Fall 2022 Workshops - Roman Family Center | Chicago Booth Skip to main content

Fall 2022 Workshops

When: Mondays 10:00–11:30 a.m. (unless otherwise noted)
Where: Harper Center C06


Monday, October 3

Heather Schofield  
Perelman School of Medicine and The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania

"Cognitive Endurance as Human Capital" (full working paper)

Schooling may build human capital not only by teaching academic skills, but by expanding the capacity for cognition itself. We focus specifically on cognitive endurance: the ability to sustain effortful mental activity over a continuous stretch of time. As motivation, we document that globally and in the US, the poor exhibit cognitive fatigue more quickly than the rich across field settings; they also attend schools that offer fewer opportunities to practice thinking for continuous stretches. Using a field experiment with 1,600 Indian primary school students, we randomly increase the amount of time students spend in sustained cognitive activity during the school day—using either math problems (mimicking good schooling) or non-academic games (providing a pure test of our mechanism). Each approach markedly improves cognitive endurance: students show 22% less decline in performance over time when engaged in intellectual activities—listening comprehension, academic problems, or IQ tests. They also exhibit increased attentiveness in the classroom and score higher on psychological measures of sustained attention. Moreover, each treatment improves students’ school performance by 0.09 standard deviations. This indicates that the experience of effortful thinking itself—even when devoid of any subject content—increases the ability to accumulate traditional human capital. Finally, we complement these results with quasi-experimental variation indicating that an additional year of schooling improves cognitive endurance, but only in higher-quality schools. Our findings suggest that schooling disparities may further disadvantage poor children by hampering the development of a core mental capacity.


Monday, October 17

Eric Hehman
McGill University

"A formal model of prejudice"

The present research develops a formal model of prejudice. For nearly a century, psychology and other fields have sought to scientifically understand and describe the causes of prejudice. Numerous theories of prejudice now exist. Yet these theories are overwhelmingly defined verbally and thus lack the ability to precisely predict when and to what extent prejudice will emerge. The abundance of theory also raises the possibility of undetected overlap between constructs theorized to cause prejudice. Formal models allow for precise prediction enabling falsification, and provide a way for the field to move forward. To this end, we conducted 18 studies with ~5000 participants in seven phases of formal model development. After initially identifying major theorized causal predictors of prejudice in the literature, we used a model selection approach to winnow constructs into a parsimonious formal model of prejudice (Phases I & II). We confirm this model in a pre-registered out-of-sample test (Phase III), test variations in operationalizations and boundary conditions (Phases IV & V), and test generalizability on a U.S. representative sample, an Indian sample, and a UK sample (Phase VI). Finally, we consulted the predictions of experts in the field to examine how well they align with our results (Phase VII). We believe this initial formal model is limited and bad, but by formalizing a model that makes highly specific predictions, drawing on the state of the art in the science of prejudice, we hope to provide a foundation from which research can build to improve the science of prejudice.


Monday, October 24

Sandra Matz
Columbia Business School

"Hiring women into senior leadership positions is associated with a reduction in gender stereotypes in organizational language"

Women continue to be underrepresented in leadership positions. This underrepresentation is at least partly driven by gender stereotypes that associate men, but not women, with achievement-oriented, agentic traits (e.g., assertive and decisive). These stereotypes are expressed and perpetuated in language, with women being described in less agentic terms than men. The present research suggests that appointing women to the top tiers of management can mitigate these deep-rooted stereotypes that are expressed in language. We use natural language processing techniques to analyze over 43,000 documents containing 1.23 billion words, finding that hiring female chief executive officers and board members is associated with changes in organizations’ use of language, such that the semantic meaning of being a woman becomes more similar to the semantic meaning of agency. In other words, hiring women into leadership positions helps to associate women with characteristics that are critical for leadership success. Importantly, our findings suggest that changing organizational language through increasing female representation might provide a path for women to break out of the double bind: when female leaders are appointed into positions of power, women are more strongly associated with the positive aspects of agency (e.g., independent and confident) in language but not at the cost of a reduced association with communality (e.g., kind and caring). Taken together, our findings suggest that female representation is not merely an end, but also a means to systemically change insidious gender stereotypes and overcome the trade-off between women being perceived as either competent or likeable.


Monday, October 31 

Ivuoma Onyeador 
Northwestern University

"Recasting the Past to Protect the Present: Investigating Misperceptions of Progress to Social Equality"

While most Americans believe that everyone should have an equal opportunity to succeed, the US is marked by a wide array of deep and persistent inequalities. One way this disconnect manifests is in people’s perceptions of equality between groups of differing social status. Previous research has documented that Americans overestimate equality between White and Black Americans. Americans’ perceptions of gender equality have not yet been explored, nor have these perceptions been explored intersectionally. We find that, as with equality between White and Black Americans, Americans overestimate equality between men and women—in the past and the present—and progress toward equality between men and women. Further, (mis)perceptions of gender equality differ depending on the race of the men and women under consideration. These misperceptions matter because they might undermine support for policies to redress inequality. And indeed, the tendency to overestimate equality between men and women is negatively related to support for policies to address inequality. One way to address misperceptions of contemporary economic equality and progress could be to inform people about the persistence of discrimination. We test one such intervention and find that reminding people about the persistence of discrimination does reduce estimates of progress, but participants’ estimates are reduced because they recast the past as more equal than they would have otherwise, rather than reevaluating the present to be less equal than they expect. People might overestimate progress because they distance the present from a more bigoted past, so we explore temporal distancing from major incidents of racial oppression and find that the more people distance from periods of racial oppression, the less inequality they perceive in the present. Ultimately, a better understanding of not only how Americans perceive equality, but also how they perceive America’s history of inequality, is required to ensure a system where equal opportunity is present.


