Wednesday, May 04, 2016

When do people value old stuff?

BSC member Simon McCabe explores the role of mortality concerns.

This research examines how death reminders impact the valuation of objects of various ages. Building from the existence bias, the longer-is-better effect posits that which exists is good and that which has existed for longer is better. Integrating terror management theory, it was reasoned that mortality reminders fostering a motivation to at least symbolically transcend death would lead participants to evaluate older object more positively as they signal robustness of existence. Participants were reminded of death (vs. control) and evaluated new, 20-, or 100-year-old objects. Results indicated death reminders resulted in greater valuation of older objects. Findings are discussed with implications for terror management theory, the longer-is-better effect, ageism, materialism, and consumer behaviour.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

June 10th Workshop on Behavioural Science and Policy

This is the ninth in a series of Behavioural Science Workshops that have taken place from 2014 to 2016. These workshops are funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. The venue is the Stirling Court Hotel at Stirling University. It will take place on June 10th. The keynote speakers are Professor David Laibson and Professor Ulrich Witt. Registration is free and can be accessed at the following link

The workshop will be dedicated to the interface between behavioural science and public policy. Researchers involved in the empirical estimation of policy effects and in the understanding and shaping of the theoretical principles that inform policy have agreed to present. A key theme of this workshop will be the measurement and data needs and priorities of those conducting policy research and methods through which key measures such as well-being, preference parameters, personality, and biological measures could be integrated into policy research to a greater extent and the advantages that this approach may yield.

The event will be preceded by a PhD workshop that will take place on June 9th. Details of this area available here

A provisional programme is available below:

9am: registration and welcome:

Intertemporal Choice
930am to 1015am: Leonhard Lades (Stirling) Self-control and inter-temporal choice

1015am to 11am: Rebecca McDonald (Warwick) Inter-temporal choice

11am to 1130am: Coffee

Public Policy
1130am to 1215am: Ben Guttman-Kenney (FCA): Behavioural Economics and Financial Regulation

1215am to 1pm: TBA on Behavioural Science, Nudging and Public Policy

1pm to 2pm: Lunch

2pm to 245pm: Seda Erdem (Stirling) Choice Experiments and Behavioural Economics

Keynote Sessions
245pm to 330pm: Keynote: Professor Ulrich Witt

330pm: Coffee

4pm: Keynote: Professor David Laibson

Saturday, April 23, 2016

2016 Stirling PhD Conference in Behavioural Science (June 9)

2016 Stirling PhD Conference in Behavioural Science 

Thursday, the 9th of June 2016 

The Stirling Behavioural Science Centre is pleased to announce our Annual PhD Student Conference in Behavioural Science in 2016. For information about last year's PhD conference click here. The PhD conference will be held at the University of Stirling on the 9th of June 2016 and will be followed by a Workshop on Behavioural Science and Public Policy with a keynote from Prof David Laibson on June 10. Attendees to the PhD conference on June 9 are also welcome to attend the June 10 workshop.

The 2016 PhD Conference aims to give PhD students in Behavioural Science the opportunity to meet other researchers, to present their work, and get feedback from peers and researchers in the field. The PhD conference will deal with all areas of behavioural science (or behavioural economics, economic psychology, judgement and decision making, depending on your terminological preference). Topics include, but are not limited to
  • Nudging and Behavioural Policies 
  • Evaluation of Behavioural Policies
  • Mechanisms of Behavioural Interventions
  • Inter-temporal Choice
  • Self-control
  • Risk Preferences
  • Social Preferences
  • Heuristics
  • Personality and Economics
  • Subjective Well-Being
  • Identity in Economics
  • Emotions and Decision Making 
  • Behavioural Medicine
  • Early Influences on Later Life Outcomes
  • Behavioural Science and the Labour Market
  • Research Methods in Behavioural Science 
Speakers will present their research followed by a discussion. Speakers have the opportunity to send their papers/slides to their discussant about 2 weeks before the conference in order to get more detailed feedback. Discussants will be announced in the next weeks.

There will be no conference fee and a social dinner will be provided for attendees on the evening of June 9. Located in the heart of Scotland’s central belt, Stirling is a 45 minute journey from both Glasgow and Edinburgh airports. For affordable accommodation in Stirling, we recommend and airbnb. It is feasible to stay in Edinburgh or Glasgow and take the train that takes less than one hour.

