Strategic communication, voting and political institutions : essays in behavioral political economy
Explaining how political institutions shape human behavior is one of the big challenges of social sciences. This thesis uses game theory, behavioral economics and the tools of experimental economics to study two topics in particular: information aggregation and legitimacy of institutions. While political decisions are most accurate when based on aggregated information, individuals with heterogeneous preferences over political issues often have no incentives to share their private information sincerely. The first two chapters investigate whether individuals - instead of strategic lying - resort to telling the truth as a simple heuristic in complex collective decisions and whether the desire to show one’s own expertise induces sincere communication. The last chapter studies how a political institution’s legitimacy influences the extent and efficacy of third-party punishment. The evidence presented in this thesis shows that individuals differ largely in their ability to lie strategically, they are more likely to tell the truth when they can signal their expertise in a prestigious knowledge area, and sanctions of a democratically legitimized institution are milder and more effective. Relaxing the standard assumptions of full rationality and self-interested preferences, and integrating cognitive constraints and behavioral motives such as image concerns and legitimacy in economic models is thus key to understanding political behavior.
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