Monday, July 06, 2020

Some recent papers of interest

I have added links on the sidebars to various reading lists, journals, and websites that I read frequently. I will post sporadically on particularly interesting papers. As noted many times, this is my personal blog so the list of links reflects not much more than papers that made me think and that I would like to discuss with people informally. One of the most useful features of this blog over the years has been to flag papers that are particularly worth discussing in terms of stimulating research within our networks. The practice of having journal clubs was one that was particularly valuable for me in terms of figuring out how developments in the literature could be integrated into ongoing projects and papers posted here will tend to ones that I think could be good for this purpose. Suggestions for papers to post are welcome.

1. Cass Sunstein's publication page is always worth consulting. A prolific scholar, he writes at a dizzying pace with works ranging from general interest opeds to densely footnoted legal reviews.  I will post on a number of his papers. One recent paper, co-authored with Philipp Lorenz-Spreen, Stephan Lewandowsky, & Ralph Hertwig that is particularly relevant to some topics noted here recently is linked here. "How Behavioural Sciences Can Promote Truth, Autonomy and Democratic Discourse Online".
Public opinion is shaped in significant part by online content, spread via social media and curated algorithmically. The current online ecosystem has been designed predominantly to capture user attention rather than to promote deliberate cognition and autonomous choice; information overload, finely tuned personalization and distorted social cues, in turn, pave the way for manipulation and the spread of false information. How can transparency and autonomy be promoted instead, thus fostering the positive potential of the web? Effective web governance informed by behavioural research is critically needed to empower individuals online. We identify technologically available yet largely untapped cues that can be harnessed to indicate the epistemic quality of online content, the factors underlying algorithmic decisions and the degree of consensus in online debates. We then map out two classes of behavioural interventions—nudging and boosting— that enlist these cues to redesign online environments for informed and autonomous choice.
2.  I have posted before on the review paper on behavioural science and covid by the ESRI BRU team. This paper is a fascinating document in being produced at a very rapid pace in the wake of the outbreak of covid. The key messages in the paper, in my view, proved very useful as an organising set of thoughts for how behavioural research could be a key input into communications and behavioural change interventions in this context. See also the Nature Human Behavior review on this area by van Bavel and many co-authors for a widespread overview of this area.
Using Behavioral Science to help fight the Coronavirus 
Peter D. Lunn
Economic and Social Research Institute & Trinity College Dublin
Cameron A. Belton
Economic and Social Research Institute
Ciarán Lavin
Economic and Social Research Institute
Féidhlim P. McGowan
Trinity College Dublin
Shane Timmons
Economic and Social Research Institute
Deirdre A. Robertson
Economic and Social Research Institute & Trinity College Dublin
COVID-19, Behavioral science, Narrative review, Interventions, Public Policy
This rapid, narrative review summarizes useful evidence from behavioral science for fighting the COVID-19 outbreak. We undertook an extensive, multi-disciplinary literature search covering five issues: handwashing, face touching, self-isolation, public-spirited behavior, and responses to crisis communication. The search identified more than 100 relevant papers. We find effective behavioral interventions to increase handwashing, but not to reduce face touching. Social supports and behavioral plans can reduce the negative psychological effects of isolation, potentially reducing the disincentive to isolate. Public-spirited behavior is more likely with frequent communication of what is “best for all”, strong group identity, and social disapproval of noncompliance. Effective crisis communication involves speed, honesty, credibility, empathy, and promoting useful individual actions. Risks are probably best communicated through numbers, with ranges to describe uncertainty – simply stating a maximum may bias public perception. The findings aim to be useful not only for government and public health authorities, but for organizations and communities.
3. Ruggeri, K., Alí, S., Berge, M.L. et al. Replicating patterns of prospect theory for decision under risk. Nat Hum Behav 4, 622–633 (2020). The following paper has been discussed widely online and provides a widespread replication of one of the core findings of behavioural economics. It will be an excellent target paper for discussing ongoing issues in the replicability of core findings in behavioural economics and wide emerging literatures. The development of international, pre-registered, multi-lab, replications of core results is one of the main developments in these fields in recent years.
Prospect theory is among the most influential frameworks in behavioural science, specifically in research on decision-making under risk. Kahneman and Tversky’s 1979 study tested financial choices under risk, concluding that such judgements deviate significantly from the assumptions of expected utility theory, which had remarkable impacts on science, policy and industry. Though substantial evidence supports prospect theory, many presumed canonical theories have drawn scrutiny for recent replication failures. In response, we directly test the original methods in a multinational study (n = 4,098 participants, 19 countries, 13 languages), adjusting only for current and local currencies while requiring all participants to respond to all items. The results replicated for 94% of items, with some attenuation. Twelve of 13 theoretical contrasts replicated, with 100% replication in some countries. Heterogeneity between countries and intra-individual variation highlight meaningful avenues for future theorizing and applications. We conclude that the empirical foundations for prospect theory replicate beyond any reasonable thresholds.

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