Research with PPE People

Current PPE Projects

PPE is currently engaged in several ongoing research projects. PPE 402 will allow you to engage in one of those research projects with one of our postdoctoral fellows. If you're interested in becoming a research assistant, you may look at research projects housed in the Center for Social Norms and Behavioral Dynamics (SNBD) run and founded by PPE's director, Cristina Bicchieri. Please visit the Center's website for more information on current projects.


Penn CURF offers several research possibilities with Penn professors through the Penn Undergraduate Research Mentoring Program (PURM). Visit CURF's website for available projects.


Examples of Past PURM Projects

Summer 2020

Norms, coordination and public policy: experiments on coordination and cooperation
Coordination problems arise in many economic, political, and social situations. A person’s decision to join a social movement, invest in a risky asset, or follow a social convention are examples of cases in which a person may only want to do so if other people do as well. Many times, people are able to coordinate on an efficient outcome, but in other occasions, they fail to do so. In this project, we are interested in finding sources of successful coordination in simple games. In particular, we will investigate whether people are willing to follow a computer’s recommended action in different experimental conditions. In some conditions, we will match players with simple tasks such as the minimal group paradigm. This design will allow us to gain insight into whether certain conditions cause people to believe that other players will choose a particular action. Working closely with postdoctoral fellow, Dr. Abraham Aldama, through this project, the student will gain experience in the design, implementation, and analysis of the results of a laboratory experiment.

Summer 2018

Project 1: Betting and Match-Fixing in Professional Sports

Corruption in general but in sports in particular is a ubiquitous issue in both amateur and professional sports, especially in the form of match-fixing. With higher stakes involved, such distortions create negative externalities not only on the individual but also on the aggregate level, such as loss of media interest, and erode the inherent principle of fair and competitive sports. Betting on sports is a steadily growing business (the market volume for regulated sports betting worldwide is estimated at $58 billion per year) and has become an integral tool in making money off fixed matches. Recently, investigations showed evidence that match-fixing has run rampant in the tennis sport for years and triggered a general discussion regarding the extent to which match-fixing has generally soaked through sports.

We are in possession of a huge one-of-a-kind data set on betting volumes across 50 different sports and hundreds of leagues that allows us to study this topic for the first time and trace suspicious instances of betting behavior. The data spans a time period of 9 years and provides detailed betting data (including the betting volume). The purpose of this PURM project is to capitalize on this data and help the PPE team to look into issues including but not limited to match-fixing. For students, this is a great opportunity to analyze big data, investigate suspicious patterns, and ultimately work at the forefront of crime analysis.

Requirements: prior knowledge in working with R (or related programs) as well as programming experience.

 

Project 2: Changing social norms: Combating open defecation in India with data. Stage 2

Working with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, we are conducting a massive three-year project designed to provide a clear understanding of the underlying social factors that support open defecation and barriers that prohibit latrine use in rural and urban India.

Open defecation (OD) is a serious public health issue in India, and over 300 million people practicing in the country alone. OD contributes to many serious health issues, with India reporting the highest number of diarrheal deaths in children under-five in the world. It is not simply an infrastructure limitation either, as many latrines that have been built in affected areas go unused.

Using an individual-level survey, we explore how beliefs, expectations, cultural factors, and group membership may contribute to OD’s persistence. Specifically, we will use a social norms framework to attempt to distinguish between different kinds of socially motivated behavior.

Additionally, we measure and analyze the structure of target communities so as to better understand what sort of intervention would be most effective. Our measurements and analyses will ultimately be used to advise on and design an intervention to most effectively encourage OD abandonment.

This is an exciting project in terms of both its scope and importance. An interested student will have opportunities to research relevant aspects of Indian culture, help construct professional surveys to assess factual beliefs, social expectations, and community structure, and/or help analyze data. We are particularly interested to compare our findings with prior literature and survey data and explain any observed differences in terms of real improvements and differences in methodologies. As such, we would be interested in taking on students who have some training and interest in statistics or data science.

 

Summer 2017 

Project 1: Changing social norms: Combating open defecation in India

Working with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, we have recently started a massive three-year project designed to provide a clear understanding of the underlying social factors that support open defecation and barriers that prohibit latrine use in rural and urban India. Open defecation (OD) is a serious public health issue in India, and nearly 500 million people practicing in the country alone. OD contributes to many serious health issues, with India reporting the highest number of diarrheal deaths in children under-five in the world. It is not simply an infrastructure limitation either, as many latrines that have been built in affected areas go unused.

Using household surveys and mobile telephone responses, we will explore how beliefs, expectations, and cultural factors may contribute to OD’s persistence. Specifically, we will use a social norms framework to attempt to distinguish between different kinds of socially motivated behavior. Additionally, we will measure and analyze the structure of target communities so as to better understand what sort of intervention would be most effective. Our measurements and analyses will ultimately be used to advise on and design an intervention to most effectively encourage OD abandonment.

This is an exciting project in terms of both its scope and importance. An interested student will have opportunities to research relevant aspects of Indian culture, help construct professional surveys to assess factual beliefs, social expectations, and community structure, and/or help analyze data.

Project 2: Betting and Match-Fixing in Professional Sports

Corruption in general but in sports in particular is a ubiquitous issue in both amateur and professional sports, especially in the form of match-fixing. With higher stakes involved, such distortions create negative externalities not only on the individual but also on the aggregate level, such as loss of media interest, and erode the inherent principle of fair and competitive sports. Betting on sports is a steadily growing business (the market volume for regulated sports betting worldwide is estimated at $58 billion per year) and has become an integral tool in making money off fixed matches. Recently, investigations showed evidence that match-fixing has run rampant in the tennis sport for years and triggered a general discussion regarding the extent to which match-fixing has generally soaked through sports.

We are in possession of a huge one-of-a-kind data set on betting volumes across 50 different sports and hundreds of leagues that allows us to study this topic for the first time and trace suspicious instances of betting behavior. The data spans a time period of 9 years and provides detailed betting data (including the betting volume). The purpose of this PURM project is to capitalize on this data and help the PPE team to look into issues including but not limited to match-fixing. For students, this is a great opportunity to analyze big data, investigate suspicious patterns, and ultimately work at the forefront of crime analysis. Prior knowledge in working with STATA (or a related program) and econometric knowledge is helpful.

Summer 2016

Do Local Elections Increase Inequality?

This project is co-mentored with Marc Meredith. Two factors distinguish mayoral elections from other American contests: turnout is remarkably low and more affluent voters tend to participate at higher rates than other voters. At the same time, states and local jurisdictions have wide leverage to conduct elections as they see fit. This combination of features leads to a question relevant to scholarly and policy debates on elections: can we identify policy interventions (i.e. election day registration and convenience voting reforms) that reduce inequality in local elections? Knowledge of this question is limited in the academic literature, but advances in management and analysis of big data may be helpful to expand on what we already know about local elections. Interested students will assist with assembling a set of data from academic sources and official election results and with preliminary analyses of the data. Familiarity with Stata is beneficial, but not required.