A game-theoretic explanation for the quirks of altruism: testing and using the theory

Faculty Member: Daniel Gilbert/Bethany Burum

Why do people give when asked, but actively avoid situations in which they will be asked? Choose to remain ignorant of information that would allow them to better help others? Pay relatively little attention to how much good they do with their giving? This experimental research program uses lab experiments to test a game theoretic explanation for why we give and why our giving has so many puzzling features. We also seek to demonstrate the ways that the emotions and ideologies that drive us to give--such as feeling empathy for others and believing that giving is the right thing to do--track the incentives to give that operate behind the scenes.


RA duties:

The research assistant working with us on this project will be responsible for helping to design and implement study materials, particularly online surveys built using Qualtrics, and for helping to process and analyze the data. He or she may also aid presentation creation, grant preparation, and preparation of results for publication.


Some experience conducting psychology or related research is preferred but not required. Must be a current Harvard College Undergraduate. 

Skills hoping to Develop:

Skills in experimental design for the social sciences, introductory understanding to using game theory to understanding puzzling aspects of human social behavior, familiarity with key findings about altruism from social psychology, evolutionary psychology, and behavioral economics, expertise in designing experiments using Qualtrics, ability to run studies using Amazon Mechanical Turk, statistical analysis in Excel and SPSS


Please email Bethany Burum (bethanyburum@gmail.com) with your resume.

This position is part of the Undergraduate Research Scholars Program (URS) in the Institute for Quantitative Social Science at Harvard University. If hired, students will participate in the IQSS URS program. Scholars must be current Harvard College undergraduates.