Christoph Engel

Christoph Engel
Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods | COLL

Professor

About

346
Publications
49,366
Reads
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2,905
Citations
Introduction
Christoph Engel is a director of the Bonn Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods, and Professor at the Universities of Bonn and Rotterdam. He works on behavioral law and economics, sometimes branching out on psychology, and on empirical legal studies more broadly. He mainly uses experimental methods. He currently has a series of projects using experiments as a novel approach to comparative law.
Additional affiliations
April 2012 - present
Erasmus University Rotterdam
Position
  • Full Professor (International Faculty)
July 2004 - present
Universität Osnabrück
Position
  • Professor
October 2003 - present
University of Bonn
Position
  • Professor (Full)

Publications

Publications (346)
Article
The law is permanently under construction. Most legal change is intentional. A legislator, a court, or one of the law's subjects hopes to better achieve a purpose by switching from one rule, one interpretation, or one remedy to the next. Yet empirically, legal innovation tends to be a process that takes time. At the macro level, the diffusion path...
Article
Adopting the paradigms, findings and tools of behavioral economics has opened a promising avenue for legal research. This article sketches the broader framework within which the papers assembled in this special issue may be placed.
Article
Information has a long history of being used with the intention to influence people's behavior, particularly in situations where people are likely to condition their own behavior on what they expect most others to do. We experimentally study how selective (favorable or unfavorable) information about past cooperativeness of unrelated groups affects...
Preprint
Full-text available
Panel effects have been widely studied in randomly composed panels. However for many courts, panel composition stays constant. Then judges become familiar with each other. They know what to expect from each other. Mutual trust may develop. A local culture may emerge. If rejection is the default, familiarity is likely to help plaintiffs, as familiar...
Article
Experimental participants are more likely to follow an arbitrary rule the more others in their reference group do so as well. The effect is most pronounced for individuals who follow few rules when not knowing others’ behavior. Unlike what is observed for conditional cooperation, learning that only few others follow a rule does not reduce rule foll...
Preprint
Full-text available
Die Worte Wettbewerb und Gemeinwohl kommen im Grundgesetz nicht vor. In ständiger Rechtsprechung betont das Bundesverfassungsgericht, dass das Grundgesetz keine Entscheidung über die deutsche Wirtschaftsverfassung getroffen hat. Gleichwohl hat das Gericht häufig über das Verhältnis von Wettbewerb und Gemeinwohl entschieden. Es hat den Wettbewerb, a...
Book
Full-text available
Open Access link: https://esforum.de/forums/ESF29_Deliberate_Ignorance.html
Article
The Wisconsin Supreme Court allows machine advice in the courtroom only if accompanied by a series of warnings. We test 878 US lay participants with jury experience on fifty past cases where we know ground truth. The warnings affect their estimates of the likelihood of recidivism and their confidence, but not their decision whether to grant bail. P...
Chapter
Behavioural law and economics applies the conceptual tools of behavioural economics to the analysis of legal problems and legal intervention. These models, and the experiments to test them, assume an institution-free state of nature. In modern societies, the law’s subjects never see this state of nature. However, a rich arrangement of informal and...
Article
Full-text available
What is the impact of caseload on judicial decision making? Is increasing judicial staff effective in improving judicial services? To address these questions, we exploit a natural, near‐randomized experiment in the Israeli judiciary. In 2012, six senior registrars were appointed in two of the six magistrate's court districts. The choice of district...
Article
Frequently in experiments there is not only variance in the reaction of participants to treatment. The heterogeneity is patterned: discernible types of participants react differently. In principle, a finite mixture model is well suited to simultaneously estimate the probability that a given participant belongs to a certain type, and the reaction of...
Chapter
Full-text available
Antitrust authorities all over the world are keen on the presence of a particularly aggressive competitor, a “maverick”. Yet there is a lack of theoretical justification. One plausible determinant of acting as a maverick is behavioral: the maverick derives utility from acting competitively. We test this conjecture in the lab. In a pretest, we class...
Article
Most people pay their taxes most of the time, even if the expected disutility from enforcement is too low to deter tax evasion. One potential reason is tax morale and, more specifically, rule following. In a lab experiment, we show that the willingness to pay taxes just because participants are told they are supposed to pay is indeed pronounced. Ye...
Article
Can self-set normative goals restrain free-riding in a social dilemma? In a first experimental study, we test the effect of two different types of self-set normative goals on people’s willingness to cooperate in a public good game. Focusing on the level of contributions that one can at least be expected to make proves effective at restraining the m...
Preprint
Full-text available
We test 494 households participating in the German Socio Economic Panel SOEP to examine risk taking by one household member that affects a second household member. Choices cannot be explained by (short term) strategic behavior. Respect for the risk preference of the counterpart is at best imperfect. Two findings suggest preference dependence: parti...
Preprint
Full-text available
Legal cases are frequently inconclusive. One source of inconclusiveness is the necessity to balance conceptually incompatible normative considerations. Still the judiciary seems to do so reasonably well. How can it? In this study, we exploit eye tracking as a window into the mental process. A first study tests whether information processing reflect...
