Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Christian A. Vossler

Committee Members

Scott Gilpatric, J. Scott Holladay, Philip Brookins


This dissertation presents three essays that use experimental economics methods. The first essay examines how behavior in inter-group contests is altered when players have incomplete information on their opponent. The game is a Tullock contest with heterogeneous groups (differences in cost-of-effort, prize value, and group-size), and players only know the probability their opponent is a particular type. For cost and value treatments, incomplete information increases effort in uneven contests but has no effect in even contests. Group-level effort is higher in group-size treatments, but incomplete information does not systematically alter effort. Overall, group-level effort is much higher than what standard theory predicts; however, extending the theory to consider behavioral motives (altruism, utility of winning) helps to reconcile theory and data.

The second essay examines the effects of using hypothetical bias reduction procedures in stated preference surveys designed to elicit demand for potential public policies. These procedures are commonly used due to a concern that people treat surveys as hypothetical choice settings, leading to elicitation bias. However, accumulated evidence indicates that most respondents perceive that their decisions are consequential, which questions the use of these procedures. I test popular bias reduction procedures in consequential settings: cheap-talk, solemn oath, and certainty adjustment. The oath increases willingness to pay (WTP), whereas certainty adjustment leads to large decreases in WTP estimates. Cheap-talk does not alter mean WTP. These results have important implications for practitioners, and provide a new vantage point from which to evaluate the appropriateness of these procedures.

The third essay examines the effects of using non-binding, exogenous team goals on worker effort in a weakest-link team production game. The experimental design varies the team goal (and whether a goal is present) and task complexity level (simple or complex), lending itself to identify a causal effect of complexity on goal effectiveness. When the task is simple, results indicate that easy goals may have a detrimental effect while difficult goals may increase team production. Interestingly, when the task is complex, implementing easier goals has no significant effect; however, difficult goals appear to improve team production. Study outcomes are expected to have important managerial implications.

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