Our research focuses on four main themes:
- Cross-cultural interactions
- Third sector and public goods
- Cognition and emotions
- Online communities
Culture can have important effects on economic and business behaviour and interactions. Political scientists have highlighted cultural differences as an emerging source of potential conflict in international relations in the future. Economists have identified the impact of culture on economic variables at the national level such as development, productivity and trade. Business researchers study the effects of national culture and cultural difference in a globalising world where cross-national interaction has become the operating norm.
In CRIBS, we approach culture by assessing how it moderates decision making and behaviour at different levels - the individual, group or institution. Our aim is to investigate the role played by culture in a variety of international business situations, such as negotiating a strategic alliance or a merger, managing business government relations, or dealing with buyers and suppliers.
We are using a variety of tools to develop further a deeper understanding of the dynamics of cross-cultural interactions. We have conducted experiments, case-based longitudinal studies, as well as theory building to advance research in this area.
The third sector and public goods
The provision of a public good is difficult. Any member of a collective, e.g. a neighbourhood community, a team or an organisation, can benefit from it once it has been provided. The problem is that self-interested economic agents would rather let other agents bear the private costs of provision. If all reason alike, the collective good will not be provided-this is the infamous 'free-rider problem'.
Public good research is an attempt to understand the conditions under which people may either contribute or 'free ride'. At CRIBS, we seek to identify the behavioural determinants of cooperation - the psychological, cognitive, cultural or strategic reasons that cause an individual to cooperate.
For instance, Centre members have conducted experimental studies funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council assessing the effect of religiosity, religious denomination and religious difference on cooperation and trust.
Cognition and emotion
Much traditional social science is based on the assumption of rational choice, the notion that decision makers select the course of action that they believe, after correctly processing voluminous and relevant information, to best satisfy their consistent and stable set of preferences.
Recently, this view has been modified with insights about the psychology of human decision making. People are often unable to collect and process relevant information in an unbiased way, their preferences may be incomplete, changeable and contradictory. In addition, their choices might be guided by their emotions- the physiological states that reflect beliefs about one's environment that are experienced as positive or negative and create a tendency towards some action.
At CRIBS, we seek to understand the role of cognition and emotions in managerial decision-making under risk and uncertainty.
Our projects include:
- participation in one's group (such as experiencing guilt and pride)
- other people (admiration, jealousy)
- counterfactual states (feeling regret or hope) and to one's self (being bored, surprised)
- attitude to imprecise probabilities and conflict between experts
- various forms of rationality
This alternative view of managerial choice provides a potential explanation for cases where firms ostensibly fail to maximize their own interest or look beyond that of their shareholders, such as in the Enron affair, in acts of corporate philanthropy or even in the current financial crisis.
It might also account for entrepreneurs decision-making, as entrepreneurs are likely to rely on sophisticated intuitions calibrated by years of experience, and emotions alerting them to develop new trends and ideas.
CRIBS is examining behaviour in online communities.
Online communities are groups of people who operate and interact at least in part using Internet technologies. Typical technologies used to facilitate this interaction include email, wikis, instant messaging and virtual worlds.
Our projects include:
- why skilled software developers contribute to open source projects.
- anti-social behaviour in virtual worlds.
- how perceptions of fairness and altruism are affected by computer mediated communication.