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Spartan Psychology and Economics Advanced Research Lab

The Spartan Psychology and Economics Advanced Research (SPEAR) lab uses tools from behavioral economics to understand decision-making. The lab hosts studies that seek to contribute to various under-explored but critically important areas in behavioral economics. Below we describe two such studies, one potential direction for future research. As a new initiative at MSU, we look forward to building a collaborative community in the College.

Current Projects

Autonomy and Expert Advice

One research area pertains to the provision of expert advice for the adoption and sustained use of new technologies. This particularly speaks to development economics, which often utilizes expert advice as a policy tool to improve take-up of such technologies. Our lab is investigating the effects of autonomy in decision-making on the adoption and long-term persistence of recommended technologies. The project aims to answer several research questions:

  • Does autonomy in the choice of production method improve performance?

  • What are the underlying mechanisms if autonomy does improve performance?

  • Does autonomy increase compliance with expert advice in both the short and long term?

We are conducting lab experiments where subjects are tasked with building Lego figures using a specific method recommended by experts. Our experimental design aims to isolate the impact of autonomy on subjects' performance, recall of advice, and preferences for chosen technologies.

Improving Social Welfare Policies in Michigan 

Another focus area for SPEAR is understanding taxpayers’ responses to a changing Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The EITC is a pivotal tool in poverty reduction and a focus area for Michigan’s legislature and governor. We are designing field experiments to understand the role of individuals' beliefs in affecting EITC take-up rates. By examining the critical role of a person's beliefs in determining whether they claim the EITC, our research aims to inform policy-making to make EITC programs more efficient. We would like to pair these field efforts with in-person studies (recruiting from the local Lansing area) to better understand the determinants in EITC filing. We believe this line of research will yield significant returns in both publication outcomes and grant funding.

SPEAR Lab in Action

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