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Four essays on the psychological determinants of risk-taking, education and economic performance

Abstract : This thesis contributes to the experimental literature on the role played by psychological factors in educational choices implying risk-taking and performance. Using psychological insights to study economic behaviors has become a discipline on its own. Its main goal is to explain most of the mechanisms involved in the process of decision making process. The reason for introducing concepts of psychology into economic theory is mainly because "classic" economic models are often questioned on the decision-making process they propose. Even though these models are a first step for the elaboration of economic policies, the assumptions made are usually a simplification of the economic agent's behaviors. This dissertation considers an analysis on specific psychological determinants: risk preferences, self-confidence, personality and creativity. We also evaluate gender effects. The studied decisions and behaviors are systematically related to educational choices, even though most of the chapters are presented in a more general framework and can thus be applied to other decisions implying the same mechanisms such as career choices. The first part is dedicated to investigate the effect of confidence (in one's own abilities) on two types of decisions that involves a risky dimension: the (individual) decision of continuing the activity or not with an increasing difficulty, and the decision to enter competition. Both of these activities rely on an unknown distribution of probabilities of success. Confidence therefore becomes the subjective probability. First, (chapter 1), we consider absolute self-confidence which can vary with aspiration and ability levels. Second, (chapter 2), we focus on relative self-confidence which can be modulated by a feedback receipt and the gender of the individual. We show that self-confidence, which varies with these different dimensions, has an impact on performances and observed decisions. The second part of this dissertation focuses on teenagers. We present two studies on the psychological determinants of schooling achievement and on risk preferences. Chapter 3 examines if schooling achievement (measured by schooling grades during the year) can be explained by creativity and personality. We also observe a different gender effect on a national exam success and schooling grades. Chapter 4 improves the understanding of teenagers' risk preferences in order to improve policies aimed for them.
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Noémi Berlin. Four essays on the psychological determinants of risk-taking, education and economic performance. Economics and Finance. Université Panthéon-Sorbonne - Paris I, 2013. English. ⟨NNT : 2013PA010053⟩. ⟨tel-00984291⟩

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