Research projects  

Prof. Robert Rządca, Ph.D., Vice-Rector for Research and Faculty Development

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Social Science 

Łukasz Markiewicz PhD

Spontaneous evaluations of risk: similarities and differences between affect heuristics, implicit attitudes and perceived risk attitude (25.02.2016 - 24.02.2019)

We face risk every day. According to common wisdom people differ in risk preference, although research demonstrates that differences in risk taking result mostly from differences in risk perception rather than risk attitude, which remains comparable for different groups (genders, nations, etc.). Thus, two decision makers with the same risk attitude, could take different actions in the same risky situation because of differing risk perceptions. Less frequently, two people with the same risk perception could act differently because of their different risk attitudes. Therefore risk taking research needs to focus on the following aspects of decisions:
- Declared willingness to engage in risky actions
- Risk perceptions
- Benefit perceptions
- Decision makers’ individual attitudes toward risk.

In the proposed project we will research emotion’s (or more precisely: affect’s) influence on risk perception and risk taking. Affect is associated with all objects, thus we can instantly say if we like or dislike something without even knowing why. Such affective judgements are fast and less effortful compared to analytical thinking. Numerous studies show that the positive affect associated with an object results in the rose-tinted spectacle phenomenon: if one likes the Apple brand’s products (or jogging) one will believe that investing in Apple shares (or jogging in marathons) is highly beneficial and not risky. However, such thinking is erroneous. In the financial world it is obvious that high returns only come at the cost of higher risk (otherwise everyone would buy stocks instead of opening bank savings accounts), and this is also the case in everyday life. Our project will research how the risk-benefit relationship is moderated by risk attitudes, since we believe that a negative relationship might existfor risk avoiders but not for risk lovers. To measure the affect related with risky actions or risk taking itself we will use both declaration-based measures and implicit attitude measures allowing inferences to be made about affect by measuring reaction times in categorization tasks and by observing external symptoms (e.g., sweating).

The project will highlight the fact that people can be unaware of their own risk attitudes and the likelihood that current risk scales often produce distorted measures: people can exaggerate their risk taking propensity in some domains to show-off (e.g., a man might want to impress a woman and hide their real risk preference) and play down their propensity in others (e.g., domains where risk taking is stigmatized or penalized). Therefore we believe that inferring risk preferences (from reaction times in categorization tasks or from psychophysiological measures such as skin conductance level) is better than direct questioning about risk preferences. Thus, we will use the Implicit Association Test (IAT), adapting it to measure both implicit attitudes toward risk itself and affect associated with different domains. In such tasks participants are asked to assign stimuli to one of two combined categories: (1) Risky or Good words vs. (2) Safe or Bad words. Faster categorization of risky stimuli when the risk category is associated with Good rather than Bad words demonstrates a positive implicit attitude toward risk (as compared to safety). Similarly, we will investigate implicit attitudes toward categories of risky actions to answer theoretical questions posed by other researchers: whether such attitudes change the commonly observed negative relationship between risks and benefits. We also think that implicit risk attitudes might be a better predictor of engaging in risky actions than explicitly stated risk attitudes. This might be particularly true in situations where there is little time for consideration and in domains where risk taking is stigmatized.

Research questions will be answered by conducting a series of experimental studies, with human participants performing computerized tasks in a lab. Depending on the study, tasks will involve both:
- Explicit measures of declared willingness to engage in risky actions, perceived risks and benefits, and the emotion associated with risky objects or situations;
- Implicit measures of risk attitudes and attitudes toward objects as well as psychophysiological measures of the affect experienced (such as changes in the electrical conductivity of the skin associated with sweating).

Project funded by the National Science Centre.

