DISTANCING (Social distancing and pro-sociality in times of acute sanitary crisis)

Funding organization: ANR
Budget: € 28.620

Duration: March 2020 - February 2021
Principal Investigator: Marie Claire Villeval
Other participants at GATE-LAB:  F. Casoria, F. Galeotti, Q. Thévenet

DISTANCING aims at studying whether the ongoing coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) and the drastic social distancing policies implemented to curb the spread of the virus (in particular, confinement from March 16, 2020) affect the social preferences of individuals.

By means of a three-month long online experiment, DISTANCING will allow a deep understanding of how the forced isolation and its subsequent lifting affect individuals’ pro-sociality, trust in others, and perception of the social norm regarding the violation of the social distancing rules.

DISTANCING will provide new evidence on the effects of health shocks and accompanying policy measures involving social isolation on behavior and will contribute to the debate on the stability of preferences, by testing the malleability of social preferences and of the norm regarding the violation of the social distancing rules in a situation of acute health crisis.


INDEPTH (INstitutional Design and Economic Preferences: Theory and experiments)

Funding organization: University of Lyon (IDEX)
Budget: €1 021 660€

Duration: June 2018 - December 2021
Principal Investigator: Marie Claire Villeval
Other participants at GATE-LAB:  B. Corgnet, C. Cornand, F. Galeotti, M. Joffily, B. Rey-Fournier, J. Rosaz, Q. Thévenet, A. Zylbersztejn

INDEPTH has the ambition to address major issues related to the design of institutions able to sustain efficient economic transactions, fostering fair social interactions, and promoting cooperation in human organizations. We define institutions as either formal (e.g., markets, laws, incentives, sanction regimes) or informal (e.g., behavioral norms, habits, culture) structures and mechanisms that define the rules, boundaries and beliefs about actions within a community: when and how one ought to act, how one can or cannot behave, what kind of beliefs one holds about others' behaviors.

    Work Package 1: How Normative Principles and Preferences Shape Institutions. This WP investigates how normative principles and preferences shape institutions. It deals with the design of institutions whose outcomes meet some desirable normative principles (equity, stability, diversity), yet considering the structure of interactions between individuals (communication systems or hierarchies), and behavioral aspects.
    Work Package 2: How Institutions Shape Preferences. This WP investigates how institutions (re)shape preferences directly and indirectly, beyond their targeted scope of intervention, by influencing moral norms. It includes studies of how institutions shape the learning of moral values, and of the spillover effects of deterrence and democratic institutions on morality and social preferences.
    Work Package 3: How Neural, Emotional and Economic Factors Influence the Relationships between Institutions and Preferences. This WP analyzes how economic, emotional and neural mechanisms interact to influence rule compliance. It includes studies of the determinants of rule violation, of spillover effects of norm violation on compliance with other norms, of the role of emotions in rule compliance.


INDEPTH lies at the frontier of economics, mathematics and neuroscience. It involves four teams: GATE–Theory and GATE-Behavior (UMR5824), Center for Cognitive Neuroscience (UMR5229), and LIRIS (UMR5205). These teams jointly provide a unique combination of expertise in mechanism design, behavioral and experimental economics, and in the neuroeconomic analysis of behavior.


Political inclusion: A behavioral analyzis of de-radicalization

Funding organization: Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS)
Duration: Jan. 2016-Dec.2016
Principal Investigator: Marie Claire Villeval
Other participants at GATE-LAB: Q. Thévenet
Partners: Catherine Eckel (Texas A&M University, College Station, USA), Enrique Fatas and Lina M. Restrepo-Plaza (East Anglia University, Norwich)

Using game theoretical and lab experimental methods, behavioral economics can contribute to our understanding of the origin of conflicts and on how to reduce violence by identifying regularities and causalities. This research program expands on previous studies exploring how the combination of political rights and economic asymmetries can lead to violence and sacrificing, analyzed as extreme forms of inter-group punishment.
It investigates whether political inclusion can reduce the risk of radicalization and contribute to de-radicalization. If policies aiming to reduce economic inequality fail to prevent violent extremism,
we explore an alternative policy targeting political asymmetries to test whether political inclusion is better able to avoid extreme violent behaviors by reducing political asymmetries between individuals
who have the same civil rights but use these rights very differently or have different access to political information.



  • FELIS (Fraud and Economic Lies: Information and Strategies)
  • SPI (Habit Formation and Incentives for Recurrent Donations to Charity: A Field Experiment with Online Giving Communities in France and United States)
  • The determinants of fraud in public transportations

FELIS (Fraud and Economic Lies: Information and Strategies)

Funding organization: Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR)
Budget: €210 000
Duration: Jan. 2015-Dec.2017
Principal Investigator: Marie Claire Villeval
Other participants at GATE-LAB: J. Benistant, L. Charroin, Z. Dai, F. Galeotti, M. Joffily, C. Saucet, Q. Thévenet, A. Zylbersztejn
Partners: L. Denant-Boemont and D. Masclet (CREM, University of Rennes), B. Fortin and G. Lacroix (Laval University, Quebec), S. Shalvi and J. van de Ven (University of Amsterdam), and A. Suvorov (Higher School of Economics, Moscow).

Trust is a core component of the freedom and security of citizens, making relationships work more cohesively and efficiently. But it is fragile. Undermining trust raises transaction costs, weakens social cohesion, and ultimately reduces the freedom of citizens and impoverishes society (Arrow, 1972). Dishonesty introduces a major threat on trust and the ubiquity of deception is a major concern of modern society.

FELIS’s ambition is to contribute to a better understanding of the determinants of deceptive behavior in order to improve the deterrence of dishonesty and promote the security of citizens.

FELIS seeks to understand when people are more, or less, likely to act honestly and follow the moral course of action instead of serving their strict self-interest at the others’ expense. It aims at undertaking the standard economics-of-crime approach comparing the expected monetary benefits and costs of fraudulent actions by incorporating social, moral, emotional and psychological factors in economic decision-making.

  • Work Package 1: Dishonesty and the maintenance of the self-concept of honesty
  • Work Package 2: Deception and the exploitation of asymmetric information
  • Work Package 3: Deterrence effect of information disclosure on the occurrence of crackdowns
  • Work Package 4: The social dimension of deception in networks and the role of peer effects.
  • Work Package 5: The restoration of trust after its destruction by dishonest behavior

FELIS offers a unique combination of game theory, experimental economics and psychology to better understand the causes and consequences of dishonesty. It combines theoretical modeling based on behavioral economics and experimental methods (laboratory experiments, lab-in-the-field experiments, neuroeconomics).

SPI (Habit Formation and Incentives for Recurrent Donations to Charity: A Field Experiment with Online Giving Communities in France and United States)

Funding organization: Society for Philanthropy Initiative (SPI) and University of Chicago
Budget: $ 30 000
Duration: Sept. 2014- Sept. 2015
Principal Investigator: Marie Claire Villeval
Partner: M. Castillo and R. Petrie (ICES, George Mason University, Washington D.C.)

Repeat donations require commitment. Differences in habits, time preferences, incentives and social norms conspire to explain within and across country variations in individual giving over time. For instance, according to the World Giving Index of 2010, 64% of Americans donate money and 68% help strangers while only 31% and 28% of French people do.

While differences in helping behavior across countries respond to tax incentives, government involvement in giving and transaction costs, intuition suggests that these patterns might also manifest through habit formation.

In a field experiment with online giving communities in France and the U.S., we investigate the effectiveness of various mechanisms for committing to donate again when one has donated previously, to measure the costs to a recurrent donation commitment.

The determinants of fraud in public transportations

Funding organization: Keolis Lyon
Duration: Sept. 2014- Sept. 2015
Principal Investigator: Marie Claire Villeval
Other participants at GATE-LAB: Z. Dai, F. Galeotti, Q. Thévenet
Partners: Effia Synergies, Keolis Lyon

The identification of efficient policies against fraud in public transportations is a major challenge for transportation companies, due both to foregone revenues and to the very high costs of control. Characterizing efficient policies requires a better knowledge of the individual determinants of fraud.

