Christine L. Exley

Harvard Business School
25 Baker Way
Baker Library 449
Boston, MA 02163

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Institutional Affiliation: Harvard University

NBER Working Papers and Publications

December 2019Motivated Errors
with Judd B. Kessler: w26595
In three sets of experiments involving over 4,200 subjects, we show that agents motivated to be selfish make systematic decision errors of the kind generally attributed to cognitive limitations or behavioral biases. We show that these decision errors are eliminated (or dramatically reduced) when self-serving motives are removed. We say that individuals make "motivated errors." They make decision errors, but only when it is self-serving to do so.
October 2019The Gender Gap in Self-Promotion
with Judd B. Kessler: w26345
In applications, interviews, performance reviews, and many other environments, individuals are explicitly asked or implicitly invited to evaluate their own performance and ability. In a series of experiments, involving over 4,000 participants, we find that women evaluate their performance less favorably than equally performing men. This gender gap in self-evaluations is notably persistent. It persists when we fully inform individuals about their absolute and relative performance (closing any gender gap in performance beliefs) and when we eliminate financial consequences of self-evaluations (removing incentives to distort self-evaluations). It is robust to providing information about the average self-evaluations of others and to introducing a chance that true performance will be revealed. H...
December 2018Equity Concerns are Narrowly Framed
with Judd B. Kessler: w25326
We show that individuals narrowly bracket their equity concerns. Across four experiments including 1,600 subjects, individuals equalize components of payoffs rather than overall payoffs. When earnings are comprised of "small tokens" worth 1 cent and "large tokens" worth 2 cents, subjects frequently equalize the distribution of small (or large) tokens rather than equalizing total earnings. When payoffs are comprised of time and money, subjects similarly equalize the distribution of time (or money) rather than total payoffs. In addition, subjects are more likely to equalize time than money. These findings can help explain a variety of behavioral phenomena including the structure of social insurance programs, patterns of public good provision, and why transactions that turn money into time ar...
December 2016Knowing When to Ask: The Cost of Leaning In
with Muriel Niederle, Lise Vesterlund: w22961
Gender differences in the propensity to negotiate are often used to explain the gender wage gap, popularizing the push for women to “lean-in.” We use a laboratory experiment to examine the effect of leaning-in. Despite men and women achieving similar and positive returns when they must negotiate, we find that women avoid negotiations more often than men. While this suggests that women would benefit from leaning-in, a direct test of the counterfactual proves otherwise. Women appear to positively select into negotiations and to know when to ask. By contrast, we find no significant evidence of a positive selection for men.

Published: Christine L. Exley & Muriel Niederle & Lise Vesterlund, 2020. "Knowing When to Ask: The Cost of Leaning In," Journal of Political Economy, vol 128(3), pages 816-854.

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