Current Position
Professor of Economics, New York University in Abu Dhabi  

Editorial Positions
Main research interests
evolution of cooperation, conflict resolution, determinants of anti-social and pro-social behavior.  

Latest publications
"Altruistic punishment does not increase with the severity of norm violations in the field" (w. Loukas Balafoutas and Bettina Rockenbach). forthcoming in Nature Communications

AbstractThe degree of human cooperation among strangers is a major evolutionary puzzle. A prominent explanation is that cooperation is maintained because many individuals have a predisposition to punish those violating group-beneficial norms. A critical condition for cooperation to evolve in evolutionary models is that punishment increases with the severity of the violation. Here we present evidence from a field experiment with real-life interactions that, unlike in lab experiments, altruistic punishment does not increase with the severity of
the violation, regardless of whether it is direct (confronting a violator) or indirect (withholding help). We also document growing concerns for counter-punishment as the severity of the violation increases, indicating that the marginal cost of direct punishment increases with the severity of violations. The evidence suggests that altruistic punishment may not provide appropriate incentives to deter large violations. Our findings thus offer a rationale for the emergence of formal institutions for promoting large-scale cooperation among strangers.

"Coordination with third-party externalities" (w. James Bland) European Economic Review (2015) 80, 1–15

Abstract: When agents face coordination problems their choices often impose externalities on third parties. If an agent cares about them or believes others do, they can affect equilibrium selection. We present evidence from lab experiments showing that changes in the size and the sign of third-party externalities have a significant impact on tacit coordination. Decision makers are more willing to incur a cost to try to avoid imposing a large negative externality on a third party, than they are to avoid a small negative externality or to generate a large positive externality. However, when decision-makers' incentives are at odds with the interests of third parties, many of them appear to ignore third-party externalities even if they are large in magnitude, and ignoring them implies substantial earning inequalities and reductions in group earnings. Individuals revealed to be other-regarding in a non-strategic allocation task often behave as-if selfish when trying to coordinate. We discuss explanations for our findings.

"In the long run we are all dead: On the benefits of peer punishment in rich environments" (w. Dirk Engelmann) Social Choice and Welfare (2015) 45 (3), 561-577.

AbstractWe investigate whether peer punishment is an efficient mechanism for enforcing cooperation in an experiment with a long time horizon. Previous evidence suggests that the costs of peer punishment can be outweighed by the benefits of higher cooperation if (i) there is a sufficiently long time horizon and (ii) punishment cannot be avenged. However, in most instances in daily life, when individuals interact for an extended period of time, punishment can be retaliated. We use a design that imposes minimal restrictions on who can punish whom or when, and allows participants to employ a wide range of punishment strategies including retaliation of punishment. Similar to previous research, we find that, when punishment cannot be avenged, peer punishment leads to higher earnings relative to a baseline treatment without any punishment opportunities. However, in the more general setting, we find no evidence of group earnings increasing systematically or significantly over time relative to the baseline treatment. Our results raise questions under what conditions peer punishment can be an efficient mechanism for enforcing cooperation.

Office hours 
Tuesday and Thursday, 9-10 am
For meetings outside these hours, please send me an email.

Office location
NYU Abu Dhabi, Saadiyat Island, Building A5, Office 1143

This website was (partly) updated on: Dec 22, 2015