Research Roundup: December 2023

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Wednesday, December 20, 2023
By AACSB Staff
Researchers study how mindfulness impacts decision-making and how lotteries attract the unbanked, while UNESCO issues guidance on using AI in education.

Understanding the ‘Gender Satisfaction Gap’

paper published in the journal European Financial Management explores whether women value work-life balance more than men, how their view of work-life balance changes as they progress in their careers, and whether these views affect the performance of their organizations. The paper’s co-authors, all in the United Kingdom, include Jie Chen, Chenxing Jing, Kevin Keasey, and Bin Xu of the University of Leeds, and Ivan Lim of Durham University.

To explore this question, the researchers analyzed a dataset of nearly 100,000 job role reviews—submitted by workers at more than 2,000 companies—from the online company review platform Glassdoor. The researchers focused on information that related to job satisfaction, such as work-life balance, corporate culture, senior leadership, career opportunities, and overall rating. Glassdoor also provided characteristics of the workers, including gender.

The team found that women overall report less job satisfaction than their male colleagues. The researchers speculate that this result could be because women are more likely to be tasked with additional duties at home, placing additional pressures on their work lives.

In addition, the researchers found that although women working in junior-level positions value their work-life balance much more than men do, that emphasis disappears once women reach manager level, perhaps because they have resigned themselves to the idea that achieving work-life balance is not possible if they want to progress in their careers.

That said, the research team also found companies that had lower gender satisfaction gaps demonstrated higher performance. The researchers admit that other factors could cause this finding, but they argue that it still offers companies an incentive to help their employees achieve greater work-life balance overall.

For instance, firms can implement family-friendly policies such as allowing remote work, offering flexible hours, and providing paid family leave and childcare. In other words, “instead of prioritizing individuals who are more willing to sacrifice work-life balance, firms can … address broader organizational issues that contribute to an overall positive work culture,” says Lim. “This can be quite beneficial for firms themselves, as well as society.”

How Lotteries Might Help Bank the Unbanked

Twenty-four percent of people worldwide do not hold accounts at formal financial institutions, according to the World Bank’s Global Findex 2021 survey. Most of the world’s unbanked individuals reside in developing countries, where banks still struggle to persuade people to deposit their funds.

But a working paper for the National Bureau of Economic Research offers a possible solution: prize-linked savings (PLS) accounts. By offering lottery tickets that provide customers opportunities to win cash prizes, financial institutions can entice more unbanked households to open accounts. Although banks have used PLS methods in the past, the researchers note, little research had been done to gauge their effectiveness.

The four researchers exploring the effectiveness of PLS accounts include economics professors Paul Gertler of the University of California Berkeley; Sean Higgins of Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois; and Enrique Seira of Michigan State University in Lansing. The team also includes data scientist Aisling Scott of

By offering lottery tickets that provide customers opportunities to win cash prizes, financial institutions can entice more unbanked households to open accounts.

In partnership with a bank in Mexico, the research team randomly chose 40 of 110 banks across 19 states to offer PLS products for two months. People had to meet two criteria to be eligible to enter the lottery: They had to open a new account or already have an account at a participating branch, and they had to deposit funds into savings over the two-month period. They earned one lottery ticket for every 50 pesos (4 USD) they saved. Then, at the end of each of the two months, the bank awarded 1,000 prizes of 400 pesos (31 USD) each, and two grand prizes of 10,000 pesos (777 USD) each.

During the study, the bank branches offering the lottery option saw the number of new accounts increase by 36 percent and the number of deposits increase by 21 percent, compared to other branches. Once the lottery period ended, the co-authors write, “account openings abruptly fell to zero, which suggests that the possibility of winning a large prize was indeed driving the effect.”

In addition, 96 percent of the people opening new accounts had previously been unbanked. Moreover, the temporary lottery continued to have a statistically significant impact on deposits, for eight months to two and a half years at participating branches. Accounting for the costs incurred from marketing, promotion, and cash payouts, participating banks saw a 6 percent increase in profits.

The researchers note that they currently do not know why the effect of the PLS products persisted so long after the lottery incentive ended. One possibility, they speculate, is that once customers opened their accounts, they had built enough momentum and confidence to learn to use those accounts to greater advantage.

“Lotteries have been popular for centuries, as have prize-linked savings products where lottery incentives are used to induce people to save,” the co-authors write. Although their study quantifies the impact of these interventions, they conclude that “future research could focus on disentangling the mechanisms underlying the large and persistent treatment effects of PLS.”

