Peer Selection and Team Performance: Evidence from a Natural Field Experiment, with Rainer Michael Rilke and Burcin Yurtoglu
Effects of Meditation on Academic Performance (field experiment), with Lea Cassar and Vanessa Valero