Working Papers

These papers (possibly in older versions) may also be available to download from SSRN

(with Martin Leroch)

Field studies of conflict report cycles of mutual revenge between groups, often linked to perceptions of intergroup injustice. We test the hypothesis that people are predisposed to reciprocate against groups. In a computerized laboratory experiment, subjects who were harmed by a partner’s uncooperative action reacted by harming other members of the partner’s group. This group reciprocity was only observed when one group was seen to be unfairly advantaged. Our results support a behavioral mechanism leading from perceived injustice to intergroup conflict. We discuss the relevance of group reciprocity to economic and political phenomena including conflict, discrimination and team competition.

(with Christoph Vanberg and Morimitsu Kurino)

We report an experiment on the Probabilistic Serial (PS) mechanism for allocating indivisible goods. The PS mechanism, a recently discovered alternative to the widely used Random Serial Dictatorship mechanism, has attractive fairness and efficiency properties if people report their preferences truthfully. However, the mechanism is not strategy-proof, so participants may not truthfully report their preferences. We investigate misreporting in a set of simple applications of the PS mechanism. We confront subjects with situations in which theory suggests that there is an incentive or no incentive to misreport. We find little misreporting in situations where misreporting is a Nash equilibrium. However, we also find a significant degree of misreporting in sitations where there is actually no benefit to doing so. These findings suggest that the PS mechanism may have problems in terms of truthful elicitation.

Screencast of instructions.

Previous political economy theories of globalization have focused on factor mobility's effect on different social groups. But factor mobility also increases competition between state rulers in providing services for their citizens. I ask how this interstate competition affects the process of political change in individual countries. In a simple model, interstate competition substitutes for democracy, by forcing rulers to invest in public goods so as to avoid capital and labor leaving the country. As a result, citizens are less willing to struggle for democracy, and rulers are less willing to oppose it, when interstate competition is strong. Therefore, there is less conflict over the level of democracy. The theory is tested on a post-war panel of countries, using the strength of neighboring countries' capital controls as a proxy for factor mobility. As the theory predicts, states experience fewer changes in their level of democracy when their neighbors are financially open.

Latest changes: New empirics using Chinn-Ito measure of financial openness.

(with David Reinstein)

Previous work has found that in social dilemmas, the selfish always free-ride, while others will cooperate if they expect their peers to do so as well. Outcomes may thus depend on conditional cooperators’ beliefs about the number of selfish types. An early round of the game may be played anonymously, so that contributions cannot be traced back to particular individuals. By protecting low contributors from potential sanctions, this encourages selfish types to reveal their true preferences in their play. We offer a simple model illustrating when revelation of types can increase contributions, and when only an anonymous game can separate types. As a proof of concept, we run a laboratory experiment involving a two-stage public goods game with an exclusion decision between stages. An anonymous first stage led to significantly higher stage-two cooperation than a revealed first stage, a slower decline across the 15 repetitions, unusually high final-stage contributions relative to previous work, and greater profits. Statistical analysis shows that the anonymous first stage reduced uncertainty about types, and this preserved cooperation and led to greater efficiency. Our results suggest that customs such as anonymous church donations may play an important role in building social trust.

Work in Progress

(Papers here may have gaps, informal comments, etc., and may change fast.)

Political Economy of Long-term Decisions.
Anonymity and Coercive Capacity (with Carlo Perroni).
Signalling in International Treaties (with Hugh Ward).

About me

I'm a lecturer in the Department of Government at the University of Essex, and Director of the Essex Social Science Experimental Laboratory (ESSEXLab)

Contact me

dhughj at