Date of Award

Summer 8-1-2015

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

James Cox

Second Advisor

Spencer Banzhaf

Third Advisor

Michael McKee

Fourth Advisor

Vjollca Sadiraj


This dissertation explores what factors and institutions influence individual decision making and their economic impacts on the society, using approaches of laboratory and field experiments. The first essay addresses the effect of communication on cooperation. The second essay explores various types of public recognition, and their impacts on individual donation. The third essay studies how principals use their time in K-12 schools and the potential impact on student and school outcomes. The first essay employs a laboratory experiment including three factors in human interactions, a noisy environment, indefinite length of interactions, and various levels of communication, to study what factors make individuals more cooperative. Results show that subjects are less cooperative in a noisy environment, and communication via fixed messages is not a remedy for the low cooperation rate in this noisy environment. However, communication via free messages leads to more cooperations, and it maintains cooperation rate at a high level over time. The second essay is a joint work with Yefeng Chen, Haoran He, and Jun Luo. We conduct a field experiment to investigate how public recognition influences individual charitable giving. We design five treatments with distinct public recognition schemes and vary the timing when we offer opportunities of public recognition. Results show that both donation amount and participation rate are significantly higher when we mandate recognition. However, public recognition offered before donation crowds out small donations and thus lowers the participation rate. We claim that public recognition is a “double-edged sword” on individual charitable giving. The third essay is a joint work with Mary Mira. We conduct a principal motion study in Fulton County, Georgia and shadow 30 school principals from all levels of public K-12 schools for two work days. We link our observational data with student performance data from state-wide standard scores. Results show that principals’ time spend on building and maintaining school culture and school climate, as well as evaluating teachers and school staff are most positively related to student performance.