Past experiments by other researchers

Gender, social value orientation, and tax compliance.

D’Attoma, J. W., Volintiru, C., & Malézieux, A. (2020). CESifo Economic Studies, 66(3), 265-284.

Abstract: This article brings an important empirical contribution to the academic literature by examining whether gender differences in tax compliance are due to higher prosociality among women. We conducted a large cross-national tax compliance experiment carried out in different countries—Italy, UK, USA, Sweden, and Romania. We uncover that women declare a significantly higher percentage of their income than men in all five countries. While some scholars have argued that differences in honesty between men and women are mediated by prosociality, we find that women are not more prosocial than men in all countries and we do not find a mediating effect of prosocial behaviour on tax compliance. Though tax evasion is a form of dishonesty, the tax compliance experiment is quite different from an honesty experiment, which is certainly one explanation for the different results. We conclude that although differences in prosociality between men and women seem to be context-dependent, differences in tax compliance are indeed much more consistent.

More bang for your buck: tax compliance in the United States and Italy.

D’Attoma, J. (2020). Journal of public policy, 40(1), 1-24.

Abstract: I investigate the relationship between perception of public institutions and tax compliance using a large tax compliance laboratory experiment conducted in Italy and the United States. In the first test, I conduct a simple tax compliance game to uncover that given the exact same decisions, contributions to the public good do not differ between Italy and the United States. Second, I ask participants to pay taxes to their national government, pension fund and fire department. In these rounds, behaviours diverge with Italian participants complying significantly less than Americans. Theoretically, I provide evidence demonstrating that how individuals perceive their institutions is a crucial component of the tax compliance decision. Methodologically, I provide a unique experiment, which can help us to better explain crosscountry variation in tax compliance, by asking subjects to make country-specific tax decisions.

Does information about toughness decrease fighting? Experimental evidence.

Szekely, A., & Gambetta, D. (2020).PloS one, 15(2), e0228285.

Abstract: Will fights erupt when resources are scarce and the rules regulating their distribution are absent or ignored? We conjecture that the answer depends on whether credible information about individuals’ toughness is available. When people send credible signs and signals of their toughness disputes may be solved without violence. We use a laboratory experiment in which subjects create information about their toughness and decide whether to take others’ resources and resist in case others’ attempt to take theirs. Subjects perform a potentially painful but safe physical exercise to create information and to determine who wins and loses fights. This, realistically, ranks subjects according to their toughness and implicates toughness, a quality important in real conflict, in fighting. We find that, consistent with theory, information reduces fighting. This suggests that, in addition to the theories traditionally used to explain prisoner behavior, the availability of credible information about toughness influences prison conflict.

What explains the North–South divide in Italian tax compliance? An experimental analysis

D’Attoma, J. (2019). Acta Politica, 54(1), 104-123.

Abstract: I undertake a comparative study assessing the North–South divide in Italian tax compliance, employing the largest behavioral tax compliance experiment to date. Contrary to a large body of literature, I argue that willingness to pay taxes is constructed within a specific institutional environment and reflects the country’s quality of institutions. To test this hypothesis, I use controlled tax compliance experiments from four laboratories in Capua, Rome, Bologna, and Milan. By employing the experimental method, I am able to hold institutions constant allowing me to isolate cultural variation. Contrary to cultural explanations for tax compliance, when controlling the institutional environment, there is no difference in tax compliance. Furthermore, using social value orientation to compare prosociality, I also find no differences between the two regions. I therefore conclude that individuals’ relationship to their states shapes these behavioral differences in tax compliance

Sharing compromising information as a cooperative strategy.

Gambetta, D., & Przepiorka, W. (2019). Sociological Science, 6, 352-379.

