Research

I am an interdisciplinary economist interested in Public Economics, Public Administration, Behavior Economics and Social Psychology. My research projects focus on the prosocial motivations in different social contexts, applying conceptual, experimental, and survey methodologies to investigate how the complex and diverse interaction between psychological attributes and the social environment shape prosocial behaviour. 

Published Papers

A Moral Theory of Public Service Motivation  (Frontiers in Psychology 2020, 11.)

with Arjen van Witteloostuijn and Florian Heine

Abstract

Morality constructs the relationship between the self and others, providing a sense of appropriateness that facilitates and coordinates social behaviors. We start from Moral Foundation Theory (MFT), and argue that multiple moral domains can shape the meaning of public service and engender Public Service Motivation (PSM). From the lens of cognitive science, we develop a causal map for PSM by understanding the social cognition process underlying PSM, focusing on five innate moralities as the potential antecedents of PSM: Care, Fairness, Authority, Loyalty, and Sanctity. Extending moral domains beyond compassion and justice can provide a disaggregated view of PSM, which may help to identify institutional and cultural variation in the meaning of PSM. We discuss the theoretical implications of synthesizing MFT and PSM literatures, and provide directions for future research that could improve our understanding of PSM.

Working Papers

Prosocial Risk Taking and Intergroup Conflicts: Investigating in a Volunteer’s Dilemma Experiment

with Arjen van Witteloostuijn and Florian Heine

Abstract

Intergroup conflicts often involve individuals who voluntarily make a personal sacrifice and take great risk to provide public goods. We investigate prosocial risking and intergorup conflicts by extending the Volunteer’s dilemma along two dimensions: risk-taking and intergroup competition. We argue that intergroup competition engenders a sense of group identity and motivates group members to contribute to public goods in the absence of leadership. To identify such motivational change, We come up with the group competition treatment, where two groups compete for a public good in a sequential move. We find experimental evidence that intergroup competition significantly increases the volunteering rate of providing a public good and can mitigate the negative impact of risk on intra-group cooperation.  The role which individual heterogeneity may play in the evolution of parochial altruism is explored and discussed to understand the observed heterogeneous treatment effects of risk aversion and genders.

An Experimental Examination of Public Service Motivation and Self-Sacrifice

with Arjen van Witteloostuijn and Florian Heine

Abstract

With an incentivized laboratory experiment of a volunteer’s dilemma game, we explore the association between self-reported Public Service Motivation (PSM) and prosocial behavior under different task characteristics and social contexts. By investigating the effect of PSM across a series of treatments, we demonstrate how task characteristics and social contexts can affect the role of PSM in stimulating self-sacrifice behavior. A positive relationship is found between PSM and volunteering, which is moderated by the risk of the performed task and competition with another team. High-PSM people are less likely to volunteer more if the performed task requires risk-taking or if competition with another team is involved. The theoretical rationale for this crowding out effect is discussed by incorporating insights from self-determination theory.

Morally Motivated Public Service: An Empirical Examination of the Moral Theory of PSM

with Arjen van Witteloostuijn and Florian Heine

Abstract

We empirically examine the Moral Theory of Public Service Motivation (PSM) with data from a large online Dutch household panel. We develop and test several hypotheses on the role of moral foundations in shaping PSM, as well as the behavioral implications regarding the participation in social organizations. The individualizing foundations of Care and Fairness (jointly referred to as INDV) are found to positively relate to all four dimensions of PSM — Compassion (COM), Self-Sacrifice (SS), Attraction to Public Services (APS), and Commitment to Public Values (CPV). Moreover, PSM mediates the positive relationship between INDV and participation in humanitarian and environmental organizations. Sanctity is positively correlated with SS and APS, mediating the often-observed relationship between PSM and religious activities. Loyalty is significantly and positively associated with SS, with the correlations with other PSM dimensions being gender-specific. Finally, Authority is significantly and negatively related with COM, SS, and APS.

Scope of Open Innovation: Spillovers, Absorptive Capacity, and Incentives

Abstract

Open innovation emphasizes knowledge flows between firms and how firms utilize external knowledge for innovation, but what explains the scope of open innovation? This paper studies a game-theoretic model where firms are vulnerable to opportunistic behaviors when collaborating innovation but are motivated by knowledge spillovers to open up their boundaries on purpose. Cognitive distance can affect firms' absorptive capacity to utilize the partner's knowledge, so the spatial patterns of external environment can influence firms' decision on engaging in open innovation and their range of collaboration. This paper predicts that collaboration is easier to be sustained in a moderate cognitive distance and that larger firms in terms of knowledge stocks exhibit the greater scope of open innovation. Moreover, this paper argues that the knowledge boundaries of the firm is spatially defined and shows how open innovation paradigm can be reinforced by the globalization of idea generation that innovation involves combinations of diverse disciplines, and why open innovation is predominant in knowledge-intensive industry or industrial clusters.