My task this month is to help set up a lab-like experiment in the field which will be added to the ongoing microfinance project in Tamil Nadu. Basically,we’re trying to measure something abstract like trust or altruism of people in the study. We want to learn about how people make decisions so we could use this information to help with policy design. An experiment would involve us going to people in villages and let them make decisions that involve real money. These decision exercises are called “games” as in game theory. If you’ve done some game theory, you may have heard of trust game, dictator game, and so on.
An easy example would be the dictator game. We give a person Rs50. He/she then can divide this money and give to someone with whom they are paired from a nearby village (he won’t know the identity of the other person). We ask how much he would give out of this Rs50. The decision would be completely private so the subject won’t feel judged by us. Under a well controlled experiment, the amount given should reflect norms, altruism of that person and that’s how we measure “altruism.”
Our main focus is actually about trust rather than altruism. I’m just too lazy to explain the trust game here haha. Just google it if you’re interested. My job is to help figure out how we go about implementing these “games” whether it should be in a workshop or as a survey going from household to household. There will be a lot of issues to solve. If I have time, I’ll write about them later.