Preprint
Full-text available
Law is for humans. Humans suffer from cognitive limitations. Legal institutions can help humans by making these limitations irrelevant. This experiment shows that strong property rights serve this function. In theory, efficient outcomes obtain even without strong property rights. In a hypothetical world where cognitive ability is perfect, individua...
Preprint
Full-text available
What is the impact of caseload on judicial decision-making? Is increasing judicial staff effective in improving judicial services? To address these questions, we exploit a natural, near-ran-domized experiment in the Israeli judiciary. In 2012, six senior registrars were appointed in two of the six magistrate's court districts. The choice of distric...
Chapter
Full-text available
This chapter examines the institutional implications associated with facilitating or combatting deliberate ignorance, and explores concrete institutional mechanisms that could serve to limit, distort, or otherwise structure peoples' informational environment. It examines the basic building block that individuals might use to achieve their goals-con...
Chapter
Selection and Decision in Judicial Process around the World - edited by Yun-chien Chang December 2019
Article
Full-text available
Much of political debate focuses on the concern that machines might take over. Yet in many domains it is much more plausible that the ultimate choice and responsibility remain with a human decision-maker, but that she is provided with machine advice. A quintessential illustration is the decision of a judge to bail or jail a defendant. In multiple j...
Article
Full-text available
Jeremy Bentham brought enlightenment to criminal policy. He argued that the primary purpose of criminal sanctions should be deterring future crime. To that end he advocated complete transparency. This article investigates Bentham's intuition in a public goods lab experiment by manipulating how much information on punishment experienced by others is...
Article
We test whether deciding on behalf of a passive third party makes participants less selfish in a subsequent decision on behalf of themselves. We find that, in a standard dictator game and in a modified dictator game that allows for ”moral wiggle room”, the experience of having decided for others does not mitigate selfishness
Article
Economic experiments are often based on the claim that some heterogeneous behavioural trait affects response to treatment. This trait is measured in another part of the experiment, using a multiple price list. Frequently, choices on such a list are not perfectly consistent. In this paper we argue that this inconsistency is a resource. It informs th...
Preprint
Full-text available
Arguably, for many citizens the perceived expected disutility from sanctions is smaller than the monetary gain from tax evasion. Nevertheless most people pay their taxes most of the time. In a lab experiment, we show that the willingness to pay taxes even absent enforcement is indeed pronounced. Yet voluntary compliance is reduced if participants l...
Preprint
Full-text available
Frequently in experiments there is not only variance in the reaction of participants to treatment. The heterogeneity is patterned: discernible types of participants react differently. In principle, a finite mixture model is well suited to simultaneously estimate the probability that a given participant belongs to a certain type, and the reaction of...
Article
Under the standard model in law and economics, agents maximize expected profit subject to constraints set by legal rules. In such a model, the expected reaction to legal innovations is immediate. However, this is not what we observe after class actions have been introduced into Israeli law. For a long time, the new procedure was rarely utilized. Th...
Article
We study the effects of legal protection on the likelihood of efficient trade. Fairness norms that affect the parties’ willingness to pay (WTP) and willingness to accept (WTA) may depend on how strongly the entitlement is protected. We show that our participants can be divided into three groups corresponding to three fairness norms: negative types,...
Preprint
Full-text available
The most famous element in Bentham’s theory of punishment, the Panopticon Prison, expresses his view of the two purposes of punishment, deterrence and special prevention. This paper inves-tigates Bentham’s intuition in a public goods lab experiment, by manipulating how much infor-mation on punishment experienced by others is available to would-be o...
Article
Decision-makers often mean to react to the behavior of others, knowing that they only imperfectly observe them. Rational choice theory posits that they should weigh false positive versus false negative choices, and assess possible outcomes and their probabilities, if necessary, attaching subjective values to them. We argue that this recommendation...
Article
Donors may often not be sure whether a recipient really needs their help. Does this uncertainty deter generosity? We experimentally investigate a situation in which donors do not know the financial endowment of the recipient for certain, but still have some information on the distribution the endowments are drawn from. In the experiment, we find th...
Preprint
Full-text available
Behavioral law and economics applies the conceptual tools of behavioral economics to the analysis of legal problems and legal intervention. These models, and the experiments to test them, assume an institution free state of nature. In modern societies, the law’s subjects never see this state of nature. However a rich arrangement of informal and for...
Article
An increasing fraction of donations is channeled through donation intermediaries. These entities serve multiple purposes, one of which seems to be providing donors with greater certainty: that the donation reaches its intended goal, and that the donor may be sure to receive a tax benefit. We interpret this function as insurance and test the option...
Preprint
Full-text available
