Preventing Good People Doing Bad Things: A behavioural economics approach
PhDs and postgraduate research
Self-funded PhD students only
ACEF4530219 (UK and EU students)
ACEF4560219 (International students)
Economics and Finance
Applications accepted all year round
This project is currently not accepting new applicants.
View all of our current research projects.
The work on this project will:
- apply insights from behavioural economics to address the problem of ethical misconduct
- will work with industry bodies to develop effective methods to tackle organisational misconduct
- study the current patterns of misconduct, in order to develop more effective interventions
Behavioural compliance is a relatively new way of thinking in combating ethical misconduct in financial organisations and beyond. Born out of frustration with repeated cases of misconduct and individual wrongdoing, both organisations and regulators are looking outside their traditional toolkit in trying to curb unethical behaviour. The effort is part of the ongoing cultural reform battle, and evidence of creative ways of leveraging other disciplines to tackle the problem is growing, say experts.
The core of the previous work is focused on what motivates individuals to cheat and behave selfishly, even in circumstances where they know they are wrong, and at risk of getting caught. It is because such risk taking has been seen all too often, even after repeated warnings from internal compliance staff, as well as high profile dismissals and jail sentences, that there is a growing view that traditional programs are ineffective in preventing certain individuals from stepping over the line.
A large portion of the new thinking borrows from disciplines such as organisational behaviour, psychology, behavioural economics, ethics and others. To get at the root of the problem, researchers are trying to understand human decision-making processes when it comes to cheating. One common interpretation is that people will cheat out of temptation, but their actions will be limited. Many seek to maintain a self-image as a non-cheater. Self-rationalisation becomes a fundamental component to the decision process (Abeler, Nosenzo and Raymond 2018). Using biases and heuristics than individuals fall prey to a number of successful interventions can be designed to curb unethical behaviour: for example, peer effects and norm compliance (Gachter, Gerhards and Nosenzo 2017) and default options (Fosgaard 2018).
Ethical misconduct research has traditionally analysed behaviour based on stated preferences. This research will measure revealed preferences (based on actual behaviour) in order that the results are more reflective of real-world decision making. Stated preferences (survey data) will be used as a predictor of revealed preferences, to measure its efficacy. Interventions will be designed, based on behavioural economic theories (such as salience effects and default effects). The data analysis will include parametric and non-parametric statistics and econometrics.
- Abeler, J., Nosenzo, D., & Raymond, C. (2018). Preferences for truth-telling. Econometrica, forthcoming.
- Fosgaard, T. (2018). Defaults and dishonesty–Evidence from a representative sample in the lab. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organisation.
- Gächter, S., Gerhards, L., & Nosenzo, D. (2017). The importance of peers for compliance with norms of fair sharing. European Economic Review, 97, 72-86.
Fees and funding
Funding Availability: Self-funded PhD students only
PhD full-time and part-time courses are eligible for the UK Government Doctoral Loan (UK and EU students only).
Home/EU/CI full-time students: £4,327 p/a*
Home/EU/CI part-time students: £2,164 p/a*
International full-time students: £15,900 p/a*
International part-time students: £7,950 p/a*
By Publication Fees 2019/2020
Members of staff: £1,610 p/a*
External candidates: £4,327 p/a*
*All fees are subject to annual increase
2020/2021 entry (for October 2020 and February 2021 entries)
Home/EU/CI full-time students: £4,407 p/a
Home/EU/CI part-time students: £2,204 p/a
International full-time students: £16,400 p/a
International part-time students: £8,200 p/a
PhD by Publication
External candidates £4,407 p/a
Members of staff £1,680 p/a*
2021/2022 entry (for October 2021 and February 2022 entries)
PhD and MPhil
Home/EU/CI full-time students: £4,407 p/a*
Home/EU/CI part-time students: £2,204 p/a*
International full-time students: £17,600 p/a
International part-time students: £8,800 p/a
All fees are subject to annual increase.
PhD by Publication
External Candidates £4,407 p/a*
Members of Staff £1,720 p/a*
If you are an EU student starting a programme in 2021/22 please visit this page.
*This is the 2020/21 UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) maximum studentship fee; this fee will increase to the 2021/22 UKRI maximum studentship fee when UKRI announces this rate in Spring 2021.
Some PhD projects may include additional fees – known as bench fees – for equipment and other consumables, and these will be added to your standard tuition fee. Speak to the supervisory team during your interview about any additional fees you may have to pay. Please note, bench fees are not eligible for discounts and are non-refundable.
- You'll need a good first degree from an internationally recognised university (minimum second class or equivalent, depending on your chosen course) or a Master’s degree in an appropriate subject
- In exceptional cases, we may consider equivalent professional experience and/or Qualifications
- English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0
- We welcome applications from highly motivated prospective students with an experience in industry, as well as proficiency in behavioural and experimental economics methods
- The candidate will also need to have a keen interest in learning new techniques such as app development and statistical analysis
If you have project specific enquiries, please contact Dr Zahra Murad (firstname.lastname@example.org) to discuss your interest before you apply, quoting the project code.
How to apply
When you are ready to apply, use our online application form and select ‘Accounting, Economics and Finance’ as the subject area. Make sure you submit a personal statement, proof of your degrees and grades, details of two referees, proof of your English language proficiency and an up-to-date CV.
Please also include a research proposal of 1,000 words outlining the main features of your proposed research design – including how it meets the stated objectives, the challenges this project may present, and how the work will build on or challenge existing research in the above field.
Our ‘How to Apply’ page offers further guidance on the PhD application process.
If you want to be considered for this self-funded PhD opportunity quote the project code ACEF4530219 (UK and EU students) or ACEF4560219 (International students) when applying.