Thursday, November 20, 2014

7th Irish Economics and Psychology Conference in Dublin 31.10.14

The seventh annual one day conference on Economics and Psychology, co-organised by researchers from UCD, ESRI and NUIM, took place on October 31st in the UCD Geary Institute. The purpose of these sessions is to develop the link between Economics, Psychology and cognate disciplines in Ireland. A special theme of these events is the implications of behavioural economics for public policy though the workshops have covered work across all areas of intersection of Economics and Psychology. Programmes from the previous six events are here.


09.00-09.20: Registration

09:20-09:30: Introduction

09:30-10:00: Dr. Michael Daly (Stirling)
Time preferences predict inflammation in later life
Prominent economic and psychological models suggest that impatient individuals with high discount rates invest less in their health leading to adverse physiological consequences (Grossman, 1972; Hall & Fong, 2007). The aim of this study is to test, for the first time, whether time discount rates elicited from an incentivised experiment become biologically embedded via changes in C-reactive protein (CRP) and fibrinogen levels over time. The sample was drawn from the population-based English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. Those who completed a preference module and provided blood plasma samples at two time-points for analysis were included in the study (n=427; Age=63.6 (SD=5.7); 52.8% Female). Discount rates were calculated from a set of 12 choices between smaller sooner and larger later rewards (e.g. £25 in two weeks or £30 in one month) where the participant won the value of a randomly selected choice (median reward £28). Our results indicate a substantial relationship between high discount rates and high levels of inflammation two years later as gauged by CRP (β=.18; p<.001) and fibrinogen (β=.1; p<.05) in analyses which adjusted for age, gender, marital status, wealth and prior inflammation levels. This pattern was robust to the inclusion of controls for BMI, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, other long-term illnesses, smoking, physical activity, and alcohol consumption. Further adjustment for cognitive functioning and the Big Five personality traits did not affect the associations observed. This study provides strong evidence that incentivised elicited discount rates robustly predict longitudinal changes in inflammation in a national sample.

10:00-10:30: Marek Bohacek (ESRI)
The Integration of Visual, Numeric and Categorical Information in Judgements of Value
Pete Lunn, Marek Bohacek*, & Jason Somerville, ESRI and Trinity College Dublin
We investigate how accurately consumers can integrate information about multiple product attributes into judgements of value, while manipulating the nature of the attributes. Using a 2AFC “objective valuation” (OV) task, we compare performance in multi-attribute judgements when attribute magnitudes are provided as visual cues, numeric magnitudes, or between two and four categories of quality. Across three experiments with different products, we find no improvement in the accuracy of judgements when attribute magnitudes are provided as numbers, rather than as visual cues. We do find small improvements when an attribute consists of just two categories (good versus bad), or when categories are correlated with the likelihood of obtaining a surplus relative to a price. Overall, our results suggest that: (1) precise numeric attribute scales do not improve multi-attribute judgement; (2) it is the difficulty of integrating information from incommensurate attribute scales determines performance in multi-attribute judgement.
10:30-11:00: Coffee

11:00-11:45:  Prof. Rowena Pecchenino (NUIM)
The Economic Consequences of Despair
This paper examines despair, the total loss of hope, from the perspectives of many disciplines to characterize the despairing individual, his motivations, and his capacity for decision-making.  It then examines the extent to which economics has recognized despair and whether economics should incorporate despair into its theoretical and policy analyses, and, if so, how.

11:45-12:30: Dr. Pete Lunn (ESRI)
Do Consumers Value Products they are Familiar with more Accurately? (with Marek Bohacek & Féidhlim McGowan).
We investigate how the precision of consumer valuations is affected by familiarity with the product. Using a within-subject design, we compare performance in a 2AFC "objective valuation" task across four products: houses, contracts for broadband services, and two unfamiliar computer-generated products. Participants decide whether each product, with a given set of attributes at a particular price, represents good or bad value. The value of the familiar products is objectively defined by two statistical models relating attributes to prices in the market. The same models also determine the mathematical relationship between attributes and prices of the two unfamiliar products, allowing us to identify the effect due to familiarity. Data collection is to be completed by end-September. We will present an initial analysis of the experimental data at the conference.