Important dates:
  • May 1: Abstract submission deadline (up to 500 words).
  • May 7: Notification of acceptance.
  • May 25: Registration deadline and submission of paper for more detailed comments.
We look forward to welcoming you to Stirling. If you have questions, feel free to send an email to or Please also check your spam folder for emails.

Other helpful links

June Events at Stirling Behavioural Science Centre

On the week beginning June 6th, we have a number of events here at Stirling. 

On the 7th and 8th June, we will host a two-day workshop on statistical techniques using STATA. Details and sign-up page are here. There will be a fee of £100 to cover the costs of this training. 

On the 9th June, our second PhD conference will take place. The deadline for submitting abstracts for this is May 1st on this link. There is no registration fee. 

On the 10th June, we will hold our 9th and final ESRC workshop on behavioural science. The keynote speakers are Professor David Laibson and Professor Ulrich Witt. Details are available here. There is no registration fee. 

Other helpful links: 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

2nd Using Large Publicly Available Datasets for Psychology and Social Sciences research (7th and 8th June 2016)


There are now many publicly available datasets within the UK (such as those hosted by the UK Data Service) and across the world. These data have been collected with the primary purpose of enabling researchers to better understand how people function within the world around them. Although these data-sets are free to access and are commonly used within economics and epidemiology, they remain under-utilized in many disciplines in the social sciences, particularly psychology. This is unfortunate given that many of these datasets contain measures and scales relevant to cutting-edge psychological research, such as personality, well-being, attitudes, behaviour, physical health and mental health. One barrier to unlocking these datasets' potential is having the necessary skills to manage and analyse them. We at the Behavioural Science Centre, Stirling Management School, funded by the Economic Social and Research Council (ESRC), are offering a 2-day training workshops specifically built around these datasets to equip you with the necessary skills, which includes an introduction to the statistical package Stata, to handle them.

Participants will learn advanced statistical methodology to enable them to get the most out of large publicly available datasets. This will include panel data techniques such as understanding and implementing fixed effect and difference-in-difference models, as well as how to implement instrumental variable estimations. This workshop will require that participants have a basic knowledge of handling large datasets and using the statistical program Stata. 

Tuesday June 7th

Wednesday June 8th

09:00  Registration

09:30  Lecture: Difference-in-Difference
09:30  Lecture: OLS & RCTs
10:45  Break
10:45  Break
11:00  Lecture: Matching and other techniques
11:00  Lecture: Instrumental Variables
12:30  Lunch
12:30  Lunch
13:30  Lab Session 3
13:30  Lab Session 1
15:20  Break
15:20  Break
15:30  Lab Session 
15:30  Lab Session 2
17:30  Close
17:30  Close

Further details: the course will take place at Stirling Management School, University of Stirling. At our Behavioural Science Centre we have a number of researchers, including Prof Liam Delaney, Dr Michael Daly (early Career Award recipient, UK Society for Behavioural Medicine), and Prof Alex Wood and Dr Christopher Boyce (joint winners, best paper using GSOEP data resource 2012-2013), with substantial experience using and publishing with these types of datasets. Both workshops are aimed at PhD students but advanced Masters students and post-PhD researchers are welcome to apply. The University of Stirling is approximately 50 minutes by train from Edinburgh, 25 minutes from Glasgow and 5 hours from London. The course is funded by the ESRC and the cost to participants is £100 (in addition to accommodation and transport). There are a limited number of fee waiving scholarships that will be given depending on the strength of the applications and availability.

How to apply: Please fill in the following application form to apply for the workshop.

During this course, we will discuss/replicate* the results of the following publications 
Blundell, Richard W.; Dias, Monica Costa (2008). Alternative approaches to evaluation in empirical microeconomics, IZA discussion papers, No. 3800. Available at:

A. Colin Cameron and P. Trivedi (2005) Microeconometrics: methods and applications. Cambridge university Press. Available at: . Specially Chapter 25, p. 860-898.
Charles J. Courtemanche; Garth Heutel and Patrick McAlvanah (2011) Impatience, incentives, and obesity. NBER Working Paper 17483, Available at:
Gong, Eric. (2014) HIV testing and risky sexual behaviour. Economic Journal, 125, 32-60. 
Instrumental variables
*Joshua D. Angrist and Alan B. Krueger (1991) Does Compulsory School Attendance Affect Schooling and Earnings? The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Vol. 106, No. 4 (Nov., 1991), pp. 979-1014.

