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The Making of Homo Honoratus: From Omission to Commission

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Listed:
  • Michael Hallsworth
  • John A. List
  • Robert D. Metcalfe
  • Ivo Vlaev

Abstract

Framing remains one of the pillars of behavioral economics. While framing effects have been found to be quite important in the lab, what is less clear is how well evidence drawn from naturally-occurring settings conforms to received laboratory insights. We use debt obligation to the UK government as a case study to explore the ‘omission bias’ present in decision making with large stakes. Using a natural field experiment that generates nearly 40,000 observations, we find that repayment rates are roughly doubled when the act is reframed as one of commission rather than omission. We estimate that this reframing of the perceived nature of the action generated over $1.3 million of new yield. We find evidence that this behavior may result from a deliberate ‘omission strategy’, rather than a behavioral bias, as is often assumed in the literature. Our natural field experiment highlights that behavioral economics is much more than a series of empirical exercises to quench the intellectual curiosity of academics.

Suggested Citation

  • Michael Hallsworth & John A. List & Robert D. Metcalfe & Ivo Vlaev, 2015. "The Making of Homo Honoratus: From Omission to Commission," NBER Working Papers 21210, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:21210
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    Cited by:

    1. Jan-Emmanuel De Neve & Clement Imbert & Maarten Luts & Johannes Spinnewijn & Teodora Tsankova, 2019. "How to improve tax compliance? Evidence from population-wide experiments in Belgium," CEP Discussion Papers dp1621, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    2. Hallsworth, Michael & List, John A. & Metcalfe, Robert D. & Vlaev, Ivo, 2017. "The behavioralist as tax collector: Using natural field experiments to enhance tax compliance," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 148(C), pages 14-31.
    3. Eszter Czibor & David Jimenez‐Gomez & John A. List, 2019. "The Dozen Things Experimental Economists Should Do (More of)," Southern Economic Journal, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 86(2), pages 371-432, October.
    4. Leonardo Bursztyn & Stefano Fiorin & Daniel Gottlieb & Martin Kanz, 2019. "Moral Incentives in Credit Card Debt Repayment: Evidence from a Field Experiment," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 127(4), pages 1641-1683.
    5. Ninghua Du & Lingfang Li & Tian Lu & Xianghua Lu, 2020. "Prosocial Compliance in P2P Lending: A Natural Field Experiment," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 66(1), pages 315-333, January.
    6. Olivier Mesly & David W. Shanafelt & Nicolas Huck, 2020. "Dysfunctional markets: A spray of prey perspective," Working Papers of BETA 2020-34, Bureau d'Economie Théorique et Appliquée, UDS, Strasbourg.
    7. Boonmanunt, Suparee & Kajackaite, Agne & Meier, Stephan, 2020. "Does poverty negate the impact of social norms on cheating?," EconStor Open Access Articles, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, pages 569-578.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C9 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments
    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • H2 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue
    • K0 - Law and Economics - - General

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