Przemysław Sawicki PhD

Discounting of delayed and probability payoffs - one or two processes? (18.07.2014 - 17.01.2017)


The present project concerns discounting of delayed and risky payoffs. Through discounting we understand the decline in subjective value of payoff together with the rise of time of its delay or the uncertainty of its receipt. The authors of the project, constituting a multidisciplinary team (economics, cognitive psychology, behavioral finance) adapt approaches and knowledge specific for their discipline, in order to explain the discrepancies present in literature in the discounting context. The main question on which the planned research project focuses, and to which the research done so far hasn't given any answer, refers to differences between discounting of time and probability. Is one process responsible for both types (Rachlin et al. 1991; Yi, Piedad, and Bickel 2006), or maybe it is necessary to talk about two separate processes (Green i in., 1999a; Myerson i in., 2003) – special for time
and probability discounting? The authors of the project, using the methodology applied in research on discounting, as well as using the cognitive resources theory and dual system theory of mind, are planning a series of research, which final aim will be giving an answer to the above stated research question.

The planned research series will apply multiple experimental research methods, including:
Adjusting method – this procedure enables for defining balance points, that is the values of payoff with which the subject exhibited indifference between two alternatives, for example between receiving an X amount of money, and Y after T period of time. The characteristic feature of the adjusting procedure is that one of the choice alternatives adjusts its value, depending on earlier decision of the subject.
Conjoint and Maxdiff method - it forces respondents to make difficult trade-offs and concessions between products described, by varying levels of attributes. At the same time, it lets researcher to calculate the applicability (psychological satisfaction) for particular levels of product attributes. Assuming that decision-makers view products as composed of various attributes and its levels can easily determine the total utility by summing the utilities of particular level of each attribute.
Poll interviews - the experimental manipulation will be performed while applying N-back methodology, based on necessity of maintaining by the subject in his memory a few elements, while performing the proper research.
For measurement of cognitive style (reflectiveness) we will apply set of tasks of Cognitive Reflection Test (CRT, Frederick, 2005). In three mathematical operations there can be estimated the reflectiveness of the subject, who, in order to give a proper answer, has to hold himself from choosing the incorrect answer that suggests itself.

Project funded by the National Science Centre.

Professor Tadeusz Tyszka

Large riskis with low probabilities: perception, misperception, assessment and willingness to undertake prevention (26.09.2012 – 25.09.2015)

The main aim of the proposed research is to describe and analyse human perception of low probability and high stake risk. A special stress will be put on:(1) typical biases in risk perception and the methods of enhancing accuracy of riskperception in natural catastrophes and other risks with low probabilities and high stakes, and (2) willingness to protectagainst such hazards. Concerning perception of small probabilities, efficient methods of transmitting information onexposure and vulnerability to risks will be studied.

Another central question concerning risk perception will be the illusion of safety and how to overcome it. Main determinants of responsiveness of willingness to insure one’s own risk also willbe investigated. They will include: (i) magnitude of loss, (ii) probability of its occurrence, (iii) time of its delay, (iv)impact of framing and (v) impact of others’ choices (herding). The phenomenon of risk defusing in areas exposed to risksof major natural disasters also will be studied intensively.

Project funded by National Science Centre.

Professor Krzysztof Zagórski

Economic attitudes in conditions of economic uncertainty (08.12.2011 -07.06.2014)

Proposed research project concerns the formation of economic attitudes, particularly those related to actual and possibile rules and mechanism of functioning of democratic free market economic system, a problem especially important In current conditions of economic uncertainty. We plan to determine, how present economic conditions influence the opinions on currently perceived as well as desired features of economic system, the feelings of security and trust in social and economic institutions as well as in their actors. That will be investigated in relation to the opinions of social responsibilities of economic organizations. 

