Data Proves People are “Crazy” about Money

Data Proves People are “Crazy” about Money

Michael Wang is an economic teaching associate at the University of Maryland, College Park. Wang is passionate about economics research and recently spoke with us about the projects he has worked on as a research assistant.

Growing up, Wang’s family would encourage discussions about politics and economics at the dinner table. These discussions helped him to realize he was passionate about studying economics, and later his own research helped him narrow his field of interest to behavioral economics and decision theory. This led Wang to study economics in college and become involved with many economic research projects.

Wang’s research experience has varied widely, but one common thread is the importance of data in each of his roles. Throughout his time as a research assistant, Wang has collected, cleaned, analyzed and summarized all types of data. On a day to day basis, Wang’s responsibilities consist primarily of two parts. The first is finding, manipulating, and analyzing datasets that are relevant to the research. Next, he summarizes the results of his analysis in clear and concise language. As Wang explains, “I need to consider the fact that readers of my reports may not have studied economics in the past, and therefore my choices of vocabulary, for example, should be less technical and appropriate for everyone to read and understand.” By doing this, he is able to share his economic research with a large audience--something he is particularly passionate about.

Wang has also worked in an experimental research lab where data is collected through experimental scenarios with participants. One of Wang’s favorite projects in this lab focused on the emerging field of behavioral economics, which challenges the long-standing economic belief that people are rational and act rationally. For this project, a simple experiment was conducted on a group of participants. The group was divided into two subgroups. Participants from subgroup one were asked to divide $10, deciding what to keep and what to give to their respective recipients in the second subgroup. Members of subgroup two could choose to accept the offers or reject them. If an offer was accepted, the transaction was carried out; however, if the offer was rejected, the $10 vanished and everyone was left with $0. In this experiment, a rational recipient should accept anything above $0, because the alternative is $0. Thus, if the member of subgroup one believes the recipient is rational, they should give the smallest amount possible above $0, leaving them with the highest profits. However, Wang and his team discovered that most members of subgroup one allocate close to $5 while recipients in subgroup two generally reject any offer below $3. This challenged a major economic idea and inspired Wang to continue to research human behavior through the lens of economics.

Wang noted that the data for this experiment was collected digitally and that Conseris could be a great way to collect data for this type of experiment. The customizable entry fields would make it easy to design the collection for this study. He also noted that the graphs produced by Conseris would allow for “efficient and effective identification of trends and patterns, which are basically what my research is all about.” He thought the simple sharing feature of Conseris would be ideal for experiments at this lab, because everything is completed as a team, and it is not always easy to find effective ways to communicate and share data.

Moving forward, Wang hopes to obtain a Ph.D. in economics so he can continue to carry out the research that drives his passion. His parting words of advice are, “I would encourage anyone interested in economics to read more about this field. It is not rocket-science, but this subject offers theories that can shape the way many of us think for many years to come.” The work of Wang and his fellow researchers can help more people to understand the decision making behind economic choices, thus influencing those choices in their daily lives.

Economists, you too can use Conseris to make your research easier. Try our free 30-day trial HERE.