Tropical Leaves

Selected Research


Maimone, G., Appel, G., McKenzie, C.R.M., Gneezy, A.

In academia, citations are used to acknowledge the contribution of past work and promote scientific advancement. However, analyzing citation data of 36,940 publications spanning 18 academic fields, we find evidence suggesting that citations may also serve as a currency to reward or punish scientists’ morality. We find not only that scholars accused of sexual misconduct incur a citation penalty, but also that it is larger  than the citation penalty for those accused of scientific fraud. These findings indicate that, in addition to serving the purpose of maintaining intellectual honesty and promoting scientific advancement, citation decisions are also driven by scholars’ attitudes toward the publication’s author(s).

Sexual Misconduct, Scientific Fraud, and Citation Penalties

According to self-serving bias and attribution theories, people prefer being responsible for positive outcomes but not for negative ones. Across five preregistered experiments (N = 2,704) we find the opposite. People predict they would rather “own” their negative outcomes than have someone else be held responsible for them, a preference we call “I’d Rather Die by My Own Hand” (DBMOH). We test whether overplacement (people's beliefs about performing better than others) or the impact bias (the belief that “owned” negative outcomes hurt less than the same outcomes caused by others) can explain DBMOH preferences. Rejecting these explanations, we find supportive evidence for the isolation effect—the tendency to neglect characteristics that choice options share and to focus on those that distinguish them—underlying the DBMOH preference.

I'd Rather Die by My Own Hand

Maimone, G., Vosgerau, J., Gneezy, A.


Word Polarity, Judgment Confidence, and Attitudes


Maimone, G., Karmarkar, U.R., Amir, O.

Marketers have known for years that each word in a message can make a world of a difference, but less is known about the how and the why. Across five preregistered field and lab experiments, we demonstrate when and how using an easily reversible (i.e., bi-polar) word in a statement, rather than a non-reversible one with the same meaning, engages different types of cognitive processes. In particular, when a statement containing a bi-polar word is not just written as a negation, but processed as one, a slower more elaborate cognitive process occurs. We show that this results in lower judgment confidence, and in consumers’ lower likelihood to act on the message. In addition, we find that this leads to weaker attitudes towards the message source. Our findings advance consumer theories by shedding light on the ways in which linguistic elements of communication impact judgments with real world consequences. These results offer practical strategies for persuasive messaging and communications for professionals in roles ranging from marketers, charities, and content writers to politicians and policymakers.