TIBER 2017 Symposium #TIBER2017

The TIBER 2017 Symposium on Psychology and Economics took place on August 25, 2017 in Tilburg [full program, my tweets from that day]. Interesting day, and good to see some people from the financial industry (ING, Rabobank).

Keynote Ralph Hertwig (from the Gigerenzer-school) kicked off with a talk on Preferential Heuristics, Uncertainty and the Structure of the Environment.

He started by quoting a 1967 paper Man as an intuitive statistician where Peterson and Beach argue that “Man gambles well”. But the Tversky and Kahneman-paradigm a couple of years later proved more influential, puzzling Hertwig.

Description vs. Experience
Tversky and Kahneman were influential with tasks where risks where described, instead of uncertainty experienced.

Hertwig shows figures from A meta-analytic review of two modes of learning and the description-experience gap (2016) DU Wulff, M Mergenthaler Canesco, R Hertwig.

Especially with low, true probabilities, there are large effects between answers to a choice formulated descriptively, versus the choice made after experiencing pay-offs. (DU =  discrete underweighting). From Wikipedia: “in experienced prospects, people tend to underweight the probability of the extreme outcomes and therefore judge them as being even less likely to occur.”


Adaptive decision maker has to make a trade-off between accuracy-effort. So heuristics can be effective, says Hertwig.

Hertwig on risk communication:

And research methods (why do adults score worse than babies or chimps?)

Parallel sessions
First, I went to Ozan Isler; Honesty, Cooperation & Social Influence, who:

we present a new mind-game that is powerful enough to measure honesty at the
individual level and fast enough to be implemented online. The game consists of forty rounds. In each round, the participant is first asked to think of a number between 0 and 9, then shown a single-digit random number, and finally asked to report whether the two numbers match.

Then I saw a talk about changing faces with FaceGen on a trustworthiness scale and playing a dictator game. The cool thing was the stopping rule: they started with N=30 participants, and would add N=5 until BayesFactor was either > 3 or < 1/3.

Next, I saw Tony Evans: The reputational consequences of generalized trust

Final morning talk: Stefan Trautmann – Implementing Fair Procedures? “We find that unfair outcomes are acceptable for the agents if procedures are perceived as fair. However, with opaque allocation decisions, it may be difficult to commit to fair allocation procedures. Indeed, we find a very high degree of favoritism by the decision
makers when they are forced to allocate unequal outcomes, and have no fair (random) procedure available

During lunch I read two interesting posters, one by my DNB-colleague Carin van der Cruijsen on DNB Working Paper No. 563: Payments data: do consumers want to keep them in a safe or turn them into gold?

And a poster by a collaborator of Stefan Zeisberger (Nijmegen), whom we’ll also collaborate with. Basically, people do trade on their beliefs if they are in the plus (have gained), but not/less so when they are in the red.

Afternoon sessions
I attended this talk because it used Bayesian statistics, but the unfortunately did not feature very much in the presentation: Peer effects on risky decision making from early adolescence to young adulthood: Specificity and boundary conditions.

Then Less Likely Outcomes Are Valued Less by Gabriele Paolacci (who is male, incidentally): “We found that people value the gift card less when its availability is uncertain.” Somewhat interesting, not very applicable. This effect might counter the scarcity-argument in marketing a bit, but doesn’t seem likely.

Final talk was Jan Stoop with a replication of The Rich Drive Differently, a Study Suggests (2013). Stoop et al found nothing, across wide range of settings and with 2.5x N of original study.

After tea
First up: Financial Incentives Beat Social Norms: A Field Experiment on Retirement Information Search [Netspar presentation, SSRN). Presentation by Inka Eberhardt. I had seen this work before, then presented by co-author Paul Smeets. It is a really big RCT (N=250,000) RCT, sending letters to get them to sign in to their personal webpage at their pension fund. Q&A was a bit disappointing, I didn’t think the answers were particularly strong.

Pollmann’s talk Let’s talk about money: Attachment style, financial communication, and
financial conflict concluded with a suggestion to Nibud for a web tool Let’s talk about money.

