Sven Heuser

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 and David Huffman

Contact: sven.heuser@uni-bonn.de

CV: [link]

Working Papers

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.


Moral Luck: Existence, Mechanisms, and Prevalence

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

In many types of decisions, 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 punishment and rewards are conditioned on such random outcomes, this violates a property of optimal incentives. It has been posited since ancient times that humans do assign punishments and rewards based on factors outside of actors’ control, a tendency called “moral luck.” This paper provides new evidence on the prevalence and robustness of moral luck, and on a key open question of whether moral luck is a preference or a bias. The results are from controlled experiments that can cleanly identify moral luck, but also involve real, consequential moral choices that are a matter of life and death for a third party (a mouse). We find moral luck in punishment, and show that this is at least partly due to a bias. Our findings support a causal chain in which random outcomes lead to biased judgments and incentivized beliefs about the nature of the actor, even though they contain zero information, and this in turn causes punishments to vary with outcomes. We also show that the bias is strong enough to remain in the face of an intervention that encourages deliberation. 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.

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)