The important element of the research will concern the openness to international cooperation and exchange, especially – though not exclusively - in the European Union. Finally, the intensity and the determinants of the support for democratic free market, irrespective of perceived shortcomings of its particular aspects, will be established. Objective and subjective living conditions, consumer sentiments and behavior as well as the attitudes to socio-economic inequalities will be used, together with particular economic attitudes mentioned above, as explanatory variables in the models explaining the system legitimacy. All in all, the research will concern the perceptions, the understanding and the attitudes to the divisions between democratic free market and state interventionism as well as between the economic openness and the isolationism. These two contrapositions will not be treated, however, as the alternatives but rather as two extreme points on the continuum, the socially desired compromise between which should be empirically established. Thus, their understanding as the alternatives or the continuum, as well as social readiness for the compromises between them,  will constitute important elements of the research. Populist attitudes, the emergence of which can be expected in the condition of economic uncertainty, will constitute another subject of the research. Generally speaking, this will be research in current Polish economic culture and economic imagination in the times of economic uncertainty.

Project funded by National Science Centre.

Robert Rządca PhD with habilitation & Marta Strumińska PhD

Resolving public disputes and organizational and social learning (08.12.2011 - 07.12.2013)

Evaluating the efficiency of public dispute resolution, or conflicts, which are party administration, citizens' groups and business organizations generally relate to methods and tools, with particular emphasis on negotiation, mediation and quasi-judicial procedures. The prospect of such studies is the most practical short-term and the goal is to design better ways of resolving conflicts.

The main objective of the proposed project is to identify changes in the perception of conflicts and ways of solving them against the experience of stakeholders and participants in the learning process of public disputes. Interest in the study will be completed no longer disputes and their participants.

In Poland, there is a lack of analysis of the impact of conflicts and ways of solving the economic organizations, institutions of public life, including both the authorities and public administration (local and central government) as well as citizens and social organizations. 

Research are part of the basic questions about the public sphere of management performance, in which economic factors are strongly mixed with social, legal and political. At the same time the word efficiency is, according to tradition praxeological, understand as effectiveness but also their economy and favourability in different dimensions. One important dimension of this performance is the real impact of dispute resolution to expand the scope of participation of citizens in public life and the exercise of power or influence on democracy.

The socio-economic reality becomes increasingly important issue of efficient management decision-making on matters of dispute, controversy. Examples are decisions about closing schools, the location of polluting the environment and residents of investments (eg landfills, sorting, incineration), as well as trends in public expenditure. The reason may be differences in the positions of both interests and values which guided the people and organizations. The challenge is therefore to carry out the decision making process that takes into account the aforementioned diversity and allow the investigation to solutions through deliberation. It appears that in the absence of common values and what might pro vide the legitimacy of certain decisions is not the contents, but the procedure, within which they were taken.

Thus, examination of decision-making is central to research on the processes of modern society create legitimacy for a changing institutional order. The answer to the question of the extent to which local Polish institutions are able to adapt to these challenges, here is how to extend the learning processes of dispute resolution procedures it becomes a question of to what extent they are able to generate public trust and legitimacy for their activities.

Project funded by the National Science Centre.

Professor Tadeusz Tyszka

What moral aspects influence the rational process of economic decision making? (04.11.2009 - 03.11.2012)

In moral evaluation, the inclusive of decisions containing moral aspects, an important role is played by establishing how strong emotions are instilled by the infringement of a strong moral norm. When the infringement of a moral norm embeds stronger negative emotional reaction then people are deontologists (they are not sensitive to size and probability of moral consequences), and when the infringement of a norm raises weaker negative emotional reaction then people are in moral appraisal called consequentialists (they are sensitive to size and probability of moral consequences).

Moreover, when the breaking of a moral norm does not raise strong emotions a decision-maker makes the comparison and trades-off material values for moral ones and when the breaking of a moral norm raises strong emotions, a decision is made on a non-compensational basis. 

The designed research will check whether the above regularities reported in hypothetical situations will still hold in Poland: (1) with people from other cultures, (2) in lab experiments with real money funding, where research may choose between complying with moral norms and braking them to increase the possibility of funding. Moreover, the research on situational factors increasing the size of emotional reactions in decision-making containing moral aspects is planned.

The project is funded by The Ministry of Science and Higher Education