Final talk was Diffusion of culpability in reparations behavior. Results for a novel task were presented, fMRI results are forthcoming.

TIBER 2017 was concluded by Bertil Tungodden’s keynote: Fairness and Redistribution: Experimental Evidence.

Tungodden presented on a paper that is nicely summarized in this HBR article: Is It OK to Get Paid More for Being Lucky?


The Rise of Behavioural Discrimination & Virtual Competition

This blog post Big data and first-degree price discrimination (thanks Patricia) led me to the work of Ariel Ezrachi and Maurice Stucke. As Silvia Merler writes:

[Ezrachi and Stucke] argue that online behavioural discrimination will differ from the price discrimination we have seen in the retail world in three important respects:

  1. Big data allow the shift from third-degree, imperfect price discrimination to near perfect price discrimination;
  2. Sellers can use big data to target consumers with the right “emotional pitch” to increase overall consumption (the demand curve shifts to the right)
  3. As more online retailers personalise pricing and product offerings, it will be harder for consumers to discover a general market price and to assess their outside options, thus implying that behavioural discrimination becomes more durable.

Ezrachi and Stucke published a book in 2016: Virtual Competition (on my to read pile, reserved it at the University Library; book’s webpage also contains a lot of extra info/links).

Behavioural discrimination
I did read their paper The rise of behavioural discrimination (37 European Competition Law Review 484 (2016)).

New dynamics that reduce our welfare? (…) Our article explores how e-commerce and the personalisation of our online environment can give rise to behavioural discrimination, a durable, more pernicious form of price discrimination.”

I. Near perfect price discrimination

Third-degree price discrimination, which involves the charging of different prices to different groups. The price can depend, among other things, on your location (i.e. where you live), your age, or your sex. Cinemas, bus services, and restaurants, for example, may charge adults higher prices than children, students or senior citizens.

By contrast, in this article, our focus is on the possible shift to perfect, or first-degree, price discrimination—where firms can identify and charge for each individual the most he or she is willing to pay, i.e. the reservation price.

“Big Data, learning by doing, and the scale of experiments come into play to better approximate your reservation price.”

“In this data-driven economy, the algorithm—to maximise profitability—will estimate the likelihood of our shopping elsewhere or being aware of better deals and accordingly provide us with a convincing sales pitch.” (e.g. coupons and promotion codes for customers more sensitive to outside options, i.e. more price-sensitive customers who are likeley to compare option, more sophisticated consumers. Naieve consumers can be exploited more efficiently).

II. Shifting the demand curve to the right

Sellers using our personal data to induce us to buy more products or services than
we otherwise would have purchased.

A few consumer biases, which firms may exploit to promote consumption:

  • Use of decoys
  • Price steering, e.g. On Orbitz, Mac Users Steered to Pricier Hotels
  • Increasing complexity; facilitate consumer error or bias and manipulate consumer demand to their advantage (…) companies can, by designing the number and types of options they offer, better exploit consumers’ cognitive overload. In increasing complexity, the firms can also increase consumers’ search and switching costs, thereby reducing the visibility (and attraction) of outside options, and giving them more latitude to exploit consumers.
  • Imperfect willpower “framing effects” (how the issue is worded or framed) do matter. Credit cards are one example. Here they cite a Dutch study The abolition of the No-discrimination Rule from 2000 (!) with N=150 consumers (!) surveyed. Dutch
    merchants could impose surcharges or offer discounts based on how the customer was going to pay. Of the consumers surveyed, 74% thought it (very) bad if a merchant asked for a surcharge for using a credit card. But when asked about a merchant offering a cash discount, only 49% thought it (very) bad. A weak spot in an excellent paper.

The road to near-perfect behavioural discrimination will be paved with personalised coupons and promotions: the less price-sensitive online customers may not care as much if others are getting promotional codes, coupons, and so on, as long as the list price does not increase. (p.488)


Another way to frame behavioural discrimination in a palatable manner is to ascribe the pricing deviations to shifting market forces. Few people pay the same price for corporate stock. They accept that the pricing differences are responsive to market changes in supply and demand (dynamic pricing) rather than price discrimination (differential pricing). So once consumers accept that prices change rapidly (such as airfare, hotels, etc.), they have lower expectations of price uniformity among competitors. One hotel may be charging a higher price because of its supply of rooms (rather than discriminating against that particular user). (…) Thus, we may not know when pricing is dynamic, discriminatory, or both.