Be Mindful to Make Better Decisions

Human beings are hardwired to focus on the negatives. Thousands of years ago, this trait was critical for human survival—for knowing how to identify poisonous berries or spot hungry predators in time to escape. But in today’s world, such negativity bias can lead people to make knee-jerk reactions based on first impressions, rather than sound information.

But people might improve their decision-making skills and reduce their stress levels by engaging in mindfulness—that is, by attending to their breath and taking another look at the problem before them. That is the hypothesis of Lisa Penney, a professor of management at the Muma College of Business’ School of Information Systems and Management at the University of South Florida (USF) in Tampa.

Participants who completed the mindfulness intervention experienced less stress as the game’s difficulty progressed. They also achieved higher average scores in the game than those in the mind-wandering group.

With support from USF’s Institute of Applied Engineering, Penney is investigating whether mindful awareness and acceptance of what is happening in the present moment—including one’s own thoughts and emotions—could help people improve their decision-making when they’re under stress.

In the university’s multidisciplinary Customer Experience Lab, Penney has conducted a pilot study in which one group of participants took part in an eight-minute mindfulness meditation, while a second group spent eight minutes letting their minds wander. Afterward, both groups played a video game that required them to focus on multiple tasks at once—the better players performed, the more challenging the game became. As they played, Penney tracked their stress levels by measuring the electrical conductivity of their skin, known as the galvanic skin response.

In this initial experiment, the participants who completed the mindfulness intervention experienced less stress as the game’s difficulty progressed. They also achieved higher average scores in the game than those in the mind-wandering group.

“We tend to spend most of our time on autopilot, unaware of where our attention is focused and run around by our thoughts and feelings,” she explains. “With mindfulness practice, we begin to understand that ‘You are not your thoughts; you are the person who is aware of your thoughts.’ And that little bit of space is what gives you the ability to choose where you focus your attention and gain perspective to see things a little bit more clearly.” 

Penney already has put this theory to test in her own classroom. Using the app Headspace, she asks her students to complete a five-minute guided meditation in which they bring their attention to their breath. As a result, she says, she has seen her students’ test scores improve.

Penney will continue to collect data in the lab under different conditions. Eventually, she hopes her findings will encourage people to incorporate mindfulness meditation into their daily lives. “Effectively solving the problems we face requires us to see the bigger picture clearly—something that we struggle to do when under stress,” she says. “Mindfulness has the potential to help us see clearly so we can respond more effectively.”

Research News

■ Berkeley Haas targets behavioral economics. Using a 17 million USD gift from alumni Robert O’Donnell and Sue Douthit O’Donnell, the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, has opened its new Robert G. and Sue Douthit O’Donnell Center for Behavioral Economics. The center will bring together researchers from across disciplines—including economics, finance, neuroscience, cognitive science, biology, medicine, epidemiology, and genetics—for cross-disciplinary collaboration, conferences, and boot camps. It also will host the Behavioral Economics Annual Meeting every three years.

The center was co-founded by Ulrike Malmendier, the Cora Jane Flood Professor of Finance, and Stefano DellaVigna, the Daniel E. Koshland Senior Distinguished Professor of Economics and professor of business.

“If leaders keep in mind people’s emotions, their personal histories, and their psychologies, they can engineer ways to make things more predictable and give people more control over events.”—Ulrike Malmendier

Malmendier, who will serve as the center’s inaugural director, believes that the exploration of behavioral economics can help leaders solve some of the most urgent problems the world faces today. “If leaders keep in mind people’s emotions, their personal histories, and their psychologies, they can engineer ways to make things more predictable and give people more control over events [so they can] live better lives,” she says. “That is our ultimate goal.”

■ UNESCO issues guidance for AI in education. A new report is available from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The resource suggests ways that educational institutions can more effectively and ethically deploy generative artificial intelligence (GenAI) platforms such as ChatGPT. The organization calls the report its “first global guidance” on the implementation and development of long-term policies regarding GenAI in education, as well as a measure “to ensure a human-centered vision of these new technologies.”

The report covers topics such as GenAI’s use in teaching, research, coaching, action-based learning, and the support of students with special needs. It also raises ethical concerns relating to access and equity, hidden bias, and psychological impact. “AI tools should be designed to extend or augment human intellectual abilities and social skills, and not undermine them, conflict with them, or usurp them,” the authors conclude. “Only in this way can we ensure that GenAI becomes a trustworthy tool for researchers, teachers, and learners.”

Send press releases, links to studies, PDFs, or other relevant information regarding new and forthcoming research, grants, initiatives, and projects underway to AACSB Insights at [email protected].

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