Work in progress

Nudging Procrastination Away: The use of simplification and reminders in a dissertation project (with Panagiotis Giannarakis and Emanuela Lotti)

While literature has clearly established the detrimental effect that procrastination has on student performance, there is relatively sparse research on potential behavioural interventions to counter it. We apply a combined experimental and randomised control trial approach where we measure time and risk preferences for a cohort of students and then follow this with a nudge for the Treatment Group that combines the fragmentation of a large task into smaller chunks with a weekly reminder of the tasks to work on. We find that the intention to treat has no significant impact on either grades or submission time, unless the students followed through with our reminder and interacted with the task list. These students, who are actually treated, received significantly higher grades and submitted earlier than those who did not. The task list itself is a useful tool even if not coupled with the weekly reminder, it is significant for both groups of students and increases average grades, with those using it weekly receiving a grade that is on average 6.7 points higher than those who do not. In addition, the more tasks are completed the higher the grade received. If we look at subgroup effects we find that for those students who are risk averse submit earlier, although do not necessarily receive higher grades, and that treating this group leads to significantly earlier submission. Finally, our self-reported measure of procrastination is a poor predictor of actual behaviour, and observed procrastination on a low stakes online test is a significantly related to lower grades. These findings suggest that the task breakdown checklist is a helpful tool for long term assessment and that weekly reminders on their own are insufficient. Combining the two increases the use of the tool and improves student outcomes. This has important implications for higher education where students are allowed to carry out a greater degree of independent work. It suggests that providing bench marking forward-feedback can support self-led projects and improve student outcomes, but only if students decide to engage.

­­Using Virtual Exchange (VE) to Integrate and Develop Global and Cultural Competency for Students in an Economics Curriculum (with Amy Eremionkhale and Yidi Sun)

The global economy’s interconnected nature necessitates individuals with global competency skills, prompting educators to incorporate global competency-enhancing programs into curricula. Virtual exchange programs have emerged as a promising approach to enhance students’ global competency in economics education. This paper explores the implementation of a virtual exchange program between students at Georgia State University (GSU) in the US and Southampton University in the UK, aiming to increase their global competency. The effectiveness of the program is evaluated through pre- and post-surveys measuring changes in students’ global competency and analysis of their course grades. The results indicate that the virtual exchange program effectively enhanced students’ global competency skills, particularly among female and multilingual students, highlighting its potential to promote diversity and inclusion in economics education. The paper contributes to the literature by emphasizing the benefits of virtual exchange programs in enhancing global competencies and fostering diversity in the field.

Multi-attribute Elicitation of Time Preference (with Emmanouil Mentzakis)

Abstract: Many of the decisions we make as economic agents involve choices that play out over time. The literature on intertemporal preferences in the past three decades has accumulated a substantial array of evidence of the existence of so called discounting anomalies (Frederick, Loewenstein, and O’Donoghue (2002)). The approach that is usually taken to investigate these anomalies has been to apply a standard smaller sooner – larger later experimental format and varying one anomaly at a time. This paper explores the relationships between the discounting anomalies themselves by adapting a discrete choice experiment in order to elicit them simultaneously. It finds that the various anomalies are highly interacted, suggesting that their effect on utility is dependent on each other. This suggests that multi-attribute elicitation of such anomalies may provide further insight into their impact on discounting behaviour.


Experimental evidence on the effect of incentives and domain in risk aversion and discounting tasks (with Emmanouil Mentzakis) Journal of Risk and Uncertainty 2021, 62: 203–224

Link to Experimental Instructions

Abstract: Environmental policy evaluation is often criticised for employing discount rates that have little grounding in research. Yet, experimental research aimed at eliciting realistic rates will inevitably require strong assumptions of external validity, while also placing large cognitive demands on subjects by processing tasks of increased unfamiliarity. We use a controlled lab experiment to test the impact of incentives on risk aversion and discounting tasks for monetary and environmental goods. We find that, on average, incentives have little effect on risk aversion or discounting tasks in either domain. Exploring heterogeneity by treatment and socio-demographics some significant patterns emerge. Further, contrary to past work, we find evidence of domain (monetary vs. environmental good) effects in both risk and discounting.

Time Preference and Risk Aversion: Tests on Domain Differences (with Christos Ioannou)
Journal of Risk and Uncertainty 2016, 53, (1): 29-54

Abstract: Understanding how individuals discount and evaluate the risks of environmental outcomes is a prime component in designing effective environmental policy. We use an incentivized experimental design to investigate whether subjects’ time preferences and risk aversion across the monetary and the environmental domain differ. We find that subjects’ time preferences are not significantly different across the two domains. In contrast, subjects exhibit a higher degree of risk aversion in the environmental domain. Finally, we corroborate earlier results, documenting that women are more risk averse than men in the monetary domain, and show this finding to also hold in the environmental domain.

Why Give Away Your Wealth? An Analysis of the Billionaires’ View (with Mirco Tonin and Michael Vlassopoulos)
Chapter in: “Social Economics”, edited by J. Costa-Font and M. Macis, MIT press, 2015

Abstract: We explore what motivates the philanthropic activity of extremely wealthy individuals and families. We focus on a recent large-scale philanthropic initiative by billionaires, the Giving Pledge, a commitment to donating half or more of one’s wealth. We perform two pieces of analysis: first, we investigate what personal characteristics of billionaires are associated with becoming a pledger. Second, we undertake a textual analysis of the pledgers’ letters describing their philanthropic outlook and classify their motivation into ten categories. We then correlate these motivational categories with various personal characteristics of the pledgers. The main insights obtained from our analysis are that pledgers are more likely to be self-made billionaires, and that their philanthropy is impact-driven.

Heterogeneities in Time Discounting Preferences of Environmental Projects: Some Experimental Results
Bank of Valletta Review

Abstract: The issue of discounting environmental projects is a contentious one, with individuals from different fields holding very strong, and often opposing opinions about the matter. Even within the field of economics there is a lack of consensus on what is an appropriate discount rate, with a number of prominent economists believing that environmental projects should not be treated any different from private investment projects when it comes to discounting. Using an innovative experimental methodology developed by the author, this study pilots an approach which shows that the intertemporal preferences of individuals vary not only between private and environmental projects but, equally importantly, between different groups of people. These findings reinforce the need to use a specific discount rate for assessing environmental projects which is properly representative of heterogeneities in social preferences in this regard.

Discussion Papers

Procrastination with flexible deadlines: Can it wait? (with Panagiotis Giannarakis and Emanuela Lotti) – May 2023

This work analyses the link between procrastination on long-duration assessment and academic performance in an environment with flexible deadlines. We use a change in extension policy during COVID to capture a more realistic measure of students’ procrastination. We show that there is a negative correlation between date of submission and assessment marks which, after controlling for various confounding factors, suggests that academic procrastination has a negative impact on academic performance. The results suggest also that further work is needed in identifying the most appropriate assessment structure of long-duration assessments and in introducing interventions aimed at reducing academic procrastination.

Case Studies

Keeping students engaged with elements of flipped, collaborative and adaptive learning techniques

Following a particularly disappointing performance by students in 2021/22 I set about radically shaking up my third-year Public Economics module. I incorporated some of the key lessons that economists have learned from the fields of mechanism design and behavioural economics to achieve increased student performance and engagement. This case study explains how I went about doing this.