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TRiSS Postgraduate Research Fellowships 2019/20

PhD students in the Departments of Economics and Political Science awarded 2019/20 TRiSS Postgraduate Research Fellowships which aim to support postgraduate research projects in the social sciences:

Laura Muñoz Blanc (Economics) - Water over the dam: The Long-Term Social effects of Internal Displacement

Laura Muñoz Blanco from the Department of Economics was awarded a Postgraduate Research Fellowship for her project entitled: Water over the dam: The long-term social effects of Internal Displacement. She describes her project as follows:

By 2018, 70.8 million people worldwide had been forced from their home. Among them, 41.3 million were Internally Displaced Persons. Moreover, the largest forced dislocations of people did not occur in conditions of armed conflict but in routine, everyday evictions to make way for infrastructure projects.

Water infrastructure projects are public goods investments. Nonetheless, in spite of the large population benefiting from the water and energy services reservoirs provide, their development has come at a cost. The construction of reservoirs has led to the displacement of 40-80 million people worldwide.

Being forcibly ousted from one's habitat by a reservoir is not only immediately disruptive and painful, but also fraught with long-term risks of becoming poorer and disintegrated socially.

This project sheds lights on the long-term consequences of Internal Displacement on Social Capital (measured as political participation) for receiving and sending populations of those forced migrants.

Féidhlim McGowan (Economics) - Measuring 'Accumulation Bias' in Judgments of Household Bills

Féidhlim McGowan from the Department of Economics was awarded a Postgraduate Research Fellowship for his project entitled: Measuring 'Accumulation Bias' in Judgments of Household Bills. He describes his project as follows:

Many economic decisions require perception and integration of sequential numerical information. Because cognitive resources are limited, this integration is often performed intuitively, rather than analytically as one would expect from a computer or 'rational agent'.

Intuitions are not precise - is this a problem? Not if the errors are random, so they cancel out in the aggregate. But intuitions are often systematically biased in one direction. In these scenarios, biases that result from relying on intuition can have important economic consequences.

This research project explores one area of potential consequence. Does a bias in how sequences of numbers are perceived affect the accuracy of judgment for the annual cost of regular bills? Psychology studies report a tendency for underestimation of the average and total of numerical sequences. The "pennies-a-day" pricing strategy in marketing suggests a similar underestimation bias. However, survey evidence found overestimation of annual electricity bills. Féidhlim proposes an experiment to test explanations for the opposing directions of estimation bias in experimental versus survey settings.

This research has theoretical relevance for the 'puzzle' of low switching rates, and may contribute to the policy discussion on whether pricing strategies are benign or if they can inhibit informed decision-making.

David Moore (Political Science) - Explaining the Variation in Individuals' Conspiratorial Beliefs: The Effect of Exposure to Emotive Conspiratorial Messaging in the Media

David Moore from the Department of Political Science was awarded a Postgraduate Research Fellowship for his project entitled: Explaining the Variation in Individuals' Conspiratorial Beliefs: The Effect of Exposure to Emotive Conspiratorial Messaging in the Media. He describes his project as follows:

Why do some people believe in conspiracy theories and others do not? Why, for instance, do 60 per cent of Americans believe that the CIA was involved in the assassination of JFK whilst, 25 per cent believe that Barack Obama was born outside of the US? This dissertation proposes that an important, yet overlooked factor in individuals' perception of conspiracy theories is their exposure to emotive messaging. The use of emotions in conspiratorial messaging is widely noted with anger, fear, and anxiety being particularly prevalent. However, a thorough understanding of the strategic use of emotive language in conspiratorial messaging and its effect on individuals' opinion formation is lacking.

In order to evaluate the use of emotive language in conspiracy theories, and its effect upon individuals' acceptance of these theories, this project will employ a survey experiment. By exposing individuals to a conspiracy theory through varying emotive frames, this project aims to demonstrate that the presence of negative emotive language in conspiratorial messaging plays a significant role in the likelihood of an individual believing in that theory. Belief in conspiracy theories is widespread and actively undermines democracies. Thus, understanding how individuals come to hold these views is of the utmost importance