*Joshua D. Angrist and William N. Evans (1998) Children and Their Parents' Labor Supply: Evidence from Exogenous Variation in Family Size. The American Economic Review, Vol. 88, No. 3, pp. 450-477. Available at:
Sascha O. Becker and Ludger Woessmann. (2009) Was Weber Wrong? A Human Capital Theory of Protestant Economic History. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 124 (2): 531-596. 
*David Card and Alan Krueger (1994) Minimum Wages and Employment: A Case Study of the Fast-Food Industry in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The American Economic Review, Vol. 84, No. 4. , pp. 772-793. Available at:
Matching on propensity scores
*Rajeev H. Dehejia; Sadek Wahba (1999) Causal Effects in Nonexperimental Studies: Reevaluating the Evaluation of Training Programs. Journal of the American Statistical Association, Vol. 94, No. 448., pp. 1053-1062.
Control function
*Matias Cattaneo (2010) Efficient semiparametric estimation of multi-valued treatment effects under ignorability. Journal of Econometrics 155 (2010) 138–154. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

ESRC PhD Studentship to Research at the Centre

See below for a 3-year ESRC funded PhD studentship working with Dr. Michael Daly and I. 

Post Details

PhD Studentship Stirling Management School 
Full-Time with Start Date on October 1st 2016 (with some flexibility)
Closing date: 5pm on 31st May 2016
Salary: Fees plus 13k per annum
Eligibility: Please see details of whether you are eligible to apply on the relevant ESRC website 

The Post

This 3-year PhD studentship, jointly funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and Skills Development Scotland (SDS), is targeted at a highly motivated individual who wishes to work with our team on a study on a project entitled "A Lifespan Approach to Understanding Equality of Opportunity and Career Development in Scotland and the UK" . The successful applicant will conduct their PhD either in Economics or in Business and Management working with Professor Liam Delaney and Dr. Michael Daly of the Stirling Management School Behavioural Science Centre.

Description of Duties

This project will utilise the substantial cohort study data available in the UK to examine the drivers of labour market inequality across the UK with a particular focus on Scotland and differences between Scotland and RUK. The project will apply longitudinal data analysis techniques to examine gender, ethnic, disability, religious and socioeconomic differences in key education and employment outcomes across the life-cycle. We will utilise the National Child Development Cohort Study, British Cohort Study, Understanding Society and other large UK data-sets. We will examine the extent to which inequalities interact with the development of a wide range of hard and soft skills throughout childhood and adolescence, providing key information on the potential importance of such skills to labour market outcomes across the lifespan. We will publish the findings in a range of academic journals in economics, psychology and wider social science. The work builds on our previous SDS-funded project which has published several papers in top-tier journals examining the role of mental health and non-cognitive traits in shaping labour market outcomes. We will continue to disseminate the findings of this work to policy-makers and the wider public through our active social media and workshop programme and in conjunction with the SDS. The PhD student will be guided to work within this project but given substantial support to develop their own independent ideas within the overall topic. Some of the papers below give an idea of the approach our research is taking and potential applicants should read these papers in deciding whether this type of research would be suited to them:

Daly, M., Delaney, L., Egan, M., & Baumeister, R. F. (2015). Childhood self-control and unemployment throughout the lifespan: evidence from two British cohort studies. Psychological Science, 26, 709 - 723.

The successful candidate will enter Stirling Management School as a PhD in Economics and will participate in the Economics DTC pathway. The primary supervisor (Delaney) was PhD Director for the Economics pathway in Scotland for over four years and Stirling is a very active participant in training on this pathway. The student will participate in advanced modules, summer school programmes and masterclasses on this pathway. Stirling is also an active participant on the Business and Management pathway, having received two of the studentships on this pathway in the last two years. On top of pathway training, the student will attend weekly meetings of the Behavioural Science Centre in Stirling and will participate in statistical training and related options being offered locally in Stirling. Our MSc programme in Behavioural Science provides a range of relevant modules and will encourage the candidate to attend modules that are relevant to the completion of the thesis - for example there are modules on behavioural economics and advanced survey and empirical analysis techniques that are designed explicitly to train people for this type of project. The student will also receive mentorship from SDS and will attend seminars and workshops with other SDS-funded PhD students. 

Essential Criteria

Strong intrinsic interest in research at the intersection of Economics and Psychology. 
Ability and willingness to contribute to the intellectual life of the center including participating in seminars, journal clubs, group discussions and related activity. 
MSc training in Economics or Psychology with a strong emphasis on statistics.
Excellent written and oral communication skills.
Ability to work individually and autonomously as well as potential to work as part of a team. 
Some proficiency in STATA and/or SPSS. 

