Tropical Leaves

Selected Research


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

Academics use citations to acknowledge the contribution of past work and promote scientific advancement. However, analyzing citation data of 32,025 publications spanning 18 academic fields, we find evidence suggesting citations may also serve as a currency to reward and punish scientists’ morality. We find that, relative to controls, the citation rates of scholars accused of sexual misconduct decrease after the accusations become public. Interestingly, this citation penalty is larger than the one incurred by scientists accused of scientific fraud. Our findings suggest that, in addition to serving the purpose of maintaining intellectual integrity and promoting scientific advancement, citation decisions are also driven by scholars’ attitudes toward the publications’ authors.

Citation Penalties Following Sexual Misconduct versus Scientific Fraud Allegations

According to the self-serving bias in attribution theories, people prefer being responsible for positive outcomes but not for negative ones. Across eight preregistered experiments (N = 3,946), we find the opposite: People predict they would rather “own” a negative outcome than hold someone else responsible for it. We test whether overplacement (people’s belief that they perform better than others) or the impact bias (the belief that “owned” negative outcomes hurt less than when they are caused by others) can explain this preference. Rejecting these explanations, we find evidence showing the isolation effect—the tendency to neglect characteristics that choice options share (i.e., in our case, the outcome) and to focus on those that distinguish them (i.e., the agent)—drives this preference. The isolation effect also helps explain when attribution preferences reverse: People prefer to assume agency over negative outcomes when these outcomes are exclusively caused either by themselves or somebody else but prefer to shift agency when negative outcomes are caused jointly by both agents.

Not All Attributions are Self-Serving: A Preference for Agency Over Negative Outcomes


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

"Don't Forget Them" or "Don't Overlook Them"? How the
Non-Reversibility of a Word  Improves Message Efficacy


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 (N = 22,024), 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 cognitive processes and leads to different outcomes. In particular, when a statement containing a bi-polar word is processed as a negation (i.e., opposing a claim rather than affirming it), a slower more elaborate cognitive process occurs. We show that this results in lower judgment confidence, and a lower likelihood to act on the message. In addition, we find that this more elaborative process also 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 and real-world behaviors. They additionally offer practical persuasive messaging strategies for those engaged in a range of marketing and policy communications.