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Three Essays on Economics and Information Shocks


Carlson, Kyle Ian (2015) Three Essays on Economics and Information Shocks. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/Z9XW4GQ8.


A person living in an industrialized society has almost no choice but to receive information daily with negative implications for himself or others. His attention will often be drawn to the ups and downs of economic indicators or the alleged misdeeds of leaders and organizations. Reacting to new information is central to economics, but economics typically ignores the affective aspect of the response, for example, of stress or anger. These essays present the results of considering how the affective aspect of the response can influence economic outcomes.

The first chapter presents an experiment in which individuals were presented with information about various non-profit organizations and allowed to take actions that rewarded or punished those organizations. When social interaction was introduced into this environment an asymmetry between rewarding and punishing appeared. The net effects of punishment became greater and more variable, whereas the effects of reward were unchanged. The individuals were more strongly influenced by negative social information and used that information to target unpopular organizations. These behaviors contributed to an increase in inequality among the outcomes of the organizations.

The second and third chapters present empirical studies of reactions to negative information about local economic conditions. Economic factors are among the most prevalent stressors, and stress is known to have numerous negative effects on health. These chapters document localized, transient effects of the announcement of information about large-scale job losses. News of mass layoffs and shut downs of large military bases are found to decrease birth weights and gestational ages among babies born in the affected regions. The effect magnitudes are close to those estimated in similar studies of disasters.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:Economics, health, stress, mass layoffs, social preferences, punishment, social media, social influence
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Humanities and Social Sciences
Major Option:Behavioral and Social Neuroscience
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Camerer, Colin F.
Thesis Committee:
  • Camerer, Colin F. (chair)
  • Shum, Matthew S.
  • O'Doherty, John P.
  • Ewens, Michael J.
Defense Date:15 May 2015
Funding AgencyGrant Number
National Science Foundation Graduate Research FellowshipUNSPECIFIED
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:06052015-113434229
Persistent URL:
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:8997
Deposited By: Kyle Carlson
Deposited On:09 Jun 2015 22:34
Last Modified:04 Oct 2019 00:08

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