Exposure to worrisome topics can increase cognitive performance when incentivized by a performance goalJournal articleTimothee Demont, Daniela Horta-Sáenz and Eva Raiber, Scientific Reports, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp. 1204, 2024

Worrisome topics, such as climate change, economic crises, or pandemics including Covid-19, are increasingly present and pervasive due to digital media and social networks. Do worries triggered by such topics affect the cognitive capacities of young adults? In an online experiment during the Covid-19 pandemic (N=1503), we test how the cognitive performance of university students responds when exposed to topics discussing (i) current adverse mental health consequences of social restrictions or (ii) future labor market hardships linked to the economic contraction. Moreover, we study how such a response is affected by a performance goal. We find that the labor market topic increases cognitive performance when it is motivated by a goal, consistent with a ‘tunneling effect’ of scarcity or a positive stress effect. However, we show that the positive reaction is mainly concentrated among students with larger financial and social resources, pointing to an inequality-widening mechanism. Conversely, we find limited support for a negative stress effect or a ‘cognitive load effect’ of scarcity, as the mental health topic has a negative but insignificant average effect on cognitive performance. Yet, there is a negative response among psychologically vulnerable individuals when the payout is not conditioned on reaching a goal.

Exit Polls and Voter Turnout in the 2017 French ElectionsJournal articleAlberto Grillo and Eva Raiber, Revue économique, Volume Pub. anticipées, Issue 7, pp. 14-31, 2024

Lors des élections françaises, les médias belges et suisses interfèrent régulièrement en publiant des sondages et des prédictions avant la fermeture des bureaux de vote. Nous utilisons la précocité et le degré de confiance inhabituels des sondages au second tour de l’élection présidentielle de 2017 pour étudier leurs effets sur la participation électorale. Notre analyse compare les taux de participation à différents horaires, aux premier et second tours, et par rapport aux élections de 2012 et 2022. Les résultats montrent une baisse significative de la participation après la publication des sondages à la sortie des urnes. L’effet s’élève à 1,1 point de pourcentage dans l’analyse en triples differences avec l’élection de 2022 et il est plus fort dans les départements limitrophes de la Belgique. Nous constatons également un léger effet underdog pouvant réduire la marge de victoire jusqu’à 1 point de pourcentage.

Can you spot a scam? Measuring and improving scam identification abilityJournal articleElif Kubilay, Eva Raiber, Lisa Spantig, Jana Cahlíková and Lucy Kaaria, Journal of Development Economics, Volume 165, pp. 103147, 2023

The expansion of digital financial services leads to severe consumer protection issues such as fraud and scams. As these potentially decrease trust in digital services, especially in developing countries, avoiding victimization has become an important policy objective. In an online experiment, we first investigate how well individuals in Kenya identify phone scams using a novel measure of scam identification ability. We then test the effectiveness of scam education, a commonly used approach by organizations for fraud prevention. We find that common tips on how to spot scams do not significantly improve individuals’ scam identification ability, i.e., the distinction between scams and genuine messages. This null effect is driven by an increase in correctly identified scams and a decrease in correctly identified genuine messages, indicating overcaution. Additionally, we find suggestive evidence that genuine messages with scam-like features are misclassified more often, highlighting the importance of a careful design of official communication.

What Do Parents Want? Parental Spousal Preferences in ChinaJournal articleEva Raiber, Weiwei Ren, Jeanne Bovet, Paul Seabright and Charlotte Wang, Economic Development and Cultural Change, Volume 71, Issue 3, pp. 903-939, 2023

In many societies, parents are involved in selecting a spouse for their child, integrating this with decisions about premarital investment such as education. Do spousal preferences of parents and children conflict? We estimate parents’ spousal preferences based on survey choices between random profiles, elicited from parents or other relatives who actively search for a spouse on behalf of their adult child in Kunming, China. We simulate marriage outcomes based on preferences for age and education and compare them with patterns in the general population and with the preferences of a survey of students. The common concern that there may be aversion to highly educated or high-earning wives is somewhat corroborated in parents’ preferences but not in students’ preferences, nor in outcomes, where homogamy is common and wives who are more educated than husbands are as common as husbands who are more educated than wives. Parents prefer wives younger than their husbands, yet most couples are the same age, an outcome consistent with student preferences. Overall, divergences between parental and child preferences exist but are neither major nor very influential in explaining observed outcomes. Fears that highly educated women face diminished marriage prospects appear less serious than often claimed.