12:30 - 13:30: Lunch

13:30-14:00: Prof. Liam Delaney (Stirling)
Behavioural Economics and Irish Public Policy 
This presentation will outline the relevance of the last ten years of behavioural economics and behavioural science for research across a number of domains including pensions policy, financial regulation, education, health and consumer policy.

14:00-14:45: Dr. Edel Walsh, (School of Economics, University College Cork)
An Examination of Life Satisfaction in Ireland: Evidence from the European Social Survey 5 (2010)

The aim of this research is to establish the most significant factors affecting life satisfaction, at an individual level, in Ireland during the recent economic recession. The global financial crisis significantly impacted the Irish economy and by 2010 Ireland was experiencing its third consecutive year of negative growth. During the period 2007 to 2010 the level and rate of unemployment increased substantially in Ireland with an average unemployment rate of 13.8 per cent being reported in 2010. In addition, unemployment affected men more than women and in particular the 20-24 year age group. Given the well-established link between life satisfaction, income and unemployment, the economic conditions in Ireland in 2010 make it an interesting case to study. The data used in this analysis were obtained from the Irish component of the European Social Survey 5 (2010).

Using both OLS and ordered probit models the determinants of life satisfaction are estimated. The paper also tests if there are significant gender differences in the results but find no significant differences in the determinants of male and female life satisfaction in Ireland at that time. The main findings suggest that unemployment has a statistically significant effect on reducing life satisfaction. Income is found to have a significant, but modest effect on improving life satisfaction. The results also suggest that being young (24 or younger) or old (over 65) and having social connections have the largest positive effects on life satisfaction. Other findings suggest that having children positively impacts on one’s life satisfaction. Living in a rural area of Ireland is a positive factor affecting an individual’s satisfaction with their life. Further significant results indicate that life satisfaction is largely, negatively influenced by marital status (being divorced or separated) and suffering from a disability. The overall findings are important in the context of the current policy focus on well-being in Ireland.

14:45-15:30pm: Dr. Ronan Lyons (Trinity College Dublin & Spatial Economics Research Centre, LSE)
What house price equation do households use? Insights from the Irish housing market, 2003-2014
Housing is the most important good in the typical household’s consumption basket and the largest asset in its portfolio. Given this, and given that expectations about house prices act as a demand shifter, the measurement of house price expectations is a topic of importance for economic policy. This research attempts to answer two related questions. Firstly, to what extent are expectations backward-looking, rather than based on perceptions of future fundamentals? And secondly, how do households believe that changes in fundamentals will affect house prices? These questions are answered combining national surveys (2003-2008), national and local surveys (2011-2014) and an experimental survey, drawing on methods from the willingness-to-pay literature.

15:30-16:00: Coffee 

16:00-17:00:  Prof. Ruth Byrne (TCD)
The Cognitive Science of the Human Imagination
The human imagination remains one of the last uncharted terrains of the mind. In everyday imaginative thought, people often create alternatives to reality and imagine how events might have turned out ‘if only’ something had been different. People engage in such flights of the imagination for more than entertainment – psychological experiments show that the alternatives to reality that people create ensure that they learn the causes of outcomes and how to prevent them in the future; they contribute to the experience of emotions such as regret, guilt, relief and hope; and they underlie social ascriptions of blame, responsibility, and fault. The loss of these imaginative thoughts following certain sorts of brain injury has devastating consequences for normal cognition.

New discoveries suggest that, just as experiments have shown that rational thought is more imaginative than previously supposed, so too imaginative thought is more rational than previously supposed.  Cognitive scientists have established that people tend to change the same sorts of things in their ‘if only’ thoughts, such as events within their control, actions rather than inactions, exceptions rather than usual events. These ‘fault-lines’ in the human imagination provide important clues about its logic and its limitations, and indicate that imaginative thoughts are guided by the same principles that underlie rational thoughts. 

No comments: