Influence Motives in Social Signaling: Evidence from COVID-19 Vaccinations in Germany

with Leonhard Vollmer and Johannes Wimmer

American Economic Review: Insights, 5(2): 275-291 (June 2023)

Original Article: [AEA Website] [PDF] [Copyright Notice] [Online Appendix]

We investigate whether a desire to influence others’ choices affects our own behavior. To separate such influence motives from social pressure, we study participants’ willingness to register for a COVID-19 vaccination in a field experiment in Germany. We vary whether participants’ registration decisions are shared with a peer, to activate social pressure, and whether peers are informed before their own decision, to isolate influence motives. We find that influence motives double participants‘ registration likelihood, an effect driven by individuals with ex-ante trust in the vaccine. Despite anticipating to influence their peers, participants cannot alter peer behavior in the experiment. 

Working Papers

Accommodation of Right-Wing Populist Rhetoric: Evidence from Parliamentary Speeches in Germany 

with Felix Hagemeister, Julian Heid and Tim Leffler

Discussion Paper: [PDF]

We provide novel evidence on how right-wing (populist) rhetoric spreads. Using several thousand speeches from the German parliament, we show that exposure to politicians from the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) leads mainstream politicians to adopt a more distinctively right-wing populist language. We measure similarity to right-wing populist rhetoric via cosine similarity to both parliamentary speeches by the AfD and extremist speeches at far-right rallies, as well as using a populist dictionary method. To induce individual-level variation in exposure to AfD politicians, we exploit a quasi-exogenous allocation rule for committee members in the German parliament. Comparing a politician with the highest to one with the lowest relative AfD exposure increases the cosine similarity to right-wing populist speech by 0.1 of a standard deviation. Our results seem specific to right-wing populism and suggest strategic motives related to local electoral competition behind rhetorical changes among individual politicians. 

Work in Progress

They Died for Their Fatherland(s): Ethnic Diversity in the Austro-Hungarian Empire (with Sebastian Hager)