US churches' response to Covid-19: Results from FacebookJournal articleEva Raiber and Paul Seabright, Covid Economics, Volume 61, pp. 121-171, 2020

This study investigates U.S. churches' response to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic by looking at their public Facebook posts. For religious organizations, in-person gatherings are at the heart of their activities. Yet religious in-person gatherings have been identified as some of the early hot spots of the pandemic, but there has also been controversy over the legitimacy of public restrictions on such gatherings. Our sample contains information on church characteristics and Facebook posts for nearly 4000 churches that posted at least once in 2020. The share of churches that offer an online church activity on a given Sunday more than doubled within two weeks at the beginning of the pandemic (the first half of March 2020) and stayed well above baseline levels. Online church activities are positively correlated with the local pandemic situation at the beginning, but uncorrelated with most state interventions. After the peak of the first wave (mid April), we observe a slight decrease in online activities. We investigate heterogeneity in the church responses and find that church size and worship style explain differences consistent with churches facing different demand and cost structures. Local political voting behavior, on the other hand, explains little of the variation. Descriptive analysis suggests that overall online activities, and the patterns of heterogeneity, remain unchanged through end-November 2020

God insures those who pay? Formal insurance and religious offerings in Ghana.Journal articleEmmanuelle Auriol, Julie Lassébie, Amma Panin, Eva Raiber and Paul Seabright, The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Volume 135, Issue 4, pp. 1799-1848, 2020

This paper provides experimental support for the hypothesis that insurance can be a motive for religious donations. We randomize enrollment of members of a Pentecostal church in Ghana into a commercial funeral insurance policy. Then church members allocate money between themselves and a set of religious goods in a series of dictator games with significant stakes. Members enrolled in insurance give significantly less money to their own church compared to members that only receive information about the insurance. Enrollment also reduces giving towards other spiritual goods. We set up a model exploring different channels of religiously based insurance.
The implications of the model and the results from the dictator games suggest that adherents perceive the church as a source of insurance and that this insurance is derived from beliefs in an interventionist God. Survey results suggest that material insurance from the church community is also important and we hypothesize that these two insurance channels exist in parallel.

Parent–offspring conflict over mate choice: An experimental study in ChinaJournal articleJeanne Bovet, Eva Raiber, Weiwei Ren, Charlotte Wang and Paul Seabright, British Journal of Psychology, Volume 109, Issue 4, pp. 674-693, 2018

Both parents and offspring have evolved mating preferences that enable them to select mates and children-in-law to maximize their inclusive fitness. The theory of parent–offspring conflict predicts that preferences for potential mates may differ between parents and offspring: individuals are expected to value biological quality more in their own mates than in their offspring's mates and to value investment potential more in their offspring's mates than in their own mates. We tested this hypothesis in China using a naturalistic ‘marriage market’ where parents actively search for marital partners for their offspring. Parents gather at a public park to advertise the characteristics of their adult children, looking for a potential son or daughter-in-law. We presented 589 parents and young adults from the city of Kunming (Yunnan, China) with hypothetical mating candidates varying in their levels of income (proxy for investment potential) and physical attractiveness (proxy for biological quality). We found some evidence of a parent–offspring conflict over mate choice, but only in the case of daughters, who evaluated physical attractiveness as more important than parents. We also found an effect of the mating candidate's sex, as physical attractiveness was deemed more valuable in a female potential mate by parents and offspring alike.

Mise en place d’une expérience avec le grand public : entre recherche, vulgarisation et pédagogieJournal articleYouenn Lohéac, Alia Hayyan, Cécile Bazart, Mohamed Ali Bchir, Serge Blondel, Mihaela Bonescu, Alexandrine Bornier, Joëlle Brouard, Nathalie Chappe, François Cochard, et al., Revue Economique, Volume 68, Issue 5, pp. 941-953, 2017

Nous présentons la mise en place d’une expérience lors d’un événement grand public national, de manière simultanée dans onze villes françaises, en septembre 2015. L’expérience a impliqué plus de 2 700 participants et a duré quatre heures ininterrompues. L’objectif de cet article est à la fois de fournir une feuille de route pour une éventuelle réplication et de penser à la manière dont la discipline peut être utilisée dans des terrains nouveaux (vulgarisation, pédagogie populaire, communication grand public).