About NoBec Talks

NoBeC (Norms and Behavioral Change) Talks showcase interdisciplinary early career and senior researchers working on norms and behavioral change around the world.

Organized by the Penn Center for Social Norms and Behavioral Dynamics in partnership with the Penn Philosophy, Politics & Economics (PPE) program.

Beatlemania (!)

Cass Sunstein | Harvard University (see profile here)
Thursday 30th June 2022 (Philadelphia @ 1:00 PM | Los Angeles @ 10:00 AM | London @ 6:00 PM | Delhi @ 10:30 pm)

Why did the Beatles become a worldwide sensation? Why do some cultural products succeed and others fail? Why are some musicians, poets, and novels,, unsuccessful or unknown in their lifetimes, iconic figures decades or generation after their deaths? Why are success and failure so unpredictable? On one view, the simplest and most general explanation is best, and it points to quality, appropriately measured: success is a result of quality, and the Beatles succeeded because of the sheer quality of their music. On another view, social influences are critical: timely enthusiasm or timely indifference can make the difference for all, including the Beatles, leading extraordinary books, movies, and songs to fail even if they are indistinguishable in quality from those that succeed. Informational cascades are often necessary for spectacular success; in some cases, they are both necessary and sufficient. For those who emphasize social influences and informational cascades, success and failure are not inevitable; they depend on seemingly small or serendipitous factors. History is only run once, so this proposition is difficult to prove. There is no question that the success of the Beatles, and the rise of Beatlemania, involved an informational cascade. But whether and in what sense that success was a product of serendipity, or contingent on factors that are elusive and perhaps even lost to history, is essentially unanswerable. If ‘Love Me Do’ had not been a hit, it is not entirely unfair to wonder whether the Beatles would have enjoyed anything like the spectacular success they had. We may doubt that in a counterfactual world, there might have been Kinksmania or Holliesmania, but research on ‘Lost Einsteins’ suggests that it might be reckless to rule out the possibility that some other band, obscure or unknown, might have taken the place of the Beatles.

Systemic Discrimination: Theory and Measurement

Peter Hull | Brown University (see profile here)
Thursday 14th July 2022 (Philadelphia @ 1:00 PM | Los Angeles @ 10:00 AM | London @ 6:00 PM | Delhi @ 10:30 pm)

Economics tends to define and measure discrimination as disparities stemming from the direct (causal) effects of protected group membership. But work in other fields notes that such measures are incomplete, as they can miss important systemic (i.e. indirect) channels. For example, racial disparities in criminal records due to discrimination in policing can lead to disparate outcomes for equally-qualified job applicants despite a race-neutral hiring rule. We develop new tools for modeling and measuring both direct and systemic forms of discrimination. We define systemic discrimination as emerging from group-based differences in non-group characteristics, conditional on a measure of individual qualification. We formalize sources of systemic discrimination as disparities in signaling technologies and opportunities for skill development. Notably, standard tools for measuring direct discrimination, such as audit or correspondence studies, cannot detect systemic discrimination. We propose a measure of systemic discrimination based on a novel decomposition of total discrimination—disparities that condition on underlying qualification—into direct and systemic components. This decomposition highlights the type of data needed to measure systemic discrimination and guides identification strategies in both observational and (quasi-)experimental data. We illustrate these tools in two hiring experiments. Our findings highlight how discrimination in one domain, due to either accurate beliefs or bias, can drive persistent disparities through systemic channels even when direct discrimination is eliminated.

Determinants of Norm Compliance: Moral Similarity and Group Identification

Erin Krupka | University of Michigan (see profile here)
Thursday 28th July 2022 (Philadelphia @ 1:00 PM | Los Angeles @ 10:00 AM | London @ 6:00 PM | Delhi @ 10:30 pm)

What determines whether someone complies with a social norm? The social identity approach offers a mechanism for norm compliance: a person who feels similar to a group identifies more with that group and, in turn, complies with the group’s norms. We used an economics experiment to test this mechanism. We manipulated the similarity between an individual and a social group by exogenously changing their similarity in moral values. Moral values were identified using a survey developed in conjunction with moral foundations theory. In one treatment, the subject and social group’s moral values were similar, and in another, they were dissimilar. Subsequently, we measured group identification and behavior. To measure behavior, we used a modified rule-following task in which the social group expressed a normative expectation that subjects follow “the rule”. We found that moral similarity increased group identification, and group identification increased rule compliance. We show that this behavior change was due to increased group norm sensitivity rather than changes in the group norms. We advance the study of social identity by establishing a causal pathway between group identification and behavior change.

(With Alexander Schneeberg)