NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
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Richard Carson

Dept. of Economics
UCSD
9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla, CA 92093 - 0508

E-Mail: EmailAddress: hidden: you can email any NBER-related person as first underscore last at nber dot org
Institutional Affiliation: University of California at San Diego

NBER Working Papers and Publications

March 2020The Risk of Caution: Evidence from an R&D Experiment
with Joshua S. Graff Zivin, Jordan Louviere, Sally Sadoff, Jeffrey G. Shrader Jr: w26847
Innovation is important for firm performance and broader economic growth. But breakthrough innovations necessarily require greater risk-taking than more incremental approaches. To understand how managers respond to uncertainty when making research and development decisions, we conducted three experiments with master’s degree students in a program focused on the intersection of business and technology. Study participants were asked to choose whether to fund hypothetical research projects using a process that mirrors real-world research and development funding decisions. The experiments provided financial rewards that disproportionately encouraged the choice of higher-risk projects. Despite these incentives, most participants chose lower-risk projects at the expense of projects more likely t...
 
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