Abstract: Well-enforced norms create an opportunity for norm breakers to cooperate in ventures requiring trust. This is realized when norm breakers, by sharing evidence of their breaches, make themselves vulnerable to denunciation and therefore trustworthy. The sharing of compromising information (SCI) is a strategy employed by criminals, politicians, and other actors wary of their partners’ trustworthiness in which the cost of ensuring compliance is offloaded on clueless norm enforcers. Here we introduce SCI as a sui generis cooperative strategy and test its functioning experimentally. In our experiment, subjects first acquire the label “dove” or “hawk” depending on how cooperative or uncooperative they are, respectively. Hawks acquire compromising information embodied in their label and can reveal it before an interaction with trust at stake. Unlike doves, hawks who reveal their label make themselves vulnerable to their partners, who can inflict a penalty on them after interaction. We find that even students in as artificial a setting as a computerized decision laboratory grasp the advantage of SCI and use it to cooperate. Our results corroborate the idea that compromising information can be conceived as a “hostage” that, when mutually exchanged, makes each party to the interaction vulnerable and therefore trustworthy in joint endeavours

The role of gender in the provision of public goods through tax compliance.

Bruner, D. M., D'Attoma, J., & Steinmo, S. (2017). Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics, 71, 45-55.

Abstract: The existing experimental literature suggests women are more compliant than men when paying taxes but may free ride more when contributing to public goods. It is unclear which effect dominates when paying for public goods through taxation. Experiments conducted in three European countries and the U.S. are used to investigate this issue. The results suggest that women bear a greater burden of the provision of public goods for the parameters in the experiment. The results indicate the gender gap in compliance is due to differences in both the extensive and intensive margins.

Willing to share? Tax compliance and gender in Europe and America.

D’Attoma, J., Volintiru, C., & Steinmo, S. (2017). Research & Politics, 4(2), 2053168017707151.

Abstract: Studies examining the effects of gender on honesty, deceptive behavior, pro-sociality, and risk aversion, often find significant differences between men and women. The present study contributes to the debate by exploiting one of the largest tax compliance experiments to date in a highly controlled environment conducted in the United States, the United Kingdom, Sweden, and Italy. Our expectation was that the differences between men’s and women’s behavior would correlate broadly with the degree of gender equality in each country. Where social, political and cultural gender equality is greater we expected behavioral differences between men and women to be smaller. In contrast, our evidence reveals that women are significantly more compliant than men in all countries. Furthermore, these patterns are quite consistent across countries in our study. In other words, the difference between men’s and women’s behavior is not significantly different in more gender neutral countries than in more traditional societies.

Social influence on third-party punishment: An experiment.

Fabbri, M., & Carbonara, E. (2017). Journal of Economic Psychology, 62, 204-230.

Abstract:We study the effect of social influence on agents’ decisions to engage in costly decentralized third-party punishment. In a laboratory experiment, participants play a modified Dictator game with third-party punishment and we elicit punishment decisions both in isolation and after providing information about peers’ average punishment. Results show that social influence is a major driver of third-party punishment: after receiving information on peers’ average punishment, participants revise initial punishment choices and seek conformity. Social influence effects are stronger when peers punished more than the individual punisher and conformity implies revising punishment upward. Adding to the information on peers’ punishment the possibility for other participants to sanction or reward with an emoticon the choices of the individual punisher does not change results. Our findings contrast with the predictions of major theories of social preferences and are only explained by special cases of models incorporating aversion to norm-breaking.

One swallow doesn't make a summer: New evidence on anchoring effects.

Maniadis, Z., Tufano, F., & List, J. A. (2014). American Economic Review, 104(1), 277-90.

Abstract: Some researchers have argued that anchoring in economic valuations casts doubt on the assumption of consistent and stable preferences. We present new evidence that explores the strength of certain anchoring results. We then present a theoretical framework that provides insights into why we should be cautious of initial empirical findings in general. The model importantly highlights that the rate of false positives depends not only on the observed significance level, but also on statistical power, research priors, and the number of scholars exploring the question. Importantly, a few independent replications dramatically increase the chances that the original finding is true.