Research

Current Working Papers:

Work in progress:

  • Bombs, Broadcasts, and Betrayal at the Home Front: Determinants of Treason in Germany during World War II (with Ruben Enikolopov, Maria Petrova, and Hans-Joachim Voth)

Research interests:
How can we stimulate change in attitudes and long-term behavior? How can we encourage Greeks to pay taxes and children to read books? How can we turn nonvoters into voters and nondonors into donors? How can we eliminate xenophobia?

A parent might explain to a child the danger of the hot stove again and again but only when she touches it she learns a lesson for life. And some experiences are even so persistent that they outlive generations. For example, medieval anti-Jewish pogroms seem to have led to a higher acceptance of xenophobic violence centuries later in the places where they happened than in similar places without pogroms (Voigtländer and Voth 2012). Those extreme events result in permanent (positive or negative) shifts in behavior patterns. Policy makers are interested in achieving long-lasting positive changes in citizens’ beliefs and actions but, in practice, taking such exceptional measures is either not feasible or cannot be justified on ethical grounds. What interventions can one then design to achieve deep learning and shifts in behavior patterns? Why do some interventions work and others fail despite high investment?

The possible solutions include incentives, institutions, persuasive communication, and education. My research aims at better understanding which of those are applicable and why they might fail nonetheless.