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“There is no evidence to suggest that women and men are not equally capable of reasoning in strategic situations”

On Wednesday 28 September, at the headquarters of Banco Sabadell in Oviedo, an Award will be given to Dr Nagore Iriberri for her extraordinary research career in the field of experimental economy and her theory of games applied to the study of social behaviour.

The XV Banco Sabadell Foundation Award for Economic Research has been awarded to Dr Nagore Iriberri this year, to acknowledge her work as a researcher in the fields of economic, business, legal and social understanding. We spoke to her to know more about what she does…

Can you give us a general idea of what it is you are researching?

I mainly work in three fields. In the first field, I investigate how normal human beings of flesh and blood behave in strategic situations in which they need to think about what others are going to do. Although there is a paradigm in economy about how individuals should behave, when we truly determine how they actually behave, we see a contraction between what is expected and what actually happens. That is where my line of work comes in, I try to explain why people’s behaviour differs from what we expected.

In the second field, I assess whether we should give information about their relative performance. In other words, in many business and educational environments, people know their own results, but should we be telling them how they are doing compared to their colleagues? In the third field, I look at the differences between genders in various work and educational environments, in order to understand when and why they appear.

Are there many differences between men and women?

There is no evidence to suggest that women and men are not equally capable of reasoning in strategic situations. Cultural and gender differences appear when there are social preferences, in other words, when we care about the people that surround us, and in how they react to incentives.

 

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Can you explain to us what is it you are analysing when you apply the theory of games to your study of social behaviour?

The games theory assesses how people will behave in strategic situations, and the results of an individual do not only depend on their decisions, but on the decisions of other individuals involved in that situation. For examples, auctions, competitions, negotiations, these are all relevant strategic situations in the field of economy. In an auction, whether you win or lose depends on your bid but also on everyone else’s bids. In a negotiation, part of the money that one can get depends not only on their negotiation skills but also on what the other negotiator wants to achieve, as well as their behaviour during the negotiation process.

The games theory therefore studies these strategic situations and offers solutions, for instance, predictions of what will happen and how people will behave in these situations.

The Banco Sabadell Foundation Award to Economic Research acknowledges the professional trajectory of young, talented researchers in their field. What does winning this XV Award mean to you?

It is a huge support for my investigation. The list of award-winners shows that the people who won this award in previous editions are extremely talented and, honestly, I felt intimidated at first when I saw my name on that list. But at the same time it gives me a lot of support and backing in order to keep working in research.