Chaudhry, SJ & Loewenstein, G. (in press) “Thanking, Apologizing, Bragging, and Blaming: Responsibility Exchange Theory and the Currency of Communication.” Psychological Review. DOI: 10.1037/rev0000139 [PsyArXiv page] [download paper]

From the time we are children, we are taught to say “thank you” and “I’m sorry.” These communications are central to many social interactions, and the failure to say them often leads to conflict in relationships. Research has documented that, alongside the impact they can have on relationships, apologies and thanks can also impact material outcomes as small as restaurant tips and as significant as settlements of medical malpractice lawsuits. But, it is trivial to utter the words; how can such “cheap talk” carry so much value? In this paper, we propose a “responsibility exchange theory” that explains why these communications are not costless, and which draws connections between four forms of communication that have not previously been connected: thanking, apologizing, bragging, and blaming. All four of these communications relay information about credit or blame for a positive or negative outcome, and thus introduce image-based costs and benefits for both the communicator and the recipient of communication. Each of the four communications, we show, involves a tradeoff between appearing competent and appearing warm. By formalizing these social psychological insights with a cognitive approach to modeling communication, and by applying game theoretic analysis, we offer new insights and predictions about social communication. We test several of the model’s novel predictions about strategic communication in two experiments: The first involves hypothetical choices in a scenario study (N = 1,079), and the second involves real choices in a live interaction (N = 205 pairs). We end with a discussion of the theory’s place in the literature and consider extended predictions and applications as examples of future directions for research.

Chaudhry, S.J. & Klinowski, D. (2016) “Enhancing autonomy to motivate effort: An experiment on the delegation of contract choice.” in Sebastian J. Goerg, John R. Hamman (ed.) Experiments in Organizational Economics (Research in experimental economics, vol 19). Emerald Group Publishing Limited, pp.141-157. [link]

We investigated whether giving workers autonomy by letting them choose their payment contract intrinsically motivates effort. In contrast to previous work, our design isolated the effect of autonomy by controlling for preferences. We found no difference in effort between agents with autonomy and those without it. Because our novel design feature excludes the possibility that preferences are playing a role, and because workers engaged in a real effort task, this result casts doubt on the practical link between autonomy, per se, and the motivation of employees in the workplace. Our results suggest that workplace incentives might do best by targeting instrumental benefits of autonomy rather than autonomy itself.

Bhatia, S. & Chaudhry, SJ. (2013). The dynamics of anchoring in bidirectional associative memory networks. In Proceedings of the 35th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (pp. 1899-1904). [link]

In this paper, we leveraged a neurally feasible model to describe the judgment processes underlying the well-known anchoring-and-adjustment heuristic. We specified a network model based on associative memory that was composed of two layers of nodes. Anchors were represented by one of the nodes being “on” at the start of the constraint satisfaction process. We showed that anchors biased how the network settled, mirroring the insufficient adjustment that results from presenting someone with an anchor. We argued that this model could reconcile two conflicting theories as well as provide new testable predictions about judgments in the presence of anchoring.