Welcome to the Frankfurt Laboratory for Experimental Economic Research (FLEX)
The Frankfurt Laboratory for Experimental Economic Research (FLEX) is a research center at the Faculty of Economics and Business Administration at Goethe University Frankfurt. It was founded in 2008 and is located on Campus Westend. FLEX also maintains a field office in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. FLEX is financially supported by a starting grant from the Alfons und Gertrud Kassel-Stiftung.
FLEX takes up a long tradition in experimental economics at Goethe University starting with the pioneering work of Nobel laureate Reinhard Selten and Heinz Sauermann in the late 1950s. Further contributors who worked in Frankfurt include Reinhard Tietz and Werner Güth.
Researchers at FLEX study human behavior and decision making in social and economic contexts employing experimental methods. We conduct experiments in the laboratory, via the Internet, and in the field. The purpose of experiments is manifold and ranges from testing economic theories, to the elicitation of preferences as well as policy and impact evaluations. Current research conducted at FLEX covers different areas including behavioral economics, development economics, organizational and personnel economics, and finance.
Randolph Sloof, Ferdinand A. von Siemens
Experimental Economics forthcoming
We measure participants’ willingness to pay for transparently useless authority—the right to make a completely uninformed task decision. We further elicit participants’ beliefs about receiving their preferred outcome if they make the decision themselves, and if another participant makes the decision for them. We find that participants pay more to make the decision themselves if they also believe that they can thus increase the probability of getting their preferred outcome. Illusion of control therefore exists in a controlled laboratory environment with monetary incentives and is connected to peoples’ pursuit of authority.
Sascha Baghestanian, Paul Gortner, Baptiste Massenot
Experimental Economics forthcoming
In an experimental setting in which investors can entrust their money to traders, we investigate how compensation schemes affect liquidity provision and asset prices, two outcomes that are important for financial stability. Compensation schemes can drive a wedge between how investors and traders value the asset. Limited liability makes traders value the asset more than investors. To limit losses, investors should thus restrict liquidity provision to force traders to trade at a lower price. By contrast, bonus caps make traders value the asset less than investors. This should encourage liquidity provision and increase prices. In contrast to these predictions, we find that under limited liability investors increase liquidity provision and asset price bubbles are larger. Bonus caps have no clear effect on liquidity provision and they fail to tame bubbles. Overall, giving traders skin in the game fosters financial stability.
Heiner Schumacher, Iris Kesternich, Michael Kosfeld, Joachim Winter
Review of Economic Studies forthcoming
We experimentally analyze distributional preferences when a decider chooses the provision of a good that benefits herself or a receiver, and creates costs for a group of payers. The treatment variation is the number of payers. We observe that subjects provide the good even if there are many payers so that the costs of provision exceed the benefits by far. This result holds regardless of whether the provision increases the decider’s payoff or not. Intriguingly, it is not only selfish or maximin types who provide the good. Rather, we show that a substantial fraction of subjects are “insensitive to group size”: they reveal to care about the payoff of all parties, but attach the same weight to small and large groups so that they ignore large provision costs that are dispersed among many payers. Our results have important consequences for the approval of policies with concentrated benefits and large, dispersed cost, as well as the analysis of ethical behavior, medical decision making, and charity donations.
Michael Kosfeld, Susanne Neckermann, Xiaolan Yang
Economic Inquiry forthcoming
We manipulate workers’ perceived meaning of a job in a field experiment and interact meaning of work with both financial and recognition incentives. Results show that workers exert more effort when meaning is high. Money has a positive effect on performance that is independent of meaning. In contrast, meaning and recognition interact negatively. Our results provide new insights into the stability of incentive effects across important work contexts. They also suggest that meaning and worker recognition may operate via the same motivational channel.
Mark Bernard, Florian Hett, Mario Mechtel
European Economic Review forthcoming
We model individual identification choice as a strategic group formation problem. When choosing a social group to identify with, individuals appreciate high social status and a group stereotype to which they have a small social distance. A group׳s social status and stereotype are shaped by the (exogenous) individual attributes of its members and hence endogenous to individuals׳ choices. Unless disutility from social distance is strong enough, this creates a strategic tension as individuals with attributes that contribute little to group status would like to join high-status groups, thereby diluting the latters’ status and changing stereotypes. Such social free-riding motivates the use of soft exclusion technologies in high-status groups, which provides a unifying rationale for phenomena such as hazing rituals, charitable activities or status symbols that is not taste-based or follows a standard signaling mechanism.
Yann Girard, Florian Hett, Daniel Schunk
Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization 115, 2015, 197-216
We study how students’ social networks emerge by documenting systematic patterns in the process of friendship formation of incoming students; these students all start out in a new environment and thus jointly create a new social network. As a specific novelty, we consider cooperativeness, time and risk preferences – elicited experimentally – together with factors like socioeconomic and personality characteristics. We find a number of robust predictors of link formation and of the position within the social network (local and global network centrality). In particular, cooperativeness has a complex association with link formation. We also find evidence for homophily along several dimensions. Finally, our results show that despite these systematic patterns, social network structures can be exogenously manipulated, as we find that random assignments of students to groups on the first two days of university impacts the students’ friendship formation process.
Michael Kosfeld, Devesh Rustagi
American Economic Review 105, 2015, 747-783
We conduct a social dilemma experiment in which real-world leaders can punish group members as a third party. Despite facing an identical environment, leaders are found to take remarkably different punishment approaches. The different leader types revealed experimentally explain the relative success of groups in managing their forest commons. Leaders who emphasize equality and efficiency see positive forest outcomes. Anti-social leaders, who punish indiscriminately, see relatively negative forest outcomes. Our results highlight the importance of leaders in collective action, and more generally the idiosyncratic but powerful roles that leaders may play, leading to substantial variation in group cooperation outcomes.