III. The durability of behavioural discrimination

it will be harder to know what others see. (…) As personalised offerings increase, search costs will also increase for consumers seeking to identify the “true” market price.

Behavioural discrimination—while not always possible—could occur more often than we expect. Furthermore, as we shift more of our activities to a controlled online ecosystem, it is likely to intensify.

The power to discriminate may be curtailed by possible pushback from consumers (I personally doubt it).

Price comparison websites may foster, rather than foil, behavioural discrimination and switching costs may be higher than one assumes, despite perceived competition being only a click away. (from the footnotes related to this quote: As more consumers rely (and trust) an intermediary to deliver the best results (whether relevant results to a search query or array of goods and services), the less interested they become in multi-homing—that is, from checking the availability of products and prices elsewhere. And: many users who indicated that when a search result is fails to meet their expectations they will “try to change the search query—not the search engine.”


IV. The welfare effects of behavioural discrimination

sellers can manipulate our environment to increase overall consumption, without necessarily increasing our welfare.

Once one accounts the consumer perspective, the social welfare perspective, and the limited likelihood of total welfare increasing, behavioural discrimination is likely a toxic combination. Moreover, behavioural discrimination may blur into actual discrimination due to the limits and costs of refined aggregation.

The worrying thing is that we (and the enforcers) may not even know that we are being discriminated against. Under the old competitive paradigm, one might suspect one was discriminated against if access was inexplicably denied (e.g. restaurants for “whites only”) or was charged a higher price based on this single variable. Under the new paradigm, users may not detect the small but statistically significant change in targeted advertisements (or advertised rates).



As pricing norms change, price and behavioural discrimination eventually may be accepted as the new normal. Just as we have accepted (or become resigned to) the quality degradation of air travel, and the rise of airline fees—from luggage to printing boarding passes—our future norms may well include online segmentation and price discrimination.

The costs can be significant. The new paradigm of behavioural discrimination affects not only our pocketbook but our social environment, trust in firms and the marketplace, personal autonomy, privacy and well-being.


Some other relevant links:

Week van Wilte in Tweets #32


Academy Talk

Samen Job een filmpje opgenomen voor de Insurance Academy. We leggen in 4 minuten uit wat we bij team Consumentengedrag doen. Check www.afm.nl/cg.



Paar mooie staaltjes van effectieve gedragsbeinvloeding (in filmpje noemden we dat ‘interventies’):

Of mooi onderzocht, effect van simpele vuistregel (“Don’t swipe the small stuff. Use cash when it’s under $20.” reduceerde credit card debt).

En ook aardig is dit rijtje:



Deze grafiek is heel krachtig:


Foxes, Rick Roll & 90-jarige maakt salto van duikplank.


Afgelopen week veel geretweet over ophef rond de memo over diversiteit bij Google. Ik vind het te dogmatisch om biologische component helemaal af te schrijven als mogelijke oorzaak verschil tussen de seksen. (Soms) interessant debat.

Why controllers compromise on their fiduciary duties: EEG evidence on the role of the human mirror neuron system

Why controllers compromise on their fiduciary duties: EEG evidence on the role of the human mirror neuron system – Philip I. Eskenazi, Frank G.H. Hartmann & Wim J.R. Rietdijk. Accounting, Organizations and Society 50 (2016): 41-50.


Business unit (BU) controllers play a fiduciary role to ensure the integrity of financial reporting. However, they often face social pressure from their BU managers to misreport. Drawing on the literature on the human mirror neuron system, this paper investigates whether controllers’ ability to withstand such pressure has a neurobiological basis. We expect that mirror neuron system functionality determines controllers’ inclination to succumb to social pressure exerted by self-interested managers to engage in misreporting.

