Sven Heuser

I am a PhD candidate at the Bonn Graduate School of Economics at the University of Bonn. I am a research fellow of the Collaborative Research Center Transregio 224, an associated member to the Cluster of Excellence ECONtribute: Markets & Public Policy, and a briq Student fellow.

Main Research Fields: Applied Microeconomics, Behavioral Economics, Political Economy

References: Armin Falk, Simon Jäger, David Huffman and Florian Zimmermann


CV: [link]

Job Market Paper

The Effects of Face-To-Face Conversations on Polarization: Evidence from a Quasi-Experiment

(with Lasse Stötzer) [pdf]

Do conversations between like-minded individuals exacerbate political polarization whereas conversations between contrary-minded individuals reduce it? We examine this question by exploiting a large-scale quasi-experiment in Germany, in which strangers were paired for unobserved in-person meetings based on their political views. We find that talking to a person with a similar political opinion leads to more extreme political views. By contrast, meeting a contrary-minded person does not affect political views. However, it reduces negative attitudes towards those with opposing political opinions and improves the perception of social cohesion. Together, the results suggest that political in-person conversations among like-minded individuals may increase polarization of views and thus widen the gap between ideological groups, while conversations among contrary-minded individuals can reduce affective but not ideological polarization.

Working Papers

Moral Luck: Existence, Mechanisms, and Prevalence

(with Armin Falk and David Huffman) [AEA RCT Pre-Registered]

In many circumstances, individuals can influence the probabilities of good or bad outcomes by their actions, but there is still a role for chance in determining final outcomes. If rewards and punishments depend partly on outcomes and not just actions, this violates a principle of optimal incentives, and implies distortions of behavior in legal, economic, political, and social contexts. Philosophers, legal scholars, psychologists, and social scientists have long debated the existence and nature of such a tendency, sometimes denoted "moral luck". A challenge to assessing the existence and strength of moral luck is having a setting with real, consequential moral decisions, but also sufficient control to causally identify underlying mechanisms. This paper provides evidence from experiments with these features, and finds evidence of moral luck in how actors are punished by spectators. A key mechanism is a bias of judgements and beliefs about of the character of the actor, based on random outcomes, even though such outcomes contain zero information. This can be partially mitigated by providing additional information about the actor. It is not eliminated by nudging individuals towards deliberative decision making. A proximate underlying mechanism appears to be emotional response to outcomes. The bias is prevalent, but not universal, it is unrelated to most demographics, and is present regardless of high or low cognitive ability or education. We also find evidence that actors exhibit internalized moral luck in how they evaluate themselves based on outcomes. We discuss theoretical and policy implications.

Work in Progress

Self-Serving Attributions in Belief Formation

(with Lasse Stötzer)

Strengthening Worker Voice: A Field Experiment

(with Armin Falk, Simon Jäger and Frederik Schwerter)