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Article

Punishment has been regarded as an important instrument to sustain human cooperation. A great deal of experimental research has been conducted to understand human punishment behavior, in particular, informal peer punishment. What drives individuals to incur cost to punish others? How does punishment influence human behavior? Punishment behavior has been observed when the individual does not expect to meet the wrongdoers again in the future and thus has no monetary incentive to punish. Several reasons for such retributive punishment have been proposed and studied. Punishment can be used to express certain values, attitudes, or emotions. Egalitarianism triggers punishment when the transgression leads to inequality. The norm to punish the wrongdoers may also lead people to incur costs to punish even when it is not what they intrinsically want to do. Individuals sometimes punish wrongdoers even when they are not the victim. The motivation underlying the third-party punishment can be different than the second-party punishment. In addition, restricting the punishment power to a third party can be important to mitigate antisocial punishment when unrestricted second-party peer punishment leads to antisocial punishments and escalating retaliation. It is important to note that punishment does not always promote cooperation. Imposing fines can crowd out intrinsic motivation to cooperate when it changes people’s perception of social interactions from a generous, non-market activity to a market commodity and leads to more selfish profit-maximizing behavior. To avoid the crowding-out effect, it is important to implement the punishment in a way that it sends a clear signal that the punished behavior violates social norms.

Article

Johanna Gereke and Klarita Gërxhani

Experimental economics has moved beyond the traditional focus on market mechanisms and the “invisible hand” by applying sociological and socio-psychological knowledge in the study of rationality, markets, and efficiency. This knowledge includes social preferences, social norms, and cross-cultural variation in motivations. In turn, the renewed interest in causation, social mechanisms, and middle-range theories in sociology has led to a renaissance of research employing experimental methods. This includes laboratory experiments but also a wide range of field experiments with diverse samples and settings. By focusing on a set of research topics that have proven to be of substantive interest to both disciplines—cooperation in social dilemmas, trust and trustworthiness, and social norms—this article highlights innovative interdisciplinary research that connects experimental economics with experimental sociology. Experimental economics and experimental sociology can still learn much from each other, providing economists and sociologists with an opportunity to collaborate and advance knowledge on a range of underexplored topics of interest to both disciplines.

Article

Pilar Cuevas Ruiz, Ismael Sanz, and Almudena Sevilla

Descriptive stereotypes such as “girls are not good at mathematics” or prescriptive stereotypes, that is, fixed views about women’s societal roles, can explain the persistent gender gap in mathematics. Stereotypes lower girls’ beliefs, expectations, and incentives to put forth effort, and can constrain girls’ choices in male-dominated high-paying careers that are math-intensive and that require strong math skills. This gap slows progress toward gender equality in the labor market and hinders productivity and economic growth. Policy interventions to alleviate the negative impacts of descriptive stereotypes aim to prevent girls from internalizing socially constructed behaviors aligned with prevalent gender stereotypes regarding the innate mathematical abilities of boys and girls. Boosting girls’ confidence in their math skills includes introducing them to female role models, such as women math teachers, using gender-neutral language, and providing textbooks and other teaching materials that challenge gender stereotypes. A different set of policies focuses on altering the environment in which girls learn, rather than modifying their beliefs. By adjusting the testing methods (such as reducing the level of competition) or adapting the instructional approach to better align with the learning style of girls, it is possible to create an environment that enables more girls to achieve their maximum potential and to accurately assess their math abilities and interests, rather than simply their test-taking or classroom performance. However, interventions that aim to modify the beliefs and attitudes of girls and women ex post, as well as those that seek to alter the environment, may not work in the long term because they reinforce preexisting stereotypes and operate within the constraints of those stereotypes. For instance, while modifying the testing environment may result in higher grades for girls, it may not necessarily alter the perception that girls are incapable of excelling in math. In some cases, these interventions may even have negative consequences. Encouraging girls to “lean in” and behave like boys, for example, can lead to unequal, unjust, and inefficient outcomes because the benefits (economic returns) of doing so are lower or even negative for girls in light of existing gender stereotypes. One popular and affordable approach to combating gender stereotypes involves addressing (unconscious) biases among teachers, parents, and peers through initiatives such as unconscious bias training and self-reflection on biases. The underlying premise is that by increasing awareness of their own (unconscious) biases, individuals will engage their more conscious, non-gender-stereotypical thinking processes. However, such behavioral interventions can sometimes have unintended consequences and result in backlash, and their effectiveness may vary significantly depending on the context, so that their external validity is often called into question. The recognition of the adaptable nature of both conscious and unconscious stereotypes has led to progress in economics, with the development of social learning and information-based theories. Interventions resulting from these models can effectively counteract prescriptive stereotypes that limit girls’ education to certain fields based on societal expectations of gender roles. However, prescriptive gender stereotypes are often based on biased beliefs about the innate abilities of girls and women. Overcoming deeply ingrained descriptive stereotypes about innate abilities of boys and girls is a fruitful avenue for future economics research and can help close the gender performance gap in mathematics.