We measure mirror neuron system functionality using electroencephalographic (EEG) data from 29 professional controllers during an emotional expressions observation task. The controllers’ inclination to misreport was measured using scenarios in which controllers were being pressed by their manager to misreport.

We find a positive association between controllers’ mirror neuron system functionality and their inclination to yield to managerial pressure. In line with our expectation, we find that this association existed specifically for scenarios in which managers pressed their controllers out of personal rather than organizational interests. We conclude that BU controllers’ neurobiological characteristics are involved in financial misreporting behavior and discuss the implications for accounting research and practice.

Hypothesis: For BU [Business Unit] controllers, we expected that hMNS [human mirror neuron system] functionality predicts controllers’ vulnerability to the social pressure to misreport exerted by BU managers.

An important characteristic of the role of BU controllers is the combination of local (to support their BU managers in operational and strategic decision making) and functional (fiducary duty) responsibilities.

Method: N=29 study with 3 scenario’s x 2 contexts (managers’ personal/ self-interest, or organizational interest).

EEG: Individual levels of hMNS functionality can be observed in electroencephalogram (EEG) recordings of brain activity (…) The associated weakening of the EEG signal is called mu suppression. Mu suppression has been shown to be a robust and valid indicator of hMNS functionality (…) lower values indicate more “mirroring”, associated with higher levels of sensitivity to others’ emotions.

For example scenario below, correlation between cooperation and MU: r = .406, p = .029


Result: Our findings indicate a strong association between hMNS functionality and controllers’ inclination to yield to BU managers’ pressure to misreport when this pressure stems from BU managers’ personal interests rather than from managers’ concerns with organizational interests.

our study suggests that emotional influence may cause excessive alignment between the interests pursued by the BU manager and those served by the reporting behaviors of the BU controller. In designing internal control structures, organizations need to be aware of the reporting risks associated with the expansion of “business partner” controllers.

Week van Wilte in Tweets #31

Door vakantie een paar weken over geslagen voor #wvwit. Ook minder getweet. Hierbij een “weken van Wilte in tweets”.

Search for Yield

“Door de lage rente op spaargeld zijn consumenten op zoek naar alternatieven met een hoger rendement, waardoor ze ook meer risico kunnen lopen.” schrijft de AFM in haar Agenda 2017. Spaarrentes die naar nul gaan dragen daar aan bij. Zie ook Negatieve spaarrente en spaargedrag met Mark Pooters, ESB 101(4732), 14 april 2016, p.272. [pdf]. DFT: Spaargeld gaat naar kluis en Z24 hierover Negatieve spaarrente? Dan stopt een derde van de spaarders geld in een kluis.

Hoe hoog de (nominale) rente is (of voorgespiegeld risicovrij rendement) bepaalt ook de risico-inschatting/vermogens-allocatie, blijkt uit interessant consumentenonderzoek uit Harvard.


AFM optredens

Mijn collega Jeroen van den Bosch zat in een webinar van ABP over de pensioenpot. Daarin maakte hij ook mooie reclame voor de gedragsdeskundigen bij de AFM. Job van Wolferen en ik namen recent een filmpje op over gedragswetenschappen bij de AFM (www.afm.nl/cg), binnenkort te zien. En Online Dialogue (bedrijf van Bart Schutz) schreef ook wat over EUropean COngress of Psychology, waar ik ook sprak (mijn slides)

Niet van de AFM, maar wel relevant voor de discussies over eigen verantwoordelijkheid versus paternalisme:

Webstats & belegginskosten

Nu ook blogpost over werk van FCA naar surfgedrag beleggers en hun kostenbewustzijn. Intentie (kosten zijn echt heel belangrijk bij mijn beslissing) strookt niet met gedrag (weinig pageviews voor pagina’s met kosten, bijna niemand sorteert beleggingen op kosten).

Ander interessant onderzoek

Nieuwe hobby

Spotify playlist met een bepaald thema maken. Zo heb ik al “fruit”, “dag van de week”, “3G” (drie dames), “herhalende bandnaam”. Ook leuk voor quizzes denk ik.

Coole filmpjes