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Cognitive Skills Explain Economic Preferences, Strategic Behavior, and Job Attachment

Author

Listed:
  • Burks, Stephen V.

    () (University of Minnesota, Morris)

  • Carpenter, Jeffrey P.

    () (Middlebury College)

  • Götte, Lorenz

    () (University of Bonn)

  • Rustichini, Aldo

    () (University of Minnesota)

Abstract

Economic analysis has said little about how an individual’s cognitive skills (CS's) are related to the individual’s preferences in different choice domains, such as risk-taking or saving, and how preferences in different domains are related to each other. Using a sample of 1,000 trainee truckers we report three findings. First, we show a strong and significant relationship between an individual’s cognitive skills and preferences, and between the preferences in different choice domains. The latter relationship may be counterintuitive: a patient individual, more inclined to save, is also more willing to take calculated risks. A second finding is that measures of cognitive skill predict social awareness and choices in a sequential Prisoner's Dilemma game. Subjects with higher CS's more accurately forecast others' behavior, and differentiate their behavior depending on the first mover’s choice, returning higher amount for a higher transfer, and lower for a lower one. After controlling for investment motives, subjects with higher CS’s also cooperate more as first movers. A third finding concerns on-the-job choices. Our subjects incur a significant financial debt for their training that is forgiven only after twelve months of service. Yet over half leave within the first year, and cognitive skills are also strong predictors of who exits too early, stronger than any other social, economic and personality measure in our data. These results suggest that cognitive skills affect the economic lives of individuals, by systematically changing preferences and choices in a way that favors the economic success of individuals with higher cognitive skills.

Suggested Citation

  • Burks, Stephen V. & Carpenter, Jeffrey P. & Götte, Lorenz & Rustichini, Aldo, 2008. "Cognitive Skills Explain Economic Preferences, Strategic Behavior, and Job Attachment," IZA Discussion Papers 3609, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp3609
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Jeffrey Carpenter & Stephen Burks & Lorenz Götte, 2006. "Performance Pay and the Erosion of Worker Cooperation: Field experimental evidence," Middlebury College Working Paper Series 0603, Middlebury College, Department of Economics.
    2. Fabio Maccheroni & Massimo Marinacci & Aldo Rustichini, 2006. "Ambiguity Aversion, Robustness, and the Variational Representation of Preferences," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 74(6), pages 1447-1498, November.
    3. Kahneman, Daniel & Tversky, Amos, 1979. "Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(2), pages 263-291, March.
    4. David Laibson, 1997. "Golden Eggs and Hyperbolic Discounting," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(2), pages 443-478.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    Keywords

    U.S. trucking industry; numeracy; IQ; social dilemma; Prisoners Dilemma; time preference; loss aversion; ambiguity aversion; risk aversion; field experiment; driver turnover; for-hire carriage; truckload (TL); employment duration; MPQ; survival model;

    JEL classification:

    • C81 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Data Collection and Data Estimation Methodology; Computer Programs - - - Methodology for Collecting, Estimating, and Organizing Microeconomic Data; Data Access
    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • L92 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Transportation and Utilities - - - Railroads and Other Surface Transportation
    • J63 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Turnover; Vacancies; Layoffs

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