Desirable Criteria

Specific knowledge of techniques for panel data analysis. 
Existing experience directly in the area of statistical analysis of determinants of psychological welfare. 
Evidence of active engagement with the area of behavioural science including student publications, internship experience and social media activity. 
Experience of preparing research papers. 

Additional Information

About the Stirling Management School Behavioural Science Center

Formed in 2012, the Behavioural Sciences Centre is an interdisciplinary research centre which brings together approaches from economics and psychology to address the key questions in society, such as how to better understand and foster economic and industrial prosperity, decision making and behaviour, and health and well-being. The centre pursues these goals through basic science and applied research, educational programmes, and industrial collaborations. Full details of the work of the behavioural science centre at Stirling are available at the website below. We strongly encourage candidates to explore this website.

How to apply: 

Applicants should send a 2-page CV, academic transcripts and a 2-page cover letter to before May 31st 2016 at 5pm. The cover letter should set out why you are interested in the project and in working with the behavioural science group at Stirling. Applicants will be notified before the end of May. 

Informal enquires should be addressed to Professor Liam

April 15th Workshop on Behavioural Science, Measurement and Policy

This workshop addresses innovations in measurement in the social and behavioural sciences. It is the eight and final workshop in our series. We examine a number of key themes in the development of rich measurement tools and pragmatic survey designs including: the integrated use of brief psychometric measures, experience sampling, and wearable devices to measure behaviour, attitudes, well-being and health in a brief-yet-precise manner. In addition, this workshop will consider ethical and privacy considerations, issues of response bias, the extent to which participants will give accurate responses, the potential impact of implementing this measurement in a policy context, and the traits and behaviours that are particularly important to measure in different policy contexts. It will also address problems of statistical inference and publication bias that relate to the presence of widespread secondary data and private researcher decisions. 

Please register here to attend the workshop. Registration is free of charge. It takes place in the Court Room, on the fourth floor of the Cottrell Building in Stirling.

Workshop on Behavioural Science, Measurement and Policy

845 to 915 Registration 

915 to 930 Welcome 

930 to 1015am

Dr. Leonhard Lades (Stirling University)

Measuring self-control in everyday life: Implications for present bias and subjective well-being. 
Abstract: It is difficult to name a problematic behaviour in our lives that is independent of a self-control failure. Accordingly, self-control has received massive attention in economics and psychology. In ongoing research, we combine state-of-the-art theories and methodologies from both disciplines and measure self-control failures in people's everyday lives. Applying this novel approach to measuring everyday decision making, firstly we test whether individual differences in present bias predict self-control failures in everyday life. Secondly, we identify episodes in which study participants have self-control failures and compare subjective well-being across episodes.

1015 to 11am

Dr. Mark McGovern (Queen's University Belfast)

Designing RCTs and Observational Studies to Account for Missing Data not Missing at Random

Missing data is a common feature of both survey data and RCTs, which has the potential to greatly impact on the policy recommendations we derive from empirical studies. Non-response can lead to biased estimates if the characteristics of respondents systematically differ from those who decline to participate. In practice, if any adjustments for missing data are made, they tend to be based on either multiple imputation or inverse probability weighting. Conventional methods such as these all rely on a key assumption: missing data must be missing at random, or missing at random conditional on observed covariates. This is a strong and generally untestable assumption which is unrealistic in many settings, especially where some respondents have an incentive not to participate. An alternative approach, Heckman-type selection models, can be used for dealing with missing data. This method can provide consistent estimates even when the assumption of missing at random does not hold, and respondents systematically opt out of survey participation on the basis of unobserved confounders. Using examples from research on HIV, I illustrate the consequences of imposing an unrealistic missing at random assumption on survey data. I conclude by discussing how to design RCTs and observational studies to facilitate the implementation of this selection model approach.

