Young researcher joins Synapse Lab

Synapse Lab and UiS Business School is pleased to announce the appointment of Austrian Simone Häckl as our new Associate Professor.

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Simone Hackl

According to plan, Simone Häckl was meant to visit the University of Stavanger in March. At the time of our interview, however, Austria was in total lockdown. Her apartment replaced Vienna University of Economics and Business as her place of work, however Simone’s focus for the semester remained the same as before: Completing her PhD thesis in behavioral economics. In September, she could finally join the University of Stavanger and Synapse Lab.

– So how do you feel about moving to Norway and Stavanger?

– It’s exciting! Being a researcher in economics, if I want to stay in academia, I need to move. Also because I need to get to know other research groups to learn about their methods and develop new collaborations. Norway sounds like a great place to be. I’m originally from Innsbruck, and Stavanger reminded me a bit of being home. I love nature, and I know Norway has a lot to offer.

– Can you tell us about your research?

– My interests lie in behavioural and experimental economics, and more specifically in individual decision-making. In my thesis, I discuss behavioural motives to work hard, like intrinsic motivation, overconfidence, or grit. To that end I use economic laboratory experiments.

Simone comes from Innsbruck, known as "the capital of the Alps", and is looking forward to exploring the Norwegian nature.

– In one of my projects, we have developed an economic measure of work motivation by combining a real-effort task with paid leisure. By that, we are able to predict a benchmark of how much each participant should work to maximize his or her earnings. We use deviations from this benchmark as a proxy for intrinsic work motivation. In a second step, we introduce team incentives and investigate who is motivated more by working in a team. We find that teams work especially well for people with low intrinsic motivation. This result is relevant for management practise as it shows that teams might be more effective is some settings than in others.

– Besides work motivation, I am also interested in identifying causes for gender differences in labour market outcomes. In particular, I focus on gender-differences in confidence and perseverance, and use lab experiments to investigate if gender-based stereotypes affect employer’s hiring decisions.

– I understand that you are also engaged in the education sector?

– Yes, in addition to these lab experiments I have developed some field projects in the educational sector. One of the projects is about finding out how to increase kids’, and in particular girls’ interests in STEM (science, technology and mathematics). We have evaluated the effect of a workshop where schoolkids learn about app development, with female role models, and female STEM students.

We have also developed an app for primary school kids in which we want to show kids that STEM is fun and important for everyone. It was also important for us to give kids the idea that they can achieve things if they just work hard and that they ability to work in STEM has nothing to do with their gender. We have cooperated with 40 primary schools in Austria, where 20 played this game and 20 another learning game. We want to measure whether this reduces the impact of stereotypes and increases the interest in STEM.

In another project, we are evaluating a mentoring program for primary school kids from lower socio-economic and migration background. The educational mobility in Austria is low, and most kids have the same education level as their parents. In a school-based mentoring project, university students meet “their” kid once a week and spend time with them. The thought behind it is that a mentor who successfully started at the university, makes them see new possibilities. This is likely especially important for kids from a migration background as they might have less information on the Austrian education system and face language barriers.

– What are your expectations for joining UiS?

– The focus on education is one of the reasons why I am so excited about coming to UiS. I am impressed with the network and infrastructure with the education sector that have been built.

When I visited Stavanger in January, I felt incredibly welcome. It is actually hard to put into words how nice people were. I also had many interesting discussions. I think, since it is a relatively small department, you meet more people from different research backgrounds with lots of different ideas.

I am very excited about working in a multidisciplinary environment. I think it’s super cool that researchers in economics psychology and education can work together. It is really important to collaborate and share ideas as we need expertise from different fields.

By: Elisabeth Rongved, communications advisor, UiS

Read more:

Simone Haeckl, Katharina Drescher and Julia Schmieder. STEM Careers: Workshops Using Role Models Can Reduce Gender Stereotypes, DIW Weekly Report 13 / 2020

Simone Haeckl, Rupert Sausgruber and Jean-Robert Tyran, 2018. Work Motivation and TeamsDiscussion Papers 18-08, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.

You can read more about Simone and her research on her website.