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Working papers

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Does upward mobility harm trust ?

Rémi Suchon, Marie Claire Villeval, Working paper GATE 2018-01
While considered as appealing for positive and normative reasons, anecdotal evidence suggests that upward social mobility may harm interpersonal interactions. We report on an experiment testing the effect of upward social mobility on interpersonal trust. Individuals are characterized both by a natural group identity and by a status awarded by means of relative performance in a task in which natural identities strongly predict performance. Upward mobility is characterized by the access to the high status of individuals belonging to the natural group associated with a lower expected performance. We find that socially mobile individuals trust less than those who are not socially mobile, especially when the trustee belongs to the same natural group. In contrast, upward mobility does not affect trustworthiness. We find no evidence that interacting with an upwardly mobile individual impacts trust or trustworthiness.

Always doing your best ? Effort and performance in dynamic settings

Nicolas Houy, Jean-Philippe Nicolaï, Marie Claire Villeval, Working paper GATE 2017-36
Achieving an ambitious goal frequently requires succeeding in a sequence of intermediate tasks, some being critical for the final outcome, and others not. However, individuals are not always able to provide a level of effort sufficient to guarantee success in all such intermediate tasks. The ability to manage effort throughout the sequence of tasks is therefore critical when resources are limited. In this paper we propose a criterion that defines the importance of a task and identifies how an individual should optimally allocate a limited stock of exhaustible efforts over tasks. We test this importance criterion in a laboratory experiment that reproduces the main features of a tennis match. We show that our importance criterion is able to predict the individuals’ performance and it outperforms the Morris importance criterion that defines the importance of a point in terms of its impact on the probability of achieving the final outcome. We also find no evidence of choking under pressure and stress, as proxied by electrophysiological measures.