11 to 1130am Break 

1130 to 1215pm

Professor Marjon Van Pol (Aberdeen University)

Improving the measurement of time preferences

The interest in measuring individuals’ time preferences is growing in both economics and psychology. Time preferences describe individuals’ preferences over when outcomes occur and are a determinant of a range of important life outcomes such as health and education. Surprisingly little attention has been paid to the robustness of the design of the elicitation methods. In standard economic theory, the design of the elicitation method is irrelevant as individuals have fully formed and highly articulated preferences which they can quickly and accurately access and which are not affected by design features. However, evidence from stated preferences methods such as contingent valuation suggests that individuals construct their preferences and may use decision heuristics in experiments. The design of the elicitation method matters in this case and may lead to different policy recommendations. In this paper we test the internal validity of the most commonly used time preference elicitation method, the multiple price list, drawing on insights from the contingent valuation literature.  We test for both an order effect and the effect of a truth telling oath in an online survey. We compare the % of ‘theoretically inconsistent’ responses, response times and average rates of time preference.  The preliminary results suggests a strong order effect and a weaker effect of a truth telling oath.

1215pm to 1pm   

Dr. Daniel Powell (Aberdeen University)

Real-time tracking of state inhibitory control and health behaviour in daily life: an overview of the SNAPSHOT study

Several contemporary theories of health behaviour, including temporal self-regulation theory and the various dual process theories, suggest that variations in cognitive efficiency should have important consequences for health behaviour. However, little research has tested how health behaviours may be influenced by dynamic fluctuations in executive functioning within individuals in daily life. The SNAPSHOT (SNAcking, Physical activity, Self-regulation, and Heart-rate Over Time) study is a 7-day ecological momentary assessment (EMA) study incorporating various wearable devices, including accelerometers, heart-rate monitors, GPS trackers, and a wrist-mounted electronic diary. In a community sample of 68 participants, hourly self-reports of snacking behaviour and – uniquely – objective measures of inhibitory control (the Go/No-Go test) were requested via the diary. This talk will (i) provide an overview of the findings we have in relation to associations between inhibitory control and snacking behaviour, (ii) detail clear individual differences in the contextual correlates of snacking in daily life, and (iii) outline some of the methodological challenges, particularly with the Go/No-Go test.
1pm to 2pm Lunch 

2pm to 245pm 

Dr. Stephan Bruns (University of Kassell)

P-curve and p-hacking in observational research

The p-curve, the distribution of statistically significant p-values of published studies, has been used to make inferences on the proportion of true effects and on the presence of p-hacking in the published literature. We analyze the p-curve for observational research in the presence of p-hacking. We show by means of simulations that even with minimal omitted-variable bias (e.g. unaccounted confounding) p-curves based on true effects and p-curves based on null-effects with p-hacking cannot be reliably distinguished. We also demonstrate this problem using as practical example the evaluation of the effect of malaria prevalence on economic growth between 1960 and 1996. These findings call recent studies into question that use the p-curve to infer that most published research findings are based on true effects in the medical literature and in a wide range of disciplines. p-values in observational research may need to be empirically calibrated to be interpretable with respect to the commonly used significance threshold of 0.05. Violations of randomization in experimental studies may also result in situations where the use of p-curves is similarly unreliable.

245pm to 330pm 

Professor Alex Bryson (UCL)

The Biometric Antecedents to Happiness


Happiness is beneficial to individuals and society. Happier individuals are more productive, more resilient to illness and disease, and live longer. However, little is known about its antecedents and, in particular, its relationship with biometric indicators of wellbeing. What  is known is based largely on cross-sectional data. We contribute to the empirical literature by examining the independent association between various aspects of biometric wellbeing measured in childhood and happiness in adulthood. We find only one of the eight biomarkers we consider predicts happiness in adulthood: serum triglycerides, which are a type of fat found in the circulation, are negatively associated with subsequent happiness. The finding is robust to controls for age, sex, body size, family background, nutritional intake, physical activity, income, education and labour market experiences, as well as other biomarkers measured in childhood. It suggests higher levels of serum triglycerides in childhood can be damaging to one’s happiness in adulthood.

330pm to 415pm 

Dr. David Comerford (Stirling)

Agency: Its role in the measurement of preferences and utility


We distinguish between agentic preference (preference regarding outcomes that the consumer can actively influence); and non-agentic preference (preference regarding outcomes that are passively received). We theorize that agentic preference is informed by the signalling value of endorsing an outcome, and by the reputational value of being responsible for that outcome. Non-agentic preference is not informed by either of these sources of value. Often, policymakers need to measure non-agentic preferences, for instance, when measuring the costs inflicted by an externality. We present experimental evidence that agentic preference orderings over a given choice set can differ systematically from non-agentic preference orderings. We present examples from the literature where agentic preferences are used to infer non-agentic utility, and where non-agentic preferences are used to infer agentic utility. We conclude that our typology of agentic and non-agentic preference can clarify utility measurement.