Monday, November 7

David Huffman
University of Pittsburgh

"Moral Luck: Mechanisms, Robustness, and Prevalence"

In many types of decisions, individuals can influence the probabilities of good or bad outcomes by their actions, but there is still a role for chance in determining final outcomes. If punishment and rewards are conditioned on such random outcomes, this violates a property of optimal incentives. It has been posited since ancient times that humans do assign punishments and rewards based on factors outside of actors’ control, a tendency called “moral luck.” This paper provides new evidence on the prevalence and robustness of moral luck, and on a key open question of whether moral luck is a preference or a bias. The results are from controlled experiments that can cleanly identify moral luck, but also involve real, consequential moral choices that are a matter of life and death for a third party (a mouse). We find moral luck in punishment, and show that this is at least partly due to a bias. Our findings support a causal chain in which random outcomes lead to biased judgments and incentivized beliefs about the nature of the actor, even though they contain zero information, and this in turn causes punishments to vary with outcomes. We also show that the bias is strong enough to remain in the face of an intervention that encourages deliberation. The bias is prevalent, but not universal, it is unrelated to most demographics, and is present regardless of high or low cognitive ability or education. We also find evidence that actors exhibit internalized moral luck in how they evaluate themselves based on outcomes.


Monday, November 14

Peter DeScioli
Stony Brook University

"Strategies for choosing sides"

How do people choose sides in conflicts? People have to make difficult tradeoffs when deciding whether to take sides in a conflict, especially when bound by loyalties and obligations. I present experiments with a side-taking game in which eight players fight for money, and they choose sides in these conflicts. In the game, conflicts occur unpredictably between any two players in the group. Then the six other players choose sides and the fighter with more supporters wins the reward. To choose sides, each player ranks their loyalties to everyone else, which determines which side they will support when a conflict occurs. Different conditions vary whether the players know others’ loyalties, whether they can communicate, and the cost of gridlock resulting from ties. Overall, participants quickly formed alliances, even when alliances create a gridlock of costly ties. In contrast, participants did not use bandwagon or egalitarian strategies. I discuss implications for theories about cooperation, friendship, and morality.


Monday, November 28

Gautam Rao 
Harvard University

"Not Learning from Others"

We provide evidence of a powerful barrier to social learning: people are much less sensitive to information others discover compared to equally-relevant information they discover themselves. In a series of incentivized lab experiments, we ask participants to guess the color composition of balls in an urn after drawing balls with replacement. Participants’ guesses are substantially less sensitive to draws made by another player compared to draws made themselves. This result holds when others’ signals must be learned through discussion, when they are perfectly communicated by the experimenter, and even when participants see their teammate drawing balls from the urn with their own eyes. We find a crucial role for taking some action to generate one’s ‘own’ information, and rule out distrust, confusion, errors in probabilistic thinking, up-front inattention and imperfect recall as channels.

"Learning in the Home"

Do spouses pool useful information and learn from each other when they have incentives to do so? In an experiment with married couples in India, we vary whether individuals discover information themselves or must instead learn via a discussion about what their spouse discovered. Women treat their own and their husband’s information the same. In contrast, men respond half as much to information discovered by their wife, even when it is perfectly communicated. When paired with strangers, both men and women heavily discount their partner’s information relative to their own. We thus provide evidence of a gender difference
in social learning (only) in the household.


Monday, December 5

Jackson Lu 
MIT Sloan School of Management

"The Bamboo Ceiling in US Business Schools: Who Receives Tenure and Becomes Dean?"

In the US, Asians are commonly viewed as the “model minority” in business academia. Some inspiring initiatives intended to help ethnic minorities to attain tenure and deanship exclude Asians from participating, perhaps because Asians are assumed to be already successful. I challenge this assumption by revealing a “Bamboo Ceiling” in tenure, full professorship, and deanship in US business schools. I analyze a 10-year panel of tenure-track professors and deans at top-50 US business schools. Although Asians appear well represented at first glance, a stark contrast emerges once I distinguish between East Asians (e.g., ethnic Chinese) and South Asians (e.g., ethnic Indians): Among all ethnicities, East Asian faculty are proportionally the least likely to be tenured professors, full professors, and deans, whereas South Asian faculty are the most likely. Moreover, East Asians tend to be employed by lower-ranked schools. To understand these puzzling patterns, I construct large-scale datasets to test potential contributing factors, including (a) faculty recruitment bar, (b) research productivity, (c) research impact, (d) teaching evaluations, (e) invited seminar talks, (f) social media activities, and (g) social media mentions. As one of the largest endeavors to examine ethnic disparities in academia, this research extends the diversity, equity, and inclusion literature and the “leaky pipeline” literature by uncovering East Asian faculty’s neglected challenges in US business schools.