Fehrler, Sebastian

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Committee Decision-Making under the Threat of Leaks

2023, Fehrler, Sebastian, Hahn, Volker

Leaks are pervasive in politics. Hence, many committees that nominally operate under secrecy de facto operate under the threat that information might be passed on to outsiders. We study theoretically and experimentally how this possibility affects the behavior of committee members and decision-making accuracy. Our theoretical analysis generates two major predictions. First, a committee operating under the threat of leaks is equivalent to a formally transparent committee in terms of the probability of supporting the adoption of a new policy. Second, the threat of leaks leads to status quo bias. In our experimental analysis of a committee with possible leaks, individual behavior is often less strategic than theoretically predicted, which leads to frequent leaks. However, despite these deviations on the individual level, our experiment confirms the two major theoretical predictions.

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Honesty and Self-Selection into Cheap Talk

2020-11-23, Fehrler, Sebastian, Fischbacher, Urs, Schneider, Maik T.

In many situations, people can lie strategically for their own benefit. Since individuals differ with respect to their willingness to lie, the credibility of statements will crucially depend on who self-selects into such cheap-talk situations. We study this process in a two-stage political competition setting. At the entry stage, potential candidates compete in a contest to become their party’s candidate in an election. At the election stage, the nominated candidates campaign by making promises to voters. Confirming the model’s key prediction, we find in our experiment that dishonest people over-proportionally self-select into the political race and thereby lower voters’ welfare.

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Committee Decision-Making Under the Threat of Leaks

2020, Fehrler, Sebastian, Hahn, Volker

Leaks are pervasive in politics. Hence, many committees that nominally operate under secrecy de facto operate under the threat that information might be passed on to outsiders. We study theoretically and experimentally how this possibility affects the behavior of committee members and the decision-making accuracy. Our theoretical analysis generates two major predictions. First, a committee operating under the threat of leaks is equivalent to a formally transparent committee in terms of the probabilities of project implementation as well as welfare (despite differences in individual voting behavior). Second, the threat of leaks causes a committee to recommend rejection of a project whenever precise information has been shared among committee members. As a consequence, a status-quo bias arises. Our laboratory results confirm these predictions despite subjects communicating less strategically than predicted.

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How Transparency Kills Information Aggregation : Theory and Experiment

2018, Fehrler, Sebastian, Hughes, Niall E.

We investigate the potential of transparency to influence committee decision-making. We present a model in which career concerned committee members receive private information of different type-dependent accuracy, deliberate, and vote. We study three levels of transparency under which career concerns are predicted to affect behavior differently and test the model's key predictions in a laboratory experiment. The model's predictions are largely borne out—transparency negatively affects information aggregation at the deliberation and voting stages, leading to sharply different committee error rates than under secrecy. This occurs despite subjects revealing more information under transparency than theory predicts.

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Negotiating Cooperation Under Uncertainty : Communication in Noisy, Indefinitely Repeated Interactions

2023, Dvorak, Fabian, Fehrler, Sebastian

Case studies of cartels and recent theory suggest that communication is a key factor for cooperation under imperfect monitoring, where actions can only be observed with noise. We conduct a laboratory experiment to study how communication affects cooperation under different monitoring structures. Pre-play communication reduces strategic uncertainty and facilitates very high cooperation rates at the beginning of an interaction. Under perfect monitoring, this is sufficient to reach a high and stable cooperation rate. However, repeated communication is important to maintain a high level of cooperation under imperfect monitoring, where players face additional uncertainty about the history of play.

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Contacts Matter : Local Governance and the Targeting of Social Pensions in Bangladesh

2020-06, Asri, Viola, Biswas, Kumar, Fehrler, Sebastian, Fischbacher, Urs, Michaelowa, Katharina, Rabbani, Atonu

We present evidence on the extent and possible causes of mistargeting of a largescale social-pension program in Bangladesh. The evidence stems from surveys and lab-in-the-field experiments that we ran in eight different unions (municipalities) with three different groups: (i) a random sample of the elderly population (potential bene ciaries), (ii) a random sample of newly selected bene ciaries, and (iii) the local government representatives, who were in charge of the last round of selections. On the one hand, our (pre-registered) analysis suggests that personal relationships are crucial for being selected as a bene ciary, which might indicate corruption. On the other hand, our results strongly suggest that a severe lack of state capacity (e.g., knowledge of the o cial rules and procedures on the part of the politicians) is the most important reason for the very poor targeting performance of the local governments.

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Beliefs about Others : A Striking Example of Information Neglect

2020, Fehrler, Sebastian, Renerte, Baiba, Wolff, Irenaeus

In many games of imperfect information, players can make Bayesian inferences about other players’ types based on the information that is contained in their own type. Several behavioral theories of belief-updating even start from the assumption that players project their own type onto others also when it is not rational. We investigate such inferences in a simple laboratory task, in which types are drawn from one out of two states of the world and participants have to guess the type of another participant. We nd lile evidence for irrational (over-)projection. Instead, between 50% and 70% of the participants in our experiment completely neglect the information contained in their own type and base their choices only on the prior probabilities. Using several experimental interventions, we show that this striking neglect of information is very robust.

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Delegation to a Group

2021, Fehrler, Sebastian, Janas, Moritz

We study the choice of a principal to either delegate a decision to a group of careerist experts or to consult them individually and keep the decision-making power. Our model predicts a trade-off between information acquisition and information aggregation. On the one hand, the expected benefit from being informed is larger in case the experts are consulted individually. Hence, the experts either acquire the same or a larger amount of information, depending on the cost of information, than in case of delegation. On the other hand, any acquired information is better aggregated in the case of delegation, in which experts can deliberate secretly. To test the model’s key predictions, we run an experiment. The results from the laboratory confirm the predicted trade-off despite some deviations from theory on the individual level.

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TV-Based Learning in Bangladesh : Is it Reaching Students?

2020, Biswas, Kumar, Asaduzzaman, T. M., Evans, David K., Fehrler, Sebastian, Ramachandran, Deepika, Sabarwal, Shwetlena

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Buying Supermajorities in the Lab

2019, Fehrler, Sebastian, Schneider, Maik T.

Many decisions taken in legislatures or committees are subject to lobbying efforts. A seminal contribution to the literature on vote-buying is the legislative lobbying model pioneered by Groseclose and Snyder (1996), which predicts that lobbies will optimally form supermajorities in many cases. Providing the first empirical assessment of this prominent model, we test its central predictions in the laboratory. While the model assumes sequential moves, we relax this assumption in additional treatments with simultaneous moves. We find that lobbies buy supermajorities as predicted by the theory. Our results also provide supporting evidence for most comparative statics predictions of the legislative lobbying model with respect to lobbies' willingness to pay and legislators' preferences. Most of these results carry over to the simultaneous-move set-up but the predictive power of the model declines.