Ph.D. Spotlight: Networks and Economic Behavior: Theory and Experiments

We live in a highly connected world and individuals rarely, if ever, make decisions in complete isolation. Rather, our decisions and subsequent outcomes are often influenced by the decisions of others around us. Social, economic, and organizational networks are complex, and, therefore, it is important to understand how the structure of these networks influences behavior. This dissertation is comprised of three independent studies which explore, both theoretically and experimentally, how the structure of networks affects behavior in a variety of important economic environments.

The first study considers the role of a network in determining how information flows through a society or organization. The setup of this study allowed the researcher to examine how the structure of one’s social network affected the flow and consolidation of information that lead them to making a choice. Thus, through this experiment, the researcher was able to garner the accuracy of individual choice under uncertainty, as it relates to one’s social networks.

The second study considers an environment in which an external network structure dictates the flow of external effects of deicisonmaking in a strategic setting. Specifically, this experiment examined a contest environment in which the allocation of a prize affects the payoffs individuals connected to the winner of the contest reiceve. This experiment allowed the researcher to study how individual behavior and overall levels of competition are affected.

Lastly, the third study conducted considers an environment in which an internal, tight-knit network determines the size, composition, and productivity of teams which then engage in mutually beneficial collective action. This study allowed for the examination of characteristics of the network are related to subsequent behavior and how individual incentives influence the shape of the external network.

Independently, the findings of each study suggest that network characteristics are an important determinant of behavior in the respective setting considered in each study. Collectively, then, the findings of this dissertation indicate that networks are pervasive in their influence of individual behavior across a wide variety of environments.

Dr. Brown is a graduate of Florida State University’s economics Ph.D. program, and is currently a post-doctoral researcher at Purdue University’s department of economics. This post is based on Dr. Brown’s dissertation abstract. You can learn more about this project here. You can learn more about Dr. Brown here.

The feature image is from Pexels.

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