The main aim of this research program is to characterize the individual determinants of fraud in public transportations, using a behavioral economics approach. This approach emphasizes the role of attitudes towards risk and uncertainty and the role of moral norms and social norms associated with the decision to buy or not a ticket to use public transportations.

The research program is based on the conduct of an artefactual field experiment involving almost 300 passengers of the public transport service in France. Our methods allow us to identify who among these volunteer participants are fare-dodgers. Participants have then to perform various tasks in the lab, allowing them to cheat to avoid paying transportation costs. We vary the organization of audits to test which mode is the most effective to deter fraud.

Generation of data on human economic decision making in economic laboratory experiments in different parts of Europe

Funding organization: European Commission, Directorate-general, Joint research centre, Resources Directorate, Finance and Procurement Unit Ispra
Duration: Sept. 2015- Sept. 2019
Principal Investigator: Marie Claire Villeval
Other participants at GATE-LAB: F. Galeotti, S. Robin, Q. Thévenet, A. Zylbersztejn

Gate-LAB has been selected by the European Commission to conduct a number of experiments on individual decision-making with students-subjects pools and non-standard-subjects pools in France.

ETHICS (Ethics of Information Transmission)

Funding organization: CORTEX-II Laboratory of Excellence
Budget: €150000

Duration: December 2020 - December 2023
Principal Investigator: Marie Claire Villeval
Other participants:  J.C. Dreher, ISC Marc Jeannerod; Valentin Guigon

The ambition of ETHICS is combining behavioral economics with cognitive neurosciences to explore the economic and neurocomputational mechanisms by which individuals assess ambiguous news and share them with others, manipulate information  to influence others' decisions, or provide ignorance to people who prefer to remain ignorant about the possible negative consequences of their selfish actions on others.
ETHICS include three work packages: 1) The propagation of fake news ; 2) The demand of ignorance and the social transmission of information ; 3) Deniability in communication games.

CORTEX (Construction, Cognitive Function, Rehabilitation and Repair of the Cortex)

Funding organization: Program Investissements d’Avenir operated by the Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR)
Budget: M€11.5
Duration: 2012-2019
Head of CORTEX: Henry Kennedy (SBRI, INSERM)
Participants at GATE: J. Benistant, L. Charroin, Z. Dai, F. Galeotti, W. Hichri, M. Joffily, C. Saucet, R. Suchon, V. Theroude, Q. Thévenet, A. Zylbersztejn
Contacts: Jennifer Beneyton, in charge of communication : jennifer.beneyton@inserm.fr
At GATE, Marie Claire Villeval : villeval@gate.cnrs.fr
Website: www.labex-cortex.com/en

CORTEX is a rare and combined multidisciplinary effort to understand the Cortex and human cognition and behavior, based on systems level studies of networks and interactions at multiple scales, from neurons to individuals. Understanding cognition and its biological roots, but also its pathologies requires a comprehension of cortical genesis, its structure, and its physiology. CORTEX pushes this integrative approach, which allows tapping into the resources of our Cortex for rehabilitation; the design of new and successful therapeutic procedures.

CORTEX activity is structured around four main fields of research:

  • Stem cell Biology and cortical Development
  • Large-scale network dynamics underlying perception
  • Behavior and Neuroeconomics
  • Repair, Remediation and Training

Behavioral economists and engineers at GATE are involved in the third field of research.

CORTEX has established an internationally competitive teaching program in synergy with its research strategy comprising fundamental and clinical research with technological innovation.

CORTEX is directed by Henry Kennedy (SBRI). The CORTEX Consortium involves 6 partners:

  • Stem cell and Brain Research Institute (SBRI), UMRS 846
  • Cognitive Neuroscience Center (CNC), UMRS 5229
  • Lyon Neuroscience Research Center, Inserm U1028 and CNRS UMR5292Centre de Génétique et de Physiologie Moléculaire et Cellulaire (CGPhiMC), UMR5534
  • Laboratoire d’Étude des Mécanismes Cognitifs (LEMC), EA 3082
  • Groupe d’Analyse et de Théorie Economique (GATE), UMR 5824