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Till Weber

PhD Candidate, School of Economics, Faculty of Social Sciences

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Biography

Till is a final year PhD student in the School of Economics Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics (CeDEx). The title of his thesis is "Strong Reciprocity - Norms and preferences governing cooperation and punishment behaviour". With the help of laboratory experiments, Till explores the driving factors of cooperation and norm enforcement in social dilemmas. Till holds an MSc in Behavioural Economics from the University of Nottingham and a BSc in Economics from the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet Munich.

Teaching Summary

Till is a Graduate Teaching Fellow at the School of Economics and Graduate School Presentation Skills Instructor. He received the School of Economics GTA Teaching Excellence Award in 2015 and 2016.… read more

Research Summary

"Strong Reciprocity and Selfishness Revisited" with Ori Weisel and Simon Gaechter.

The theory of strong reciprocity explains the emergence and maintenance of cooperation by the presence of individuals who are willing to incur costs to help other people who helped them ('strong positive reciprocity') and to punish people who wronged them ('strong negative reciprocity'), even in the absence of strategic incentives to do so. In contrast to such 'strong reciprocators', self-regarding people cooperate and punish only if there are sufficiently strong future benefits from doing so. Here, we test this 'Strong Reciprocators Assumption'. In a one-shot public good experiment, we measure participants' disposition towards strong positive reciprocity, and classify participants as either dispositional conditional cooperators (DCC) or dispositional free-riders (DFR). Participants then play a one-shot direct-response public goods game, either with or without punishment. We find that DFR only contribute to the public good when punishment is possible, whereas DCC also cooperate without a threat of punishment. Surprisingly, and in contrast with the 'Strong Reciprocators Assumption', the disposition towards strong positive reciprocity is unrelated to the disposition towards strong negative reciprocity; the punishment behavior of DCC and DFR is practically identical. The 'burden of cooperation' is thus carried by a larger set of individuals than previously assumed, which can help explain the high levels of cooperation observed when punishment opportunities are available.

"A Cross-Societal Comparison of Cooperative Attitudes and Norm Enforcement" with Benjamin Beranek, Simon Gaechter, Fatima Lambarraa and Jonathan F. Schulz (Unpublished Manuscript).

All societies face a multitude of small- and large-scale cooperation problems. Societal differences in culture and institutions have previously been identified as a key driver of individual cooperative behaviour when trading off between personal benefits and societal welfare. A possible explanation is that culture and institutions influence cooperative dispositions, beliefs, and the propensity to punish free riding, all of which jointly affect cooperative efforts. We measure these important factors using variants of public goods games with student participants in four countries (Morocco, Turkey, UK, US). We find that differences in the cooperation rates across societies cannot be explained by differing cooperative dispositions alone. Beliefs about other people's cooperative efforts and propensities to punish help to explain cross-societal variation in behaviour. Furthermore, costly altruistic punishment in our-one shot game is remarkably similar across different societies. This contrasts previous studies that use repeated games to investigate cross-societal differences in punishment. Thus societal differences in punishment are likely to be driven by strategic play or retaliation emerging in repeated interactions. Interestingly, we find that emotional responses to free riding are similar across societies, making negative emotions a likely driver of costly altruistic punishment.

"Sustaining Cooperation: A Comparative Evaluation of Cooperative Preferences, Peer Pressure and Formal Punishment" with Simon Gaechter and Ori Weisel (Unpublished Manuscript).

Cooperation--behaviour that is costly to the individual, but increases overall welfare--can root in different factors. It could be the result of an intrinsic motivation to cooperate, of informal punishment (e.g., peer-pressure), or of formal sanctioning institutions (i.e., police and courts). We report on a laboratory experiment designed to disentangle and quantify the relative impact of these three factors. We first elicit cooperative dispositions and then conduct four variations of public goods games: without punishment, with informal peer-punishment, with a formal sanctioning institution and lastly a combination of formal and informal punishment. Informal peer-punishment induced high and stable cooperation levels. The formal sanctioning institution was the least efficient in terms of social welfare. A best-reply analysis reveals that formal sanctions crowd out voluntary contributions. The combination of informal and formal sanctions leads to the highest levels of cooperation and efficiency, yet not significantly different from the levels induced by informal punishment alone. We conclude that informal peer-punishment is crucial in stabilizing cooperation levels in the long run. In contrast, the formal sanctioning institution encourages best-reply reasoning and only induces cooperation when the monetary incentives are large enough. Additionally, we find that a cooperative disposition supports the funding of pool-punishment, showing that the costly formation of formal sanctioning institutions can rely on a smaller share of supporters.

Recent Publications

  • WEBER, TILL OLAF, FOOKEN, JONAS and HERRMANN, BENEDIKT, 2014. Behavioural Economics and Taxation, European Commission Taxation Papers. Available at: <https://ideas.repec.org/p/tax/taxpap/0041.html>

Till is a Graduate Teaching Fellow at the School of Economics and Graduate School Presentation Skills Instructor. He received the School of Economics GTA Teaching Excellence Award in 2015 and 2016. Till lead seminars, tutorials and computer classes in the following modules:

  • Undergraduate Dissertation Seminars (L13500)
  • Applied Econometrics for Dissertation Computer Classes (L13500)
  • Economic Integration 1 (L11115)
  • Introduction to Microeconomics (L11100)
  • Introduction to Macroeconomics (L11200)
  • WEBER, TILL OLAF, FOOKEN, JONAS and HERRMANN, BENEDIKT, 2014. Behavioural Economics and Taxation, European Commission Taxation Papers. Available at: <https://ideas.repec.org/p/tax/taxpap/0041.html>

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