From a normative perspective the order in which evidence is presented should not bias legal judgment. Yet psychological research on how individuals process conflicting evidence sug-gests that order could matter. The evidence shows that decision-makers dissolve ambiguity by forging coherence. This process could lead to a primacy effect: initial tent...
Preprint
Full-text available
Public goods are dealt with in two literatures that neglect each other. Mechanism design advises a social planner that expects individuals to misrepresent their valuations. Experiments study the provision of the good when preferences might be non-standard. We introduce the problem of the mechanism design literature into a public good experiment. Va...
Article
Full-text available
In a nutshell, price cap regulation is meant to establish a quid pro quo: regulators are obliged by law to intervene only at rare, previously defined points in time, and only by imposing an upper bound on prices; firms are meant to justify regulatory restraint by adopting socially beneficial innovations. In the policy debate, a potential downside o...
Article
On the doctrinal surface, there is a deep divide between common and continental law when it comes to the origin of contractual obligations. Under continental law, in principle a unilateral promise suffices. Common law by contrast requires consideration. When it comes to deciding cases, the divide is much less pronounced. But for the most part the l...
Working Paper
Full-text available
Article
Apparently, judges’ decisions are not motivated by maximizing profit. Two explanations compete: there are long-term monetary consequences; conscientious individuals self-select into the profession. In a lab experiment, we rule out both explanations. Nonetheless, authorities do a reliable job of overcoming a social dilemma. Calling the authorities p...
Article
Normative legal argument based on empirical evidence is not necessarily best served by standards from the social sciences. Precautionary concern for false negatives may call for an adjustment of the significance level. That all legal choice is historically contingent, that legal problems tend to be ill-defined, and that strategic actors have an inc...
Chapter
“We must all hang together, or assuredly we will all hang separately.” – Benjamin Franklin A Introduction Privacy is commonly studied as a private good: my personal data is mine to protect and control, and yours is yours. This conception of privacy misses an important component of the policy problem. An individual who is careless with data exposes...
Article
We test male juvenile prisoners on a dictator game with another anonymous co-prisoner as recipient. Prisoners give more than students, but less than nonstudents of their age. They give more to a charity than to another prisoner. In one of two experiments, those convicted for violent crime give more than those convicted for property crime.
Working Paper
For decades, experimental economics has been very interested in behavior that could be characterized as practicing solidarity (although the term is rarely used). Solidarity is a key concept in Catholic Social Teaching. This paper builds a bridge between these two endeavors that, thus far, had little contact with each other. Catholic Social Teaching...
Article
We experimentally test the effect of enforceable non-compete clauses on working effort and spin-off entrepreneurship. An employee invests effort in the probability of a profitable innovation. After a successful innovation the employee may want to start her own spin-off firm and compete with her prior employer. In the baseline setup without non-comp...
Article
Full-text available
The (German) market for law professors fulfils the conditions for a hog cycle: In the short run, supply cannot be extended or limited; future law professors must be hired soon after they first present themselves, or leave the market; demand is inelastic. Using a comprehensive German dataset, we show that the number of market entries today is negati...
Data
Data analysis algorithms in Stata.do file format. (DO)
Data
Comprehensive dataset in Stata.dta file format. (DTA)
Article
In major legal orders such as the United Kingdom, the United States, and France, bribers and recipients face equally severe criminal sanctions. In contrast, countries like China, Russia, and Japan treat the briber more mildly. Asymmetric punishment has been shown to help deter harassment bribery. However, we conjecture that asymmetry is ineffective...
Working Paper
We provide an example for an errors in variables problem which might be often neglected but which is quite common in lab experimental practice: In one task, attitude towards risk is measured, in another task participants behave in a way that can possibly be explained by their risk attitude. How should we deal with inconsistent behaviour in the risk...
Article
Western history of thought abounds with claims that knowledge is valued and sought. Yet people often choose not to know. We call the conscious choice not to seek or use knowledge (or information) deliberate ignorance. Using examples from a wide range of domains, we demonstrate that deliberate ignorance has important functions. We systematize types...
Article
A random shock excludes reverse causality and reduces omitted variable bias. Yet a natural experiment does not identify random exposure to treatment, but the reaction to a random change from baseline to treatment. A lab experiment comparing higher certainty with higher severity of punishment for stealing (holding the expected value of the intervent...
Article
The Coase theorem posits that if (1) property rights are perfect, (2) contracts are perfectly enforceable, (3) transaction costs are zero, (4) preferences are common knowledge, and (5) parties are rational, then the initial allocation of entitlements matters only for distribution, not for efficiency. We study, in an experimental setting, whether co...
Article
Full-text available
Both in the field and in the lab, participants frequently cooperate, despite the fact that the situation can be modelled as a simultaneous, symmetric prisoner’s dilemma. This experiment manipulates the payoff in case both players defect, and explains the degree of cooperation by a combination of five motives: the size